January 6, 2021
“Pikes Peak or Bust” was originally the slogan of the pioneers. It’s fitting, therefore, that 100+ years ago a pioneering machine, the Holt Caterpillar 5-Ton tractor, scaled the famous mountain and reached the highest point ever achieved by a dozer.
George Rhodes, a Holt serviceman and operator, was a Pikes Peak pioneer: the first man to drive a track-type tractor to the top of Pikes Peak. A 37-year veteran at the Holt East Peoria plant before he retired in 1948, George had countless stories to tell about his adventures as a Holt serviceman working on Caterpillar tractors around the world.
“I was never sure what assignments there’d be. But wherever they decided to send the tractor to prove itself, that’s where they sent me to demonstrate it,” George said.
In 1913 they sent George to Puerto Rico. In 1914 he went to a mahogany forest on the African Gold Coast. In 1915 it was the United Kingdom. During World War I he visited army camps throughout the U.S. Rhodes even had the distinction of teaching British soldiers to operate the track-type tractors and tanks during the Great War.
But what George remembered most was Pikes Peak, Colorado, in 1919.
“Tractor sales after the war were really facing tough competition,” George explained. “And on a demonstration in Denver, an enterprising Holt salesman got the idea that the Holt Caterpillar 5-Ton might really make the headlines if it did something no other vehicle had ever done.”
SCALING THE PEAK
Many years later George recounted the experience:
He (the Holt Salesman) decided the Holt we were demonstrating should climb Pike’s (sic) Peak. It would be the first crawler ever to make the trip, and the first vehicle ever to make it before the roads up the mountain were cleared of snow.
In mid-June Bob Porter, another serviceman, and I set off early one morning from Denver for Manito, at the base of the mountain. Two mornings later we set off up the mountain, with plenty of reporters and photographers around to record the spectacular event.
Half-way up the mountain we stopped for lunch, and then we proceeded to the 16-mile limit where the cleared roads suddenly stopped. It was like plowing into the North Pole. The heavy winter snows still blockaded the roads.
Bob and I were securely wrapped up against the cold, and the Five-Ton showed no concern. It muscled straight through the snow, till it scaled the peak. Then after looking around a few minutes, we went back down the peak to reach Manito late the same night.
The 5-Ton had performed the greatest stunt of the year without repair or complaint!
THE ADVENTURE OF A LIFETIME
As George entered retirement, he had time to reflect on his adventurous career at Caterpillar.
“I don’t think there was ever anything like that crawler tractor anywhere,” George said. “It brought so much to so many people everywhere in the world, not only at the plant itself, but wherever one of the machines went. It was amazing to see it catch on like it did once people understood it was for their own good. And I’m always proud to know that our own crawler tractors were the daddy of them all.”
Although George is no longer with us, today we are proud to say he remains one of us: Caterpillar people! People who love what they do – and make their work matter every day.
“POWERING PIKES PEAK TODAY”
Last year, we announced that the City of Colorado Springs, Colorado chose Cat® dealer Wagner Equipment to deliver and install a new prime power system for the new 38,000-square-foot Pikes Peak Summit Complex.
The Cat C27 diesel generator set is set to supply 600 kW of power for the new $50 million visitor center, which will provide enhanced amenities, more educational experiences, and greater accessibility for the 600,000 tourists who visit annually. The complex will also incorporate a new High-Altitude Research Laboratory operated by the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine (USARIEM).
The project is the highest active construction site in North America, and crews at the 14,115-foot summit work an abbreviated schedule due to limited oxygen content that can cause dizziness, headaches, nausea, and fatigue.
“Pikes Peak features some of the harshest conditions at any National Historic Landmark in North America, with temperatures dropping to as low as 40 degrees below zero and winds gusting up to 150 mph,” said J.R. Bond, operations manager for Encore Electric, the electrical contractor for the new Pikes Peak Summit Complex. “Caterpillar has an impeccable reputation for performance that is critical for operations while keeping guests and staff safe and comfortable at all times.”
“Cat power solutions provide unmatched performance and reliability in the most challenging environments in the world, from mine sites above the Arctic Circle to telecommunications towers at the equator,” said Jason Kaiser, general manager for Caterpillar Retail Electric Power Solutions. “The power solution from Wagner Equipment and Caterpillar is ideal for helping the Pikes Peak Summit Complex provide sustainability, safety, and comfort for its major stakeholders and visitors.”
Our innovative power systems are engineered for exceptional durability, reliability, and value. And, we offer worldwide product support, with parts and service available globally through the Cat authorized service and dealer network. In addition, dealer service technicians are trained to service every aspect of Cat equipment.