Last May, Teresa Taylor was watching climbers pad up to the summit of Pikes Peak in shorts and sneakers. This year, she's warning everyone that beyond Barr Camp, you'd better be dressed for the worst.

This is the snowiest spring on Pikes Peak in more than a decade. Barr Camp recorded 231 inches of snow this winter. (It only saw 50 inches in 2006.)

Hikers venturing above treeline will find that the peak is more wintry this May than it usually is in January, and they should be prepared.

"The snow is still waist-deep in places, and we just got more today," Taylor, the caretaker at Barr Camp, said Wednesday. Every day, she warns people that the trail is buried.

Some climbers listen - she persuaded a dozen Texans in jeans to turn back Sunday. But some climbers don't. Two Air Force Academy cadets headed up to the summit Tuesday. They became stranded above treeline and had to be rescued by helicopter Wednesday morning.

The cadets, Jesse Mortensen, 21, a junior from Michigan, and Jesse Luschen, 22, a senior from Iowa, were out to enjoy a hike during an idle period at the academy between the end of spring term and graduation.

They hiked seven miles up the snowless bottom part of Barr Trail on Monday and spent the night at Barr Camp. Tuesday, they left camp early, expecting to cover the remaining five miles to the top before noon.

They did not have snowshoes, ice axes or winter gear, but they did carry sleeping bags and a tent.

When Taylor said weather was moving in, they assured her they could beat it to the top.

If you get in trouble or get tired, Taylor told them as they left, the last train leaves from the summit at 4 p.m.

"They said, 'Four? We'll be there long before then,'" she said Wednesday.

They never got there.

"We hiked for hours and hours. It was very frustrating and hard," Mortensen said Wednesday.

The cadets pushed through knee- and waist-deep snow. A storm rolled in, pelting them with snow and hail.

Snow obscured the trail. Clouds obscured the summit.

"We could hear the train whistle. We kept thinking we were at the summit. Obviously, we weren't," Mortensen said.

The cadets likely took a wrong turn near 13,000 feet, two miles from the summit, and crossed onto a steep flank of the peak called the Bottomless Pit.

About 5:30 p.m., lost, soaked and shivering uncontrollably, they set up their tent. Inside, they shed their wet clothes and crawled into their sleeping bags. Mortensen called for help on his cellular phone.

El Paso County Search and Rescue drove a snowcat to the top of the closed Pikes Peak Highway, arriving at 10:30 p.m. Rescuers worked their way down the main cirque, searching for the cadets with no luck.

At dawn, searchers crossed into the Bottomless Pit and found them, said Steve Sperry, spokesman for Search and Rescue.

Both were cold and wet, wearing jeans and tennis shoes, but otherwise OK, Sperry said.

A National Guard Blackhawk helicopter flew the cadets and rescuers to town Wednesday morning. Neither cadet was treated for injuries.

Mortensen said he didn't heed warnings at Barr Camp because he never anticipated how difficult the combination of deep, wet snow, weather and altitude would be.

In the years the cadets have lived in Colorado Springs, tennis shoes and jeans would have been adequate for a May Pikes Peak climb, but this year it's so snowy that skiers have been riding the train up and skiing down the east face this month.

Temperatures at the summit have hovered around freezing for days. Snow will likely last into June or July.

"It's been warm in town, and people think, 'How much snow can there be?' There's a lot," Taylor said. "And it's wet, deep snow. You're going to sink in and get soaked through."