July 19th, 2010
Torreys and Grays you ask? Sure they are usually referred to as Grays and Torreys Peak, but I thought I should name them in the order we completed them. Doug, Jon and I thought a Monday would be a great day to hike these peaks. Being so close to the Front Range, these peaks are a zoo on the weekend. You can imagine our surprise when we arrived at the parking lot just before 7a.m. and took one of the last parking spots in the main lot. A surprising steady stream of people left from the trailhead as we readied our packs.
Our plan for the day was to get off the standard route and try the Kelso ridge up the eastern side of Torreys. The first 2 miles followed the standard route, gaining a descent amount of elevation, without feeling like we were working too hard. The wildflowers along the trail were gorgeous and plentiful. The trail up to Kelso Ridge forked off to the north of the main trail, and takes a short but steep climb up to the ridge which connects Kelso Peak (to the east) and Torreys. The ridge starts off pretty easy, on gentle ground. The first obstacle was within the first quarter mile, where the gentle slope gives way to the start of the class 3 section. A 20 yard, narrow slot section which required some concentration to find good hand and footholds. It probably was not as hard as my mind made it out to be, but not having done is scrambling in several years, this section got my attention.
Once we passed this slot section, our eyes were turning to the north and the darkening sky. It was early but it looked liked some weather was brewing. The last thing we wanted was to get caught on this exposed ridge with lightening coming in. Luckily for us the weather never materialized, and actually cleared for the most part by the time we summited.
From this section up to the knife edge the route was fairly benign. It was still class 3 in some sections, but nothing that really stands out in my mind and scary. We did have to take our time to do some route finding to pick the best line. I think this actually worked out to my advantage as it slowed our pace a little and allowed me to feel good the entire way.
Just before getting to the knife ridge we got a view of a party of 2 scooting across it on their butts. Once we got to its base, we decided to bypass the knife ridge and cross a small gully on its north side. Doug went first and made easy work of it, thought the gully looked pretty lose to me. I decided to scamper up to the knife edge to take a look. I got my head up to the start of the edge, took a quick look over.. and pretty much felt my stomach drop down below my feet. there was no way I was going to try that. The exposure from that quick glance was more than I was up for. Looking back now, I think if I would have taken a longer look and calmed myself it would not have been as my bad as my mind made it out to be. By the time I got back down to the traverse, Jon had already started across, so I waited for him to get to the far side before I started after him. The traverse had my heart pounding. There was numerous lose rocks that we had to negotiate. Once I got to the far side, Jon had already disappeared upwards out of sight, leaving the route finding to myself. At this point the rock became significantly more dicey. The strait forward way had me pulling up and over some white rock, on lose sketchy holds. there was an alternative that looked easier a few feet to the west, but it still held some packed, icy, snow. My fear of slipping on it and taking a very unpleasant fall/skid of several hundred yards, kept me on the loose rock. When I asked Jon how he went, his answer was something to the effect of "I have absolutely no idea of how I got where I am." Thanks for the help buddy. As I made my way up to him, I was tapping on every hand and foot hold I was going to use to make sure the rock was solid. Even then, I was only hesitantly pulling on each hold; ready to make a quick move if one gave way.
The final 50 yards up to the summit of Torreys went over a medium sized, blocky section. The rocks were still lose, but at least we were able to walk upright. The summit was fairly crowded, with multiple groups. I waited a little while to try and sign the register, but ended up skipping it when it looked like it was going to be at least another 10 -15 minutes before I might get a chance. After a quick snack we headed down the standard route and worked our way towards grays peak. At this point all the technical difficulties were over. Now it was just a matter of will power to work our up Grays' north side.
From the bottom of the saddle between the two peaks the climb up looked quite daunting. Luckily it turned out not be all that bad. We just took it small sections, taking breaks as we needed them. Once again the summit was crowded. We moved a little off the main summit as took a much need long lunch break. As we ate ravens were riding the winds coming up and over the summit. Must be nice to be able to easily soar up to these great heights.
The hike down from the summit was uneventful. Not that I am complaining. Once again we were accompanied by the glorious display of wildflowers along the trail