| Southwest Ridge Loop- great alternate
I feel like a dork posting a trip report with no pictures, but our camera broke on Sunday during the Urban Assault bike ride.
I was looking for a close to Denver climb that wouldn’t be too busy, and keeping with this summer’s theme of “the road less traveled,” I opted for Grays & Torreys via Grays southwest slopes. I left Denver Monday night at 8:15, stopped at Dino’s in Lakewood for a pizza to fuel the trip, and despite some uncertainty with Montezuma road, got to the trailhead before 10:00. Time for a bit of Harry Potter, St Lupulin, and another slice before turning in.
About 3AM, my bowels announced that I needed to get out of bed, but it being dark and in the middle of nowhere, I squatted along the road a few paces from my car. Like a scene in a Coen brothers movie, a pair of headlights suddenly appeared working their way up the road toward me. Wait- nobody could be out here this time of night, but here they are, about to drive up on me taking a dump in the pitch dark. I quickly finished, and they drove up immediately when I got back on the road. “Do you mind if we ask you a question?” I heard from three twenty-something year olds. They were looking for Grays peak, and I explained they had found the trailhead. They parked, and proceeded to practice some medicinal (or recreational) activities for about 20 minutes before taking off up the trail. I was stunned, but wished them well as I fell back asleep.
Alarm at 5:30, and I was on the trail at 5:57, heading up the Chihuahua 4x4 road. The first river had a fine bridge over it, but as I entered into the meadow, it became clear that the runoff was excessive, and I would need to spend some time bushwhacking in the willows to find ways to cross the many “creeks” that appeared more like rivers. The drainage was beautiful, and I was really enjoying myself. The views of Greys and Torreys were far more daunting from this side, and I was glad to finally find the fork in the road up into Ruby Gulch. The road swung back around, and I was standing at the mine by 7:30. From here it was choose your line, brace your legs, and start straight up. I enjoyed the climb for the most part, and there were good broken trails along the ridge, but it was very loose and steep at times- nothing to create fear, but enough to get me muttering about stupid scree. Still, I enjoyed knowing that there was a line of ants on the other side of the summit, and I had this basin all to myself. I summited and spent from 8:50-9:10 eating pizza and joining the masses. Everyone was friendly, and there always seems to be a good vibe on a summit.
The traverse is always busy, but pleasant enough. I was on Torreys at 9:45. Coming up the SW ridge of Grays, and during the traverse, I had been checking out the western ridge coming off Torreys. My original plan was to retrace my steps back on Grays, and return the way I came. On Torreys, I read what Roach had to say on the subject, and made the decision to return to the Chihuahua basin via the ridge off Torreys’, creating a loop instead of an up and back. More pizza and a good talk with some friendly folks from Tennessee, and I was off by 10:00, coming down Torreys. A bit loose, a broken trail, and not overly steep, this was for the most part an enjoyable way down. I had seen a rib that would have given me a more direct line, but coming down, I couldn’t see it down below, so I swung way to the right, eventually finding my way down a couloir into the valley. One of the best parts of the day was seeing a pristine, partially frozen lake at the top of the Chihuahua drainage. My parents think it was Crystal Lake, but it looked like a very serene, pure place to be. I would love to return to visit, but it was guarded by some steep looking scree fields below.
Once back in the valley, I found the road, and it was a pretty straightforward shot down to the car. Time to break out the headphones and Neko Case. By now I was in no mood to bushwhack, so I let my feet get wet and walked through the rivers without worry. Dry shoes were waiting in the car, along with more pizza, and Pepperidge Farms cookies- Brussels. Finally I saw other people, a group of three men who had planned to make it to the upper lake, but couldn’t find a dry river crossing, so they were prepared to call it a day. I returned to my car at 12:45, completing a rare Front Range climb with incredible, new views, virtually nobody besides the summits and traverse, and a quick drive back to the city.
I don’t know why this route isn’t more popular- both Roach and Dawson write about it, and Bill has this description:
This is a route that I will return to, I’m sure, many times over the years.