With winter rapidly closing, I felt the need to get a few more summits. The weekend originally had Sunshine/Redcloud on the plan, but heavy snowfall in the San Juans killed that option. Since Grays/Torreys are so close to the metro area, you would think they would be one of the first ones checked off my list. However, the 14 miles and 5000 elevation gain pushed them down the list.
I put out a post on Monday, hoping to snag a few other peak baggers. Typical winter trip planning, the group size grew to 6, dropped to 3 and then down to 2. At that point, I was hoping I wouldn’t be going solo. Fortunately, Greg said he would definitely show, so that helped get me to the TH. Anna was also expecting to top out on Grays, although via a different route.
Didn’t sleep very well (again), up at 4am and out of the house by 4:30am. Driving up I-70 past Morrison, there were some horrible wind gusts, making it hard to keep in my lane. Not a good sign about possible conditions in the mountains. Felt a strong urge pulling me back to bed, but I was a good mountaineer and resisted the call. Pulling into the Bakersville parking lot, I was surprised to see about 10 vehicles. Might there be a bunch of other peak baggers already on the trail? (Guess not – didn’t see anyone else on the mountain)
Dare I cross the bridge?
The hike up the road went well. At the summer TH, I rested for about 20 min, waiting for sign of Greg. Since he admitted to being “fast”, I figured I could start up the trail. Sure enough, he caught up after another 20 minutes and I could no longer consider my hike “solo”. Greg is about 3x faster than me, blessed by strong genes and riding his bike 19 hours a day. I tried my best to keep him in sight for the remainder of the day, but every time I glanced up he was another 500’ up the mountain.
The Kelso slopes looked pretty benign. There was evidence of an old small (20’x100’) avalanche further up the mountain. There wasn’t any debris down by the main trail. We stashed our snowshoes by the Kelso Ridge turnoff. The rest of the route looked pretty windblown. We didn’t regret stashing the snowshoes.
Looking back down the valley
Mentally, it was easier for me to make the long traverse over to the saddle instead of busting straight up the Gray’s talus field. When I finally reached the saddle, Greg was already descending from Grays. I waited for him and then communicated my intentions of completing both summits, albeit slowly. I busted up to the Gray’s summit (just kidding), where I was greeted by a nice -15 wind chill (7 degrees ambient, 25 mph steady wind, gusting to 35?). I quickly snapped the summit shots. Having my gloves off for the 30 seconds to take the pictures was pretty painful.
Cold up there. 60 in Denver.
Spent about 31 seconds on the summit and quickly descended back to the saddle. There was a lot of rime ice on the Gray’s talus that was interesting. The climb up Torreys is easier than Grays, but I was pretty tired at that point (actually I was tired when I left my car at the TH) so it was 20 steps forward and 10 gasps for breath. You would think doing this 80-some times would leave me in top condition; where do I ask for my money back?
Greg was patiently waiting for me at the top of Torreys. The summit conditions were much nicer than Grays. The wind died down a bit and you could actually spend some time to eat/rest/gaze.
Greg looking spiffy
Me looking like the Michelin Man. Ugg
Peering down Kelso Ridge
After about 5 minutes on the summit (maybe 45 minutes for Greg), we started heading back down to the saddle. From the saddle, we climbed maybe 50 feet or so before we were able to skirt the cornice and traverse a snow slope to reach the trail. The snow was pretty stable and didn’t feel sketchy at all.
Last shot of Torreys
The hike down the mountain went fairly quickly. We had to occasionally watch our footing due to ice patches on the trail. I was happy to have my micro-spikes. We reached our snowshoes at the Kelso Ridge turnoff, and used them until the summer TH, at which point I took mine off. I figured I would rather post-hole a little, than continue to trip over my snowshoes with my rubbery legs. I gave Greg the thumbs up to ditch me and sprint down to his car; I would take a bit more time hiking out the final 3 miles.
Finally got back to my car and I was happy. At least until I noticed that the east-bound traffic was moving at a crawl. Dang, ski rush hour. It was very hard staying awake driving 10 mph, but I did a good job and eventually made it home.
Grays and Torreys. In summer, piece of cake. In winter, better have some good stamina.
My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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