| G, hold the T
A friend of mine graduated CSU this semester and was moving home to DC in a couple of weeks indefinitely. She expressed an interest to me that she wanted to climb one last 14er before she left. I suggested Grays and Torreys, since she had never climbed it before, and I had to turn around on my last attempt due to a lightning blizzard. So we decided on our peaks.
I was watching the weather forecast for two days prior to our trip, and I wasn't exactly encouraged by what I saw. The NOAA website told me to expect a 50% chance of precip, with a blend of rain and snow, and some thunder. Since most storms form around noonish or early afternoon, I wanted to beat the weather by as wide a margin as I could manage. With that, we decided to leave Fort Collins around 3 am to start hiking early.
I woke up at 1:45 to make my lunch for the day, and get my dog's pack ready. Picked my friend up a short time after 2:30, filled up the tank, and hit the highway at almost exactly 3:00 am.
Traffic was minimal (which isn't surprising, since it was the wee hours of a Wednesday morning) all the way down I-25 and through Denver and into I-70. Although traffic was nearly non-existent, it took us awhile to get up the enormous ramp that is I-70 into the mountains due to my 1994 4Runner ant it's 240,000 miles, which only allowed us to go 30 mph up the road.
We arrived at the trailhead around 5:20 and saw two other cars in the lot: one with an empty tent beside it, and another red truck tucked away in the corner of the parking lot.
We donned our gear and hit the trail at exactly 5:35 am.
When I first gazed at Grays and Torreys in the distance, I was a bit disappointed at the amount of snow I saw. I wasn't expecting a barren mountain, but I was hoping for less snow than what was there. But either way, a little snow never hurt anyone so we kept going.
At first I was impressed at how little snow there was on the trail. There was some runoff that had frozen overnight so it made for some slippery parts in some areas. However, there were still considerable stretches of trail that had slushy, slippery snow. In my opinion, still not enough to warrant spikes or snowshoes.
The air temperature was surprisingly pleasant. At 5:30 am in mid May, I would be expecting colder temperatures than what we had. I am guessing it was in the low to mid 40s when we began our hike.
Continuing on, I kept trying to get to a good spot to catch Grays and Torreys in alpenglow. From the crappy 3.2 megapixel camera phone I had, this was the best I could do.
We were making good time, especially since I am out of shape from a dormant winter. We reached the face of Grays Peak (I'm guessing) around 6:40, which is when we began to slow considerably. I gazed up the northeast face of the mountain and saw the first people of the trip (probably the folks who had been in the tent). They were a ways up the face of the mountain, near the series of switchbacks on Grays. We were still near the base of the face and the north-facing rocky ledges.
From here to the summit, it was pretty slow going, probably due to a number of factors. The biggest one was my being out of shape. Aside from that, there was a considerable amount of slipping and sliding from the snow. I would recommend microspikes or at least snowshoes, but that's just my opinion.
I saw the two people ahead of us bypass the switchbacks and use a traverse over to the saddle connecting Grays and Torreys. I had been dreading the switchbacks the whole time, so my friend and I decided we would traverse over to the saddle, hike up to Torreys, backtrack down the southeast face of Torreys and make the quick climb to Grays. We had this thought process at the beginning of the traverse. By the end of the traverse, my energy was sapped. I couldn't bear the thought of having to climb Torreys ridge, which was significantly steeper than the traverse. If the traverse had sapped me, what would the climb to Torreys do to me? So, instead of taking a right turn up to Torreys, we went left up Grays. As we arrived at the saddle, the two folks ahead of us were nearing the summit. This ridge, although steeper than the traverse, I found to be much easier, simply because I wasn't slipping and sliding and postholing and falling and cursing and verbally abusing my dog because of the frustration (just kidding).
Looking east toward the switchbacks of Grays.
Wondering why I am taking so long and breathing so heavily.
The north ridge of Grays, almost to the summit.
The view to west from the ridge was nostalgic: I was trying to locate the town of Frisco, which my family had vacationed to when I was younger for family reunions. I had trouble finding it until I found the two best landmarks: Lake Dillon and Mount Royal with Mount Victoria behind it. Located further west and slightly south was the ski resort of Copper. Anyway, after catching my breath and reminiscing, I made one final push for the summit. Topped out at 8:45 am.
We hung out on the summit for awhile, tried to identify other 14ers in the distance, signed the register, took some photos, ate lunch (or breakfast since it was still 9 am), and headed back down. We encountered many more people on the way down. Reached the trailhead at 11:35 am, exactly six hours from our departure.
Although I wasn't able to tackle Torreys on this trip, I'm glad I was able to finish Grays at least and, more importantly, help my friend experience another 14er before she heads back to Flatsville.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):