| Winter fun on Kelso Ridge
Kelso Mtn, Kelso Ridge, T&G
Date climbed: 3/11/2012
Party: Matt Lewis, myself
TH: I-70 exit
First, I apologize for writing like an engineer. I tried to write creatively once, but it proved far too complex. Also, I give up on embedding pics.
Matt and I were kicking around ideas for routes this weekend and finally decided on a Kelso Ridge repeat. Between work, grading, classes, and those demanding significant others things, neither of us have had time to head to the hills this semester. That was a bit of a problem since we're "training" for some spicier peaks once the post-college funds start to pick up(?). A Kelso loop seemed like a good opportunity to work on a number of skills and possibly grab some 13ers.
Previous TRs suggested a winter attempt depends strongly on conditions - with the blue bird forecast and low snow year, it seemed as if we were cheating. Oh well.
6AM found us driving up the road from the Bakerville exit... and promptly reversing. The 3 mile road trek went by quickly enough and we hit the summer TH just past 7AM. There, a Lost Rat-bound enthusiastic pair from North Carolina told us avy conditions were great and beamed with pride over having skied Dead Dog the day before. He then pointed over to Kelso at their tracks. I tried to subtly suggest they were missing about 1000' of vert with no success, but I think they figured it out later in the day. Dead Dog and Lost Rat are still untouched.
Continuing on, we decided to tack on Kelso Mtn via the East Slopes. The sun was unfavorably, reliably positioned with no clouds in sight and we were soon down to roasting in base layers. We zigzagged our way up grass tips with zero signs of instability. It was the only time I used an ice ax all day. I also used microspikes for the first extended period and they performed well.
Kelso was tedious with the false summits and long ridge, but the views were great and the short scrambly section down to the Torreys saddle (9:30?) was a nice warm up. At the saddle, we were joined by Ethan, a Bent Gate employee and recent Minnesota transplant. His friends told him he was going to die if he attempted Kelso solo in winter. Encouraging.
We continued up to the first chimney before eating and allowing me a chance to nudge the rope over to Matt. Matt and Ethan tackled the left chimney and I moseyed up the right - both went well. Afterwards, the ridge alternated between short scrambles or ledge traverses with great holds split by fearsome, dreaded class 2. The holds seemed plentiful and the snow was our friend - it left the cruxes reasonable yet covered up most of the scree. Indeed, it felt as if we were cheating compared to some of the other reports.
We soon came to the mini knife edge and crux head wall. Ethan tackled it head on. We were sane and decided to wrap around a ledge to the right and climb up a gully. We hit the knife edge soon after and took a quick break - hauling the unnecessary gear and the side trip to Kelso were taking its toll on our energy levels and speed. After this, we ventured across the knife edge and stopped for the customary pictures. The knife edge was walk-able and actually seemed easier than in summer.
Up and over the White Tower and a short, avy-safe climb found us meeting up with Ethan on top of Torreys (1PM). As soon as the lounging began, the clouds came out and forced us to throw on another layer. Funny how that happens.
Our energy levels were back up, time was on our side, and the ridge to Ganley looked enticing. Those hopes were soon dashed as Matt was hit by a throbbing headache after descending Torreys. We stopped and re-hydrated again and the headache subsided so we did the quick slog up Grays (2PM). The headache was subsiding, but we decided to call it a day just in case (read: we became lazy).
I had not been on the standard Grays summit trail since my first 14er shortly after high school graduation and consequently forgot how annoying it was. Seems like they can knock out a few hundred yards of trail there. Anyways, the descent back to the car (4:30ish) was well packed and every bit as long as we wished it wasn't.
Ski traffic wasn't too bad and we were able to check out the Idaho Springs BBQ place - it'll do in a bind, but it wasn't quite up to Serious Texas standards.
A few pics (all here):