| Torreys Peak, Kelso Ridge
Columbines bloom with Grays Peak in the background. (Photo by Ketel1)
A lesson that is sometimes good to heed: Never turn down a good opportunity. Business had me going to Denver, and I put out word hoping to find someone who would want to bag a 14er close to Denver before I had to fly out.
I was thinking someone would say something about a nearby walk-up, which would have been fine. But Wildlobo was the first to take the bait, and his suggestion was much more interesting: Torreys Peak via Kelso Ridge.
Torreys Peak, still holding some snow. (Photo by Wildlobo)
Had to jump at that. Joining us would be Ketel1, Oso Blanco, Cookiehiker, Durant and Ted. The joke was that we'd all be fighting for last place to summit, but I knew better. I was the only flatlander in the group, so I knew I'd win that honor.
It seems that just about anyone who has done a 14er has done Torreys in tandem with Grays Peak. But doing it via Kelso? Not so much. Not that it isn't highly trafficked, but let's just say it's Class 3 rating, higher exposure and much-balloyhooed Knife Edge tend to keep the weekend strollers away.
We started out somewhat late (6:45 a.m., thanks in part to someone in a Toyota Tacoma who was babying that pickup on the 4WD road like it was made of balsa wood) but got started up the trail quickly.
Warm temps brought the wildflowers out early. The skies were brilliant blue, untouched by the haze of smoke belched out from wildfires that seemed to be breeding like rabbits across the state. Grays came into view, then Torreys -- kindred peaks with an unmistakable and classic Colorado skyline. Lost Rat Couloir looked played out, and Dead Dog, will still mostly filled, looked like it was getting ready to fade fast. Given how warm things got that day, I can't imagine the Dog will be around too long.
Kelso Ridge came into view pretty quick. We turned right off the main trail and up to the lower shoulder of the ridge where the ruins of some old mining building still stood. It was the first bit of steeper hiking in what would be pretty common. I remarked that it was the steepest I'd experienced since doing Belford 8 years ago.
Oso Blanco and Wildlobo go up the first Class 3 pitch. (Photo by Ketel1)
What made Kelso entertaining, however, were the Class 3 pitches. Not long after turning up the ridge, we ran up on our first Class 3 wall. The rock was mostly solid, as it would be most of the way. But there would be other factors worth noting.
I won't do a blow-by blow. But there are some things about the route I think are worth mentioning.
The Class 3 walls (which can be turned into Class 4 if you so choose) are not difficult climbs. They are exposed, and it's wise to test your holds. But nothing gave way on me.
Ketel1 traverses a ledge before starting her climb up one of the Class 3 pitches. (Photo by Shawnee Bob)
Cookiehiker victoriously ascends through a notch. (Photo by Oso Blanco)
But it's also worth noting that to gain these walls, you have to traverse some ledges that are exposed, narrow (and skinnier as you get higher, it seems) and at times sandy and loose. They're manageable, but care is warranted.
On an exposed ledge, looking down toward Dead Dog Couloir. Not a good place to slip. (Photo by Ketel1)
Not too far below the Knife Edge is one ledge that seemed to be about 18 inches, and a fall there would take you straight down into Dead Dog Couloir. That would be a disaster. Take your time traversing those ledges, m'kay?
Wildlobo and Cookiehiker working their way up the Knife Edge. (Photo by Oso Blanco)
Looking back on the Knife Edge as the rest of us cross. The angle of the photo makes the dropoff steeper than it really is. (Photo by Oso Blanco)
The Knife Edge is exposed, and getting across should be done patiently. But it is not as spooky as some would have you believe. The rock is solid; some of us straddled it and scooched up; others bear crawled it. I chose the latter.
Traversing the ledge on the White Rock just past the Knife Edge. (Photo by Shawnee Bob)
The White Rock at the end of the Knife Edge is where I felt the most "risk." After crawling up to the White Rock from the Knife Edge, you climb right and traverse a thin, exposed ledge and gain the final summit pitch. The rock is solid, but don't be in a hurry.
I wished the ascent stopped there, but there was steep hiking ahead. My flatlander lungs betrayed me, as that last bit of hiking, maybe just a couple hundred yards, blew me up. As I predicted, I won last place to the summit.
The gang on the summit.
Got to hand it to the crew -- they are all strong hikers, capable climbers and fun people. Cookiehiker lived up to her name. Summit cookies! A few celebratory drinks (I think there was whiskey and some tequila concoction) and we went down Torreys' standard route trail. Cookiehiker, Oso Blanco, Durant and Ted went ahead and tagged Grays. I got to the saddle and figured going up the same slop I just went down didn't seem too appealing.
The hike down was bloody hot. I don't know what the temp was, but it felt like mid-80s -- kinda warm for 12,000 feet.
Celebratory grub followed at Tommyknockers. Buffalo burger with blue cheese helped replace those calories I burned churning up the ridge.
I can't imagine climbing Torreys any other way, unless it was in the spring up Dead Dog. Kelso Ridge is a truly classic Colorado hike and climb, and I got to do it with an incredible group. Put Kelso Ridge on your to-do list if you haven't done it already.
Take it from me: it's not a bad way to end a business trip.
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