| kelso ridge
yesterday i did the kelso ridge route on torreys peak with my friend chase. This summer my goal has been to progress from class 1 and 2 hikes to class 3 scrambling...a couple weeks ago i did the sawtooth and felt it like went ok. i was really anxious in the days leading up to doing it, but when i got there i felt like it wasnt so bad. I tried to remember this for kelso ridge, but thoughts of the knife edge danced through my head for days. I was also concerned that once i got over the class 3 sections retreat would be difficult if not impossible. Still, i figured as long as i wear my keith richards shirt, i should be ok. The shirt is my good luck charm...keith richards has overdosed probably half a dozen times, done every drug under the sun and smokes like a chimney, yet he lives. Nothing can kill keith, so maybe some of that will transfer to me if i wear the shirt.
sunday came and chase showed at my house around 4, and we set off. the crux of the day turned out to be the road up to the trailhead. i guess the recent rains have made the road worse, right past the 1.4 miles private property sign. there were several deep holes with water in them and my rx300 wasnt up to the task. I tried 3 times to get through and failed all 3 times. I did manage to trip a check engine light, so thats nice. after backing down to the sign, we parked and set off. on the way back down later i noticed an identical rx300 in the parking lot, so i guess i just suck at driving!
We made our way up the road, with plenty of cars driving by and not one offered a ride...i found that surprising but whatever i guess extra exercise isn't a bad thing. We hit the trail and as usual, chase set a brutal pace. i was so focused on keeping up with him i didnt think much about what was coming. We hit the turnoff after the sign and before i knew it we were putting on helmets and starting up the ridge.
I didnt take a ton of pictures while we were climbing the ridge, because i felt like i needed to be fully focused on what i was doing. most of the pictures are from safe places, so they arent the best. The first class 3 section came and went pretty easily, which was a nice boost for my confidence level. We continued up the ridge, which was a mix of scrambling and scree. some of the rock is loose, so i made a point to pull on rocks to test them as i went. a few times i pulled out some decent sized rocks. I remembered the advice i read on here about maintaining 3 points of contact so a loose rock wouldnt be a disaster. The scenery was amazing, and as we got higher, the view down onto the standard on trail got cooler and cooler. i also knew that with each step i knew i was getting closer to the knife edge.
we came to a second, more exposed class 3 section. We thought we saw an easier way going left, but we came to a short class 4 section (according to chase), maybe 10 feet or so. I managed to drag myself up it, trying not to look at the exposure below me. A fall there would have definitely been a bummer, so i guess my brain willed me through it. Once over that, we continued zig zagging up the ridge...i think it was after this section that there was a particularly unpleasant scree slope. it wasnt overly steep but it was slippery and frustratingly slow going. still, we were making better than expected time up the ridge, and i was feeling pretty good.
we made our way up the ridge and the true summit of torreys came into view. its a lot like roachs book says about how it seems that you are going to just walk to the top when you see the upper ridge ugliness. all of a sudden i started getting nervous. the exposure was getting a little more noticeable, and i knew it was going to get worse. Still, i reminded myself that sawtooth wasnt so bad after all, and hopefully this would be the same. We continued working our way up to the wall below the knife edge. We elected to go around to the right, which was pretty easy, but we came to a pretty exposed little ledge. Chase managed to snap a couple shots of me on it, and my reaction after i crossed it. my girlfriend had a pretty good laugh at the 2nd picture...'woah man' haha. it was actually really easy, the handholds were excellent and solid.
as we made our way up to the knife edge, i realized that my fate was now sealed. going back would be pretty difficult and unpleasant, so i tried to mentally rev myself up for it. i said a little prayer and scrambled up to the start.
there was a group in front of us who made easy work of the knife edge, basically walking across. that made me feel a little better, but the moment before stepping onto it was probably one of the more intense moments of my life. The exposure is there, and its real. Definitely no falling allowed. the first 10 feet of it went easily enough...i came to a bump and struggled to find the way across. A dude from another group yelled some encouragement. i decided to to sacrifice my ass and just dragged my self over it. i pulled myself a few more feet and then I realized i was across, that i was alive. I didnt want to celebrate yet, as we still to had to go around the white rock, but that was easy(exposed though). We walked up the loose slope to the summit to join the party...i took off my helmet and enjoyed the moment. I had made it. I wasnt dead!
i couldnt bring myself to mess with the camera on the knife edge, so here are a couple shots from just below the summit. on the summit we met a husband and wife team who were right behind us on the ridge, very nice people. the guy seemed to be a very accomplished climber. they offered to give us a ride back to the car which was really awesome. he and chase discussed crazy routes on longs peak. the summit was the usual scene of people, hungry dogs...very fun. I like the madness of summer on the easy 14ers. cool to see the mix of people drawn to the mountains. While i was taking pictures, a couple came up to me to ask if i came up the ridge. i said yes. they asked me if it was difficult. i said it was for me. They then went on to tell me that they were going to downclimb the ridge to save some time and distance from the standard route that they had come up. I tried to discourage them by telling them going down the ridge would be harder than coming up. Thankfully they realized this was a bad idea and headed down the standard route.
the hike down went quickly. I kept looking over at the ridge in disbelief that i had done that route. It hadnt occurred to me until now, but my 14er 'career' started july 30 last summer with a hike on the standard route of grays and torreys. My friend that i hiked with had jokingly mentioned going up the ridge and i had emphatically said hell no. We made our way to the parking lot, realizing we had gotten down well before our ride. We decided to just start walking, figuring maybe someone would give us a ride down. no dice. We did see the people who had offered us to give us a ride right as we got to the car. doh! our total time was about 6.5 hours car to car. i checked under the car looking for fluids or whatever caused the check engine light, but there were none to be seen and the car started right up and drove normally. Sweet!
on the way home we hit the inevitable I-70 traffic, even though it was only noon. good old I-70. i was so stoked from the climb i didnt even care, and i HATE traffic. pretty soon i was home, and the new crux of the day became staying awake long enough to watch breaking bad at 8pm.
hope you enjoyed it, and if you are debating trying kelso ridge, go for it! its really an amazing route.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):