| Grays Peak
Grays Peak Elevation 14, 270'
- From Stevens Gulch Road/Grizzly Gulch Road Fork
Distance: 12 Miles
Elevation Gain: 3,990'
Participants: Eric, Ben, Kenneth, Jordan
I know Gray's Peak may not be the most exciting 14er to write a report about, but I feel justified for writing this because people may be curious about the conditions, I've wanted to write one of these for the last 6 months, and I got some "neat" photos along the way.
I had been itching to get into the mountains for the past couple of months, but the consistent snow we've been getting has sufficiently shut that wish down. I just kept reading trip reports of cool people doing cool things with cool equipment all Winter and became quite jealous. About the 3rd week of April, I went up to Bakerville to see what Grays and Torreys might look like. The road was completely snow-packed and driving was out of the question. My mind was boggled. I had never seen that road closed before. So we slogged up that for 3 hours and finally made it to the trailhead. I was simply demoralized to have postholed for 3 hours, and to have only gone 3 stinkin miles. I knew I had to come back soon.
So when my good friends from high school Kenny and Jordan wanted to climb a 14er for the first weekend of Summer, I figured a group of 14er novices such as ourselves would have the best shot at a summit with Grays and Torreys. Evans Road is still closed, Guanella Pass is still closed, so this is the closest hike we have with the shortest approach. We planned on 14 miles, 4,500' from the Winter Start AKA The Bottom Parking Lot off of I-70.
I've done Grays twice before this trip, so knew what to expect as far as difficulty and route finding. So I wasn't worried when we got off to a bit of a late start and got to Bakerville at about 8:30. We planned on just hiking right from the parking lot, but Ben and I figured we should at least give the road a look with his Subaru. It was extremely surprising to see how clear the road was. Three weeks ago, Ben and I were postholing up to our hips on this road, and now we were able to cruise right along it. A 4WD or AWD vehicle is definitely still necessary, but the road for the first mile isn't bad. Then, when it forks to the Grizzly Gulch Road, the snow starts to get a bit deeper. We weren't able to drive up any further, so parked at the Grizzly Gulch Road, and saved us the first mile of the hike.
What did this old building used to be?
The rest of the road up to the trailhead was either dry, or hard packed snow, so we made our way up the 2 miles left of the road in just about an hour. We arrived to the trailhead with plenty of sun
Kenny, Jordan, Ben
Mining Chemicals do somethin' real funny to that H20
Traveling along this hardpack snow was a first for me. Probably 75% of my 14ers have been between June and October. Snow is basically new for me. But after a while, I realized it was was a lot easier to just cruise along the flat snow than have to navigate the standard trail without the snow. There are the occasional areas that we fell knee deep in, but we threw out our 4 letter word, and got on with it. It was rather pleasurable cruising across the snowfield towards the base of Grays and Torreys
First sight of the 14ers
After getting out of the valley portion of the basin we were in, we made our way up to a ridge that I found particularly fun. It's the same ridge that The Lost Rat Couloir starts along. During the Summer, the standard route dips below this ridge and runs parallel with the tip of the ridge. But where we had hiked to, the footprints ahead of us just followed the spine of the ridge. It offered some safe mixed climbing with really secure, and crunchy snow and great hand holds along the rock. It also had some awesome exposure looking into the Lost Rat Couloir area.
While taking a break along the ridge, we searched the faces of Grays and Torreys for fellow hikers. We saw 2 or 3 skiers on Grays, and thought we saw some on Torreys overlooking Dead Dog Couloir too, so I used my camera to see if the little dots we were seeing were people or rocks
Rocks, or people?
Kenny walking along the ridgeline
Two of the people we saw coming down Grays were actually skiers, and we got a chance to see them get some lines down one of the large couloirs on Grays.
Skier on the ridge
Gettin those turns
Once we watched the second skier descend, the clouds started to finally break, and we got our first peek at blue sky's in a few hours. It was about noon at this point, which is way later than I normally want to be on a peak, but I felt comfortable with the weather, and still saw plenty of other people along Grays, so we decided to continue on to summit Grays
Beginning the last slog
Viewing Evans and Bierstadt (I believe?)
Working our way up to the summit was pretty tough work. I hadn't exactly been staying in tip-top shape over the Winter, and the snow made for slow going. I was pretty pumped to try out my new microspikes, and I was thoroughly impressed. I just felt more comfortable going up the steep snow faces, and instead of worrying about walking on the snow being a hazard, the microspikes made it really fun. We bumped into a guy on our way down who was wearing a pair as well, and told us that he had ascended Torreys from Kelsos Ridge. I've always been intrigued by the route, but have never given it a chance. To hear that guy did it with a ton of snow was crazy. He mentioned that the snow made it hard in some sections, but easier than the normal, Summer route in other places. Just more proof that I saw today that one climb can be something completely different in another season.
5 hours after leaving the car, we finally reached the summit of Grays. Definitely the first, and most likely the last, time that I've had Grays Summit to myself. It was a bit windy, but I was at the place I had been day dreaming about in math class for for months. I wanted to cherish the moment and relish in my accomplishments
First Summit Photo
Ahhh. Back to having a purpose again
Customary, unconventional summit photo
After eating and enjoying the views for half an hour, we started to make our way back down at about 2:30. Torreys and Kelso might have been possible, but we were P double O, pooped. We were more than satisfied with our summit of Grays. The descent was so much fun with microspikes. It felt like running on the dunes at The Sand Dunes; I could just take huge lunges in the snow and plant my foot into the snow. One of the few advantages I found of climbing in the snow for one of my first times.
The views were breathtaking, but we saw clouds closing in on our basin. We scurried down the mountain trying to outrun the imminent snow.
Looking South off of Grays
The weather had been about 50 degrees, and not very windy for most of the day. I had managed to get to the summit with only a fleece on. But when these clouds came in, that completely changed. The temp dropped immediately, and the wind started whippin snow everywhere. I thought we were in for a miserable walk back to the car
It got real snowy, real quick
Mountain Chicken we caught in the Blizzard
Lotta snow, with mo sno comin
And then, all of a sudden the clouds broke about half a mile from the Summer Trailhead, and we just stood there, stupefied, watching the clouds wash away. It was incredible to watch. We watched it and took our photos, and made our final leg back to the car.
Taking Pictures during the clouds breaking
Last View of Grays
Our last look at Torreys from our parking spot
We had an uneventful trip back to the car, followed by an uneventful car ride back to Golden, that led us back to our uneventful, and boring lives. Sigh. Until Next time Mountains...
9:00 - Arrive @ Winter Trailhead
9:15 - Start hiking from Grizzly Gulch Road
10:15 - Reach Summer Trailhead
2:00 - Summit of Grays
4:30 - Back to Summer Trailhead
5:15 - Back to Car @ Grizzly Gulch
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):