| Chihuahua Gulch
One of the funniest parts of sports is that, as a rule, whenever a team wins a championship in any sport, they all have to stand around in the locker room talking all about how this team has faced some serious adversity, but in the face of adversity, they overcame it and proved what they’re made of. I just love how the word adversity applies to all championship teams, but you never hear it otherwise. “Honey- I made it to the store to get milk, but I had to overcome some adversity.”
I did a fall climb of Grays and Torreys from the Chihuahua Gulch side last Saturday, and I overcame some adversity. The best part is that, for all that adversity, I had a big old silly grin on my face pretty much the whole day. I really enjoy routes like this one- it reminds me of the Tour de Abyss on Bierstadt. While about a million people are lining up along the trail on the other side of the mountain, I have an entire basin all to myself up to the summit. What’s more, this is a seriously beautiful basin. I could see myself doing this every other summer for the next 20 years.
I grabbed a deluxe sausage sandwich from Dino’s and headed for the TH about 800 on Friday night, and got there about 10PM. There were a lot of active campsites along the road in, but it was mostly quiet. I enjoyed a 90 Shilling and my book before nodding off. The next morning my alarm was 5AM and I was on the trail by 520. It’s pretty quick up the road into the basin, and the meadow does seem to have a lot of runoff and multiple creek crossings without great bridges. I guess that’s the price for solitude. However, I did try to hop to a wet boulder in the middle of a creek and slide off, completely submerging one of my feet in the icy cold water and smacking the crap out of my hip, although not nearly enough to turn back. Continuing up into the basin, I got to a smaller crossing, hopped across , grabbed a willow branch that didn’t hold, and my dry foot slipped and completely submerged in the water. Two for two! I continued on with wet, soon to be numb feet.
A short time later there was a road that forked off to the right, and although it was obviously not the correct one (it led to a campsite), I was tired of the road in the meadow and all its creek crossings, so I decided to bushwhack up the hill on the right to reach the road going into Ruby Gulch. I got to the road about the time the sun was peaking into the basin. My camera told me the battery that was charged the day before was about to die. Then I realized I left my suntan lotion in the car. And my sunglasses. I did get a couple pictures while my camera flashed its dire warnings.
Moon over Chihuahua
a different picture, believe it or not
The road leads into Ruby Gulch and a mine, when you swing left up a ridge with no real path. It gets a little loose, but goes by fairly quickly, and soon I was on the ridge. Suddenly, a ripping wind came from nowhere, almost knocking me over. Luckily, my feet were so numb they couldn’t feel how cold they were in the wind. Thank God! I grabbed my camera, and suddenly, there was a full battery. Maybe it was just cold earlier. I took a couple shots of the ridge and the drainage below.
Ruby Gulch, mine in the middle
Grays from the ridge
At 820 I was on top of Grays for the 7th time. Until then I hadn’t seen a single person, but that changed quickly. I don’t mind- everyone seems to be friendly at 14000. I took a couple pictures, including this shot on the summit of myself, not realizing how ridiculous I would look:
Ruby Gulch from Grays
Ruby Gulch on the left, Chihuahua to the right
I stayed for about 25 minutes, eating my deluxe sausage sandwich from Dino’s, to the wild envy of all the other yahoos eating their Powerbars and trailmix. Poor, pathetic fools! I left Grays about 845 and got to Torreys by 920.
Chihuahua from Torreys
I didn’t stay as long on Torreys because the wind was still howling (Adversity!) and there’s no wall to hide behind. I took off to the west, saying goodbye to the masses, and dropping down toward Chihuahua. You can swing all the way to the right and make the saddle between Torreys and Grizzly, but I hugged the left. It was fine, albeit steep and loose from time to time. About halfway down, I forced myself to sit and relax. The wind had died down, the sun was shining, and it was one of those beautiful moments when you want to freeze time. My normal problem is I get in a rush to get to the car so I don’t stop, sit, and enjoy, but I’m trying to reinvent myself a bit, so I forced myself to listen to five full songs on my Ipod (Girl From the North Country, Most of the Time, Magpie in the Morning, Stella Blue, It’s All Too Much), and finish my sandwich. There was a pair of climbers making their way down Grizzly toward the saddle and the basin was glorious. The sun was warming me, so I got rid of my hat and gloves, and I even started to feel my feet for the first time since the river. I was very happy.
into Chihuahua basin
It was steep at times coming down into the basin, but never loose or unpleasant. From above, you could see a mass of willows in the meadow below, but I was able to locate a thin, beaten path that I assumed was a game trail that wound its way through to the road. There were more people on the road than I expected- hikers and 4x4 drivers, but the walkout was pretty speedy, and I was constantly looking up to the left to see Grays and Torrey’s thinking, “I climbed those!” From Chihuahua, they take on a more impressive persona. It was a fun walk, and I returned to the car at 1215. When I called my wife to tell her I was off safely, the first thing I found myself saying was that I overcame a lot of adversity- wet numb feet, forgotten sunglasses and suntan lotion, bushwhacking, ripping winds, dorky summit shots. My biggest regret was not getting a couple actions shots of me eating my deluxe sausage sandwich from Dino’s. But I was very happy, and can’t wait to return.
last view of Grays
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):