Peak(s):  Grays Peak  -  14,270 feet
Post Date:  10/08/2013
Date Climbed:   10/05/2013
Posted By:  The Moose

 Winter comes early on Grays Peak - East Ridge   

Upping the challenge on the East Ridge

TH: 7:00 AM
SUMMIT: 12:00 PM
DEPART: 12:45 PM

They say Grays peak is among the easiest of all 14ers... well even the easiest mountain takes on a new identity with snow and freezing weather. In my head I had planned to hike up Grays and Torreys for a 6-7 hour round trip. HA! As it turned out it was a 9-hour day just to get to the summit of Grays. I guess I'll have to hike Torreys some other way some day.

Driving up from Boulder and arriving around 6:45 AM, it was still mostly dark. I was thinking we might have almost got there too early, it was hard to see the road coming up. The road is not impassable for 2WD, but it takes some care, we got up in a minivan (through the 2" of snow nonetheless)

The day started off snowy and cloudy.
The bridge

You can see about 6" of snow on the lower, flatter part of the trail, around 12,000.
Looking back around 12k

We began to wish we had snowshoes at this point, there was windpacked snow along the trail and it only got deeper the higher we got. First lesson learned here: bring showshoes even if the forecast was for 3-7", wind can turn that into 2+ feet (and it did!) We made our way up to the sign at 12,100, and took this picture of the cloud over the peak, hoping we would see the sun come out soon.
The peak shrouded in mist / snow

Looking down from just above here:
Looking back from higher up

Now the hike began to get serious. The slope on Grays is not steep by any means, but sometime we found ourselves struggling to even find rocks, let alone the trail! The winds did not help either, we estimated they were around 40 mph. They blew us down a few times, literally. I managed to snap this picture at a more wind-free moment.
The trail higher up, 1-2' at this point

The sun began to come out, and when I had a chance I took some shots of Kelso mountain and Torreys as well:
Looking back over Kelso mountain

The sun comes out and a great view of Torreys comes with it

We accidentally took the saddle trail and made it to the saddle after much slogging, and when we took a break I was quite thirsty... went for some gatorade... which brings me to the second lesson I learned on this hike: Bring liquid in a thermos or wrap it deep in a coat, or risk your water sources freezing solid! The water inside my pack was a drinkable mix of ice and liquid, but one can only drink so much before getting a brain freeze or shivering to the core. The limb along the ridge is easy, but the wind did not let up very much.

Near the top I got this shot, which I really like, It doesnt capture the route but You get an idea of the snowpack and the views. Beautiful!

Finally the summit was reached after 5 hours of gaiter-less and snowshoe-less trekking, with snow as high as the upper thighs in parts. Lesson number three: getting snow in boots is bad, gaiters are worth it for even a few inches of snow. Some shots from the summit: the snowcapped rockies are quintessential Colorado.
summit shot

The Rockies

The panorama shot

Stretching on the summit

Torreys peak behind me

We had even worse wind coming down than up: had to be 50 mph at minimum. It took just over 3 hours to descend, which put us back at the minivan at 4, we were the first to arrive and the last to leave. We were also two of the only four people to summit (the other two had snowshoes of course).

All in all this was a good trip, but it took everything out of me to get this one done. Lots of lessons learned here, and hopefully next time I do a winter trip I'll come better prepared! To end, another picture of just how gorgeous these mountain are. Happy October!
From the summit

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

  • Comments or Questions

Lots of snow     10/08/2013 16:43
climed last year in November and there was much less than that


Looks cold.     10/08/2013 18:51
nice job!


Thanks for report. Any advice on showshoes?     10/10/2013 21:34
I really appreciate the report. Looks like you had a great, challenging day! I'm giving this a try this coming Tuesday. So....would you recommend I lug my snowshoes up with me, or just go with gaiters and microspikes or crampons? I don't think it has snowed anymore, but can't figure if there has been any melt off either. Also, I will try to drive a 2wd sedan up to the trailhead (carefully) and camp over night. Your report makes it sound possible since you were there soon after snowfall and still made it. Any further comments or advice are appreciated!

The Moose

Snowshoes     10/10/2013 23:40
fmritsi: I wish I had had snowshoes, but by Tuesday its hard to say what will be up there. Id bring them just in case, but there may well be very little snow. I dont think you would need microspikes, the trail is not very steep or rocky. Unless your 2wd sedan has less than average clearance, I would say you can make it up, if you go slowly. I used a minivan to get up there actually. Gaiters would be good, but again you may not need them at all. 9 times out of 10 in October I would say there is less snow than this on Grays.


Will give it a try and report is coming     10/13/2013 19:26
Thanks. Looks like there is accumulation predicted, especially tomorrow. Going for it on Tuesday if the snow lets up enough. I appreciate your tips.


Made it     10/16/2013 14:07
Made the peak and thanks for you report and advice. I wrote new report, but things seemed close to how you described. Could have made it without snow shoes, but hiking through two feet of snow without them would have been miserable.

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