| Torreys Peak - Kelso Ridge
Torreys Peak – Kelso Ridge
Aug. 5, 2006
I've been up Grays and Torreys 2.5 times. The massive crowds keep me from going back any more. However, I've never done Kelso Ridge, and it has beckoned me, so I had to answer the call.
A friend of ours, Ryan, joined us with only a minor arm-twisting. He's been up there many times (winter and summer), but he was willing to go again, even though he was hung over.
From the Bakerville Exit (221) off I-70, we made pretty good time up the dirt road. That is, until we got stuck behind an extremely slow driver in a white Ford Explorer. Yeah, you know who you are. Now, I can understand taking roads like that cautiously, but my god, man! There's "slow," and then there's "ridiculously slow." When he was attempting to ford a puddle, I honestly couldn't go any slower, and I was lugging my engine. While the road is washed out and rutted in some sections, it's really not that bad. (For reference, on the way back down, I made it from the trailhead to I-70 in 9 minutes, and that included slowing down and/or pulling off for other vehicles, as well as slowing down before blind corners. Without being reckless, you can easily go 20 to 25 mph in many sections … or at least I did. Which reminds me, I need to replace the front shocks on my truck.)
Not surprisingly, the parking lot was pretty crowded. It wasn't too bad yet, though, as we were able to park near the bathrooms, and we started off up the trail at 6:10 a.m. Made it to the low point on the ridge (between Kelso Mountain and Torreys Peak) a few minutes before 7 a.m. From there, the fun began.
For the most part, the ridge was pretty straightforward, and on some sections there was even an easy-to-follow trail. The rock scrambling was fun, and most of the steep sections had many handholds. However, some were like loose teeth, and would decompose within your grasp.
It must've rained the night before because the ground was still saturated and many of the rocks were still kind of slick. It made the dirt sections easier, though, because it was like walking up thick, packed-in clay instead of loose, dry dirt.
Whenever we had the option of going left or right, we went right … except for the time when it really mattered, where we should've gone right (up to the Knife Edge), but we went left for some reason (I won't name that reason's name … but let's just call him "Ryan"). It did get a little hairy-scary, but it wasn't bad enough to turn back.
To a great extent, actions and skills determine your fate. But in this case, it felt more like we were at the mercy of the mountain. At one point, while traversing a ledge, I stepped on a basketball-sized rock that appeared to be embedded in the mountain, but it wasn't. With just a little weight applied to it, it slowly separated from the mountain and hung precariously by a thread of pasty mud. The rocks I was hanging my life on weren't much better.
Setting rocks free was a given. At one point, Jen set free a softball-sized rock down a couloir. All three of us watched it bounce its way down until it exploded on a rock. Kind of like a watermelon being dropped from a 10-story building.
At any rate, we ended up traversing Dead Dog Couloir, just below the Knife Edge. While the ledges we traversed were eroding severely, our main concern was the rocks from above. As it turned out, a couple guys were crossing the Knife Edge the moment we were passing underneath it. Thankfully, they knew to yell "rock!" (Thanks again, guys, if you're reading this). At any rate, that section really got the blood flowing.
After making it back up to the ridge (next to the white rock tower) I was kind of disappointed that I didn't get to cross the Knife Edge … so, I climbed back to check it out. Fun and short section; a much better option than traversing Dead Dog.
We made it to the summit just before 9 a.m., and then we headed down a few minutes later, just as a massive amount of fog was heading our way. Speaking of the weather, up until that moment it was great. Just a light breeze that was cool, but not cold. As we descended, clouds continued to consume what was left of the blue sky. Thankfully, they didn't look like thunderclouds … yet.
Describing the hike down as "crowded" would be understated. I couldn't believe how many people I saw on their way up. "Mobbed" might be a better descriptor. And I've never seen so many blue jeans wearers in my life. Those can't be comfortable, and they better hope they don't get wet. We even saw people just starting up the trail as we made it to the parking lot at 10:15 a.m.
Overall, the ridge was a ton of fun. It was a little scary going up that section of Dead Dog, though. I'll be sure to go right next time.
Jen, Ryan, Aubrey:
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):