| Torreys - Kelso Ridge
I should preface this trip report by saying that I am not by any means an experienced snow climber. This report should give people a little better idea of what the snow conditions are like (were like last saturday) on Torreys and how the snow can change the character of a dry trail.
It was a beautifully clear, but cold morning when I arrived at the trailhead for the Grays trail. (I made it up the road in a little Honda accord, but a car or truck with 4wd would have made the drive much more pleasant) The trail started off dry and is very well defined. As I continued on the trail, Torreys and its north ridge - Kelso ridge - slowly came into view (image ). The steepness of Torreys' SW face has kept it generally free of thick snow. The trail to cut over to Kelso ridge is small but visible and heads north towards alittle mine shack.
The lowest section of Kelso ridge was generally free of snow which made the hiking and route finding a bit simpler (image ). There were some little towers that create some exposure and provide a bit of class 3 scrambling. When approaching a tower, whether there is snow or not, be sure to evaluate your options before climbing up the first notch you see. The third pic shows the upper half of the route to the summit. (image ) There is a steep section of the trail that has some more exposure and requires climbing located about half of the way up Kelso, just before another ridge connects from the north (near 13000'). (image )
A second more significant ridge joins Kelso ridge at 13,500, and by this time, you will be hiking in up to 2 ft of snow. When I hiked the trail, the majority of the ridge had not been climbed yet, so routefinding was made much more difficult than had the trail been clear and dry. I found that in many places, the fresh snow helped me get footing on what would otherwise be loose rock. When there was ever a question as to which side of the route to favor in the snow, we tended to go around to the right (north) where there was less exposure. Again, take your time establishing a route up steep rock where exposure is present and grips might be harder to find through the snow. Just below the knife edge, is another steep and snow covered section of the trail (image ).
As you reach 14000 ft, the trail steepens again and snowcover over a foot is consistent. Here I found it very helpful to pick a path up through the snow near rocks that I could use to hold onto (image ). This required some traversing. If you happen to be following the trail that my partner and I made, we were not drunk... just wandering to try and stay on the most secure part of the slope. The knife edge near 14000ft is not long, but is a bit hairy. The south side had some snow on it so it was somewhat hidden when we got there. I have no shame in saying that I shimmied across on my ass. Once you cross the knife edge, you must climb over a large white outcrop. I didn't notice any easy way to get around it but don't worry, the rock is very stable and is actually easier than it looks or sounds.
Past the white rock, is the steepest part of the trail (image ), but it is the last little push before you hit the summit. When we climbed, we made the first footprints up this snow covered slope and onto the summit. It is a great end to the ridge climb and gives you a real sense of earning the summit. (image ) The summit of Torreys is small, one might say cozy in relation to Gray's. we couldn't find the summit log through the snow and after enjoying a great view for a few minutes marched south towards Grays. The trail up to Grays is very obvious, as is the main Grays trail back to the trail head. WHAT A HIKE!
I hope this report and the pictures help all of you who plan on hiking Torreys in the near future or similar conditions. I would have more pics of the upper section, but it seems as if Safeway has lost a roll which I am not pleased about. You can see the knife edge and the last section of the ridge in the final photo (image ) as a short flat grey section of the trail near the summit - the white rock is also visible, although it obviously looks a lot smaller than it really is.
Good luck to all and safe climbing.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):