| Grays Peak - Southwest Ridge Approach
I contemplated this trip report, pre-hike, as I drove west on I-70 yesterday morning. I knew the hike could be epic, but I wanted the report to be objective and emotion free. A report of the weather, trail conditions, and time and distance seemed appropriate. But once I gained the Southwest Ridge, beneath the towering West face of Grays Peak, my objectivity flew out the window with the relentless wind. I was immersed in one of the most difficult and demanding adventures of my life. Fear, pleasure, pain, joy, and regret gushed through my heart and mind. I wanted to go home. I wanted to lie down and die. I wanted the summit. I cursed myself for choosing this approach, but I kept going. Someone on 14ers.com has the following quote in their signature (may not be verbatim) "Getting to the top is optional, getting down is mandatory". Those words screamed loudly in my head as I pushed on to the summit. Grays Peak broke me down, she pushed me beyond my self-imposed limit, she made me earn her treasure. In the process, I learned about myself. I will never forget this adventure. I will always, always, hold the treasure dear.
Grays Peak was my third 14er summit, and my fifth peak above 13K.
Now, on with the details...
Round trip length: 9.6 miles
Elevation gain: 3,700 feet
-Departed vehicle at 10:12 AM
-Arrived at summit at 2:28 PM
-Departed summit at approximately 3:00 PM
-Arrived at vehicle at 5:47 PM
-Total walking time of approximately 7 hours
My route is shown here:
Captions are on top of photos.
Because of our light snow pack, I hoped to drive up Chihuahua Gulch to the end of the road. The would keep the hike at a very manageable 6 miles and 3,100 feet of elevation gain. The road looked good when I pulled up to the start.
The snow turned to sugar approximately 1000 ft up the road. I steered vigorously back and forth as my tires spun furiously. Without a second vehicle for support, that was it, I was done. I carefully turned the Jeep around and parked it. My hike just became twice as long as hoped.
I start hiking up the road. My hearts beats a little faster as Grays and Torreys come into view. I don't own snow shoes. Hiking boots and gaiters would have to get me to the summit.
The 2 mile mark. The snow gets deeper.
This sucks. Postholing is no fun. I follow two sets of tracks up into Ruby Gulch, postholing all the way.
The snow on the road becomes knee-deep. The tracks then leave the road and onto the lower slopes of the Southwest Ridge. This was considerably sooner than the 14er guide recommends, but I follow the tracks nonetheless. The snow on the slope was 18 to 24 inches deep.
I near upper Ruby Gulch and the snow pack thins. The relief would be temporary.
Yay. Another mile of snow to posthole through.
I start up the gentle southwest slope. Jets pass overhead. I love contrails. They remind me of slow motion shooting stars.
I stop to rest halfway up the slope. The view behind me opens up. The mountains are gorgeous when coated with snow.
I walk 20 feet, stop and rest. Repeat. This is my view to the east as I slowly gain elevation.
I gain the Southwest Ridge of Grays Peak. I am exhausted, but euphoric.
Grays Peak towers far above the prominent 13,600-foot point on the ridge.
The splendor of Grays Peak comes into full view as a I crest the 13,600-foot point.
I start the final push to the summit. The world opens up behind me.
There is a faint trail through the scree. My trekking poles earn their price.
The view to my right towards Argentine Pass and Square Top Mountain. Pikes Peak stands tall in the distance.
The summit of Greys Peak. I am alone. Torreys Peak rises to the north. There doesn't appear to be anyone on Torreys.
I look down into Stevens Gulch, the typical approach to Greys and Torreys. A hiker is a couple hundred feet below me, ascending Greys Peak from Stevens Gulch.
I turn and look down the Southwest Ridge. Ruby Gulch is on the left. I ascended the snow field just beyond the nearest prominent point on the ridge.
I sign the register. Mt. Evans and Mt. Bierstadt are in the distance.
Friendly Nick and his pooch join me on the summit. We chat for a while about our adventures, and then go our separate ways. It's around 3 PM when I start down into Ruby Gulch.
The hike down the peak is a controlled slide. I reach the Southwest Ridge and turn around to give thanks to Grays Peak.
I follow my tracks back to treeline. The sun dips below the horizon. It will be dark by the time I reach the Jeep.
Thanks for reading.