Peak(s):  Torreys Peak  -  14,267 feet
Post Date:  06/20/2009
Modified:  06/21/2009
Date Climbed:   06/20/2009
Posted By:  Aubrey


 Kelso Ridge Quick-fix  

When you want to do a good, short climb with solid class 3 scrambling, Torreys Peak via Kelso Ridge is it.

Jen and I have climbed this route a few times before and it always satisfies. It doesn't take long, either, and it's relatively close to Denver, so it makes for the perfect "quick-fix."

We expected to encounter some snow on the route, so we brought our full winter regalia, including crampons and ice axes.

Right at the start of the 4x4 road we picked up a couple climbers hiking up the road. As soon as they mentioned 14ers.com, I knew they were good people.

The first half of the route on the ridge was completely dry, which made the scrambling solid and fun. Though I should mention, there were a few verglas-covered rocks to keep us on our toes.

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To keep things fresh, we decided to take things up a notch and climb some of the harder ways up, even though easier ones existed. Thus, for the most part, we stuck to the highest points on the ridge.

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Fog ebbed and flowed throughout the morning. The sky was mostly cloudy. Temperatures were cool or cold, but not bad. Wind fluctuated from nothing at all to 20-mph gusts.

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The scrambling was great, as expected.

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The first people we met on the ridge were actually coming back down. They said they encountered snow and turned around because they didn't have the proper snow gear. After they passed us, Jen and I were both impressed with their honesty and decision to turn back.

Soon thereafter we caught up with a couple climbers above us. Funny enough, one of them immediately recognized us from 14ers.com. It's always great to meet people from the site.

We continued up and met another climber who also turned back because of the snow. This made us wonder what we were about to encounter.

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High on the ridge, we came to a point of consternation. Dry rock cliffed out. A steep, snowy gully was on our right. An even steeper, spooky-looking snow slope was on our left. Ahead: slippery, class 4 rock.

At first glance, that spooky slope looked like the best route, which traversed around a rock tower. The snow was questionable, though, and it dropped steeply 30 feet and emptied over a cliff. Not cool. So we ended up down climbing and then taking the gully to our right.

The only tracks we saw were made by a mountain goat, but I don't trust those rock-casting bastards.

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The snow sucked for climbing. Even though some previous nights had lows below freezing, the snow was soft and rotten, and we sunk variably with each step.

We brought crampons but didn't find a need for them. I wouldn't have gone up without an ice axe, though.

Jen kicked in some great steps, and I'm sure they were helpful for others that followed us.

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We carefully chose our route up snow and rock and eventually came to the infamous knife edge. We found it easier to hop from dry rock to dry rock, rather than taking the variable snow.

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We went over the white rocks and continued up the snow slope to the summit. Right then the weather deteriorated. Temps dropped and a cloud enveloped us.

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As we descended to the saddle, we started to see other climbers on their way up.

Just up the low point from the saddle, on the Grays side, we found some old tracks to follow to cut back down to the main trail.

There was still quite a bit of snow up there, but aside from a few short sections, it wasn't very deep.

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As we descended, we crossed paths with and chatted with many people climbing up Grays. Quite a few skiers, too.

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Panorama of Torreys:

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We didn't keep close track of time, but I think we made the round trip in less than 5 hours.

Kelso Ridge's fun factor ranks high with me. If you're OK with class 3, I highly recommend this route. Though you may want to wait for that crappy snow to melt off first.

Parting shot of Dead Dog Couloir (taken right after we saw a climber top out):

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Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
 


  • Comments or Questions
emcee smith


Thanks for posting the turn around reinforcement
06/21/2009 11:53
You passed Andrew (Roo) and I just a bit short of where the snow proper began. We watched you guys as you started up the snow, and made our decision to turn around. From your pictures and note about the ice axe (we only had one between the two of us), it looks like we made the right decision to go back down. It was interesting enough for me to descend that route. We ended up continuing over to Kelso Mountain, so at least we stood on top of something.

Thanks for posting, and it was great meeting you and Jen.


Aubrey


emcee
06/21/2009 16:16
Hey, it was great meeting you guys on the mountain! The snow sections were very short, but if I didn‘t have an axe with me, I would‘ve turned around as well. Good decision, IMO. And, to be honest, the best parts of the climb are all on the ridge anyway ... must‘ve been interesting down climbing some of that stuff!


Matt LaCoco


Great report!
06/21/2009 18:22
Aubrey, this was just what I wanted to see this morning! I‘m heading for this ridge on Thursday, and you did a superb job capturing the conditions on the route from start to finish in your photos.

Did any of the snow warrant crampons? Forecast indicates that the snow will likely be quite soft by the time I get there on Thursday/Friday, but it looks like having them with me may be wise anyway.

Emcee, I‘m always impressed with those wise enough to turn around when they lack the proper equipment. Going DOWN on this ridge is plenty exciting, and an accomplishment in itself. I‘d be honored to climb with you any time!


Aubrey


Matt
06/21/2009 21:34
Thanks, glad it helped! I would bring crampons, just in case. For us, conditions didn‘t really warrant using them. Scuffing/kicking good steps was all that was really needed, but the snow could always change and become hard/icy, especially if the upper section (above the knife edge) sees any rain/melt-freeze cycles over the next few days. I imagine you‘ll encounter similar snow to what we did, but you never know.

When we were up there the upper layers of snow were porous, crusty and rotten and the lower layers were soft, loose and somewhat slick. I didn‘t trust the snow on the knife edge (especially the cornice climber‘s left, which had a small moat forming next to the rock slab) so we stuck to dry rock wherever possible. I also didn‘t want anything to slough off on the climbers in Dead Dog.

Have fun!


USAKeller


Nice job!
06/22/2009 17:26
I have yet to do Kelso Ridge!! Bill and I tried Emperor that day and turned back at 12,100‘due to no overnight freeze and soft snow. We saw lots of people head up that morning. We had the ATV! Great report, Aubrey.



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