Two of my friends from work wanted to climb a fourteener. Since I work Mondays through Fridays (and a lot of weekends as well), we were constrained to Saturday or Sunday. I'm understandably averse to weekend fourteeners near Denver, so I suggested a route I've never tried before (Chihuahua Gulch). This was vetoed as being too long, so I suggested Horseshoe Basin as an alternative.
One catch - Torreys was a requirement in my mind; we missed it the last time I came up due to a late start, early thunderstorms, and a slower pace. Unfortunately, this required us to then re-summit Grays Peak a second time on the return to the trailhead (and don't think that I didn't hear about that plenty of times during the trip).
Here's what we did:
At 6:30 in the morning, we arrived and were the only car at the trailhead:
Thanks to copious amounts of coffee, spirits were still good on the way up (although my photography accuracy was still uneven at this early hour):
This is about where we went off track (see the map above) - the trail just disappears (or seemed to) and we ended up right up against Grays Lake. Solitude has its price, and that price was scrambling back to the waypoint line loading onto my GPS (thanks for whomever loaded that to the site!):
The south ridge then rose to meet our challenge - pretty steep for a hike:
Things smooth out on the final pitch to the summit of Grays (with a great view of Ruby Mountain and Cooper Mountain as our reward):
The summit of Grays! Amazingly, this was the first time we saw other humans on the trail.
Of course, there were now many people on the (now standard route) trail - the saddle to Torreys:
Ceremonial photo on the summit of Torreys:
And yes, we're now going up Grays once more (no one ever suggested that we were particularly bright):
Taking a break - one of my friends was starting to get nauseous - I snapped this great shot of Chihuahua Lake. Still very few clouds in the sky:
Knowing that it was all downhill from here, we took yet another summit photo on Grays:
For some reason, it was also steep on the way down the South Ridge:
The scramble across to Ruby and Cooper looks like a lot of fun from here (can anyone comment on the difficulty?)
We had trouble picking up the trail at this point in the journey even though we had a full panorama view of the valley. Maybe the trail just isn't very heavily used (and thank God for that!):
The Horseshoe Basin valley is gorgeous at this time of year:
Anyone know what particular mining sediment is in the creek?
We then say our last goodbyes to Grays Peak:
And get back to the gate:
For our last photo at the trailhead:
At two-thirty, the trailhead was full, but not bursting. I would definitely recommend this route (I'm largely writing this report up because there aren't too many on the site) - between the trailhead and Grays, we saw zero people (on the way up) and maybe five people (on the way down). The road to the trailhead is great for a dirt road, and I might even say that this route is an easier hike than the standard route.
The final elevation: 4167 feet of ascent:
My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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