| Early morning on Grays and Torreys
I've been living here in CO for a bit over two months now, working at a local outdoor education center. I moved here from Maine because I was bored with what the northeast had to offer. Colorado certainly has been keeping my full interest thus far. Sadly, I only have a week left here, then I'm driving back to Maine to work a summer job with Outward Bound. So, naturally, I wanted to do something big.
My original plan was to hike Grays and Torreys and then drive over and do Quandary. To that effect, I woke up at 1:30 Saturday morning. After going to bed at 11. I got driving at 2:20, got on I70 in the wrong direction, had to drive through the tunnel into Dillon, turned around, and finally made it to the trailhead around 330 or so. I had also originally planned to do some skiing today (I just started backcountry, with no previous alpine experience) so I strapped my skis on my pack and threw my boots in. There were two skiers (and a dog) at the pull off (I stopped at the one on the right just after the fork in the road) and they drove their 4 Runner up just before I started walking, at 3:54. The road from here to the main trailhead is definitely passable with 4wd, and with creative driving and good winter tires a 2wd could do it. I saw a Taurus further up the road on my way back. I have a Jetta wagon (TDI!) and summer tires, so I had to walk the rest of the way to the TH (2 miles? There was a sign that said private rd. next 1.4 miles, and there's some wiggle room on both ends, so ... sure.).
I met back up with the skiers at the TH and started my way up Stevens Gulch. With my lack of sleep I wasn't quite feeling as good as I'd hoped. I was also really frustrated at myself for messing up getting here, and had "They paved paradise and put up a parking lot" stuck in my head. A little after five I decided that skiing would probably be a bad idea (I was also planning on it being a bit warmer, and was thinking I'd just ski Quandary instead) and so I stashed my skis at a rock pile just before starting the main ascent. It was also very windy at this point and I was being blown around because of my skis. If it was this windy down here, it would certainly be windier on top.
I took a short break when I stashed my skis and started walking again at 5:20. The alpineglow was beautiful. I don't really like waking up early, but it's totally worth it.
Living in Maine I haven't seen too many avalanches, and so hiking along Torreys was an experience for me. It was cool to see all the slide debris, and again gave me respect for the hills. It certainly looks like a real mountain...
A bit more walking and the sunrise happened (as it always has).
Just before I got onto Grays I took a shot of the skiers who were behind me.
I was really feeling it and so once I got onto Grays I took a break and had a clif bar. I thought I was going really slowly and checked my watch. It had only been 45 minutes since I stashed my stuff, and I felt I had covered a pretty good distance for that time, so it lifted my spirits a bit. Our staff party had been the night before, and so I had consumed some adult beverages and while I was hiking I kept wondering why I'd had so many. Needless to say, I didn't feel as well as I had when I'd done some other hiking previously. I also didn't sleep well the night before because I was too excited for the climbing, so... all told I wasn't feeling my best.
I did, however, find the tranquility of walking very peaceful. Once I got going again I started to count my steps and focus on why I was out here. I decided there are few things more relaxing than the relentless plod of boots on snow. As I climbed I measured my progress against Torreys and it gave me something to focus on other than how poorly I felt. As I progressed it got windier and windier, and I had to stop and brace myself with my poles a couple of times. This certainly was the windiest conditions I'd ever hiked in. Thankfully the skies were clear and so I kept going. Soon enough, I was at the summit.
It doesn't look windy at all, but it was. I kept my poles' straps around my wrists so they wouldn't get blown away.
Looking west, I fell in love with the view, and decided, again, that I need to find a job out here again so I can come back.
Does anyone want to hire an outdoor educator/trip leader for the fall/winter/spring? Please?!?!
Looking back at Stevens Gulch I could almost see the glacier.
I then focused on my next immediate goal, Torreys, and observed its corniced ridge.
Looking over at Quandary, Lincoln, and Democrat.
After snapping a few more pictures, I walked off the summit at 7:20. The saddle was ridiculously windy. I thought about turning around a couple of times, but once the major gusts died down it was manageable. I was definitely angling myself into the wind, though, and made sure to step on snowy sections and not the icy skin tracks.
Again I measured my elevation based on Grays, and was pleasantly surprised when I passed the cairn with the summit log. I crossed the saddle in 50 mins. If you look closely, you can see bits of snow and ice flying past my face. The wind was mostly at my back on the way up, but for the way down I put my balaclava and ski goggles on.
The wind on the north side of the summit wasn't too bad, so I stayed there and got layered up. I took a quick shot looking back at Grays and then headed back down to the saddle.
Due to the wind, I didn't sign the log. When I got to the saddle I crossed paths with a skier and saw many more people coming up Grays. I crossed the big snowfield as quickly as I could (it was pretty shallow and still fairly supportive, though I was still a bit nervous). Since I was now out of the wind and facing the sun, I was very warm. I waited until I was back on the trail to take off my goggles and balaclava and put on sunscreen. On my way down I must have passed eighteen people, all of whom had a wide range of preparedness, from sneakers and cotton hoodies to being full on prepared (which isn't a bad thing!). Many had skis or boards. All were nice. I am looking forward to the day when I can ski down stuff like this. Here's a look back at the trail.
The walk out (after picking up my skis) was uneventful and boring. I was happy to have bagged my sixth and seventh 14er, though I was thinking Quandary would have to wait fo another day. I did decide that this would be a cool place to live.
I got back to the car at 10:13, making my round trip time six hours and twenty minutes. For the extra distance and elevation I had to hike because of the road, I think that's a pretty good time. I estimated my distance to be around eleven miles and elevation around 4k. I decided it was too late to do Quandary (and I want to save it for my last weekend here, perhaps a night hike on Friday?) and so I drove out listening to Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds. What a perfect day.
For more pics, head on over to here.