I had been homeless since moving out of my winter room in Breck on May 1st. Most of May was spent skiing A-Basin, partying in Boulder, and dirt biking in Denver. With a week to kill before moving into my place in Denver on June 1st I decided to get off friends' couches and camp/hike/ski around the Front Range and the Mosquito Range. I hit Gray's, Torrey's, Lincoln, Evan's, and Democrat. The intent on these trips was to recon routes that I would eventually ski with my friend Nick. Since I was solo and it's my first year doing back country I kept it very mild and didn't do any summits (except driving up Evans after I climbed/skied a line above Summit Lake). However, on this day I felt confident and decided to do a steep climb, summit, and then descend an easy slope. Add in the relative safety of 30-40 people in the Gray's Torrey's vicinity on a warm, clear Sunday in late May and I felt fine with the plan.
On Saturday I was able to drive up to the summer trailhead in Steven's Gulch and make camp above another group just outside the crowded parking lot. After wake-up and chow I set out, around 6:15am.
Starting out from camp at the summer trailhead
After doing a recon of the route to the base of Dead Dog Couloir two weeks earlier I set out with my skis over my shoulder, thinking there would be enough snow to skin to the base of the steeps. This, however, proved impossible due to snow melt. Not wanting to abandon my plan, I ended up having to take the skis off 5-6 times to cross sections of rock/dirt. This added time to the approach.
Seeing Gray's and Torrey's from the approach
I went past the trail sign up in the gulch and missed the road that brings you to the Lost Rat Couloir mentioned in the Online Guidebook. Instead I cut under the small ridge at the end of Steven's Gulch, which the main trail gains as it climbs towards Gray's. Skinning under this ridge leads you right to the base of Lost Rat and when I got there two climbers were already on their way up. It took me ~2:00 to get here.
Gray's and the Lost Rat Couloir
Looking up the Lost Rat Couloir from it's base. See two climbers in the middle of the apron.
I was having a ball climbing my steepest pitch ever with my newly purchased axe and crampons and taking in the gorgeous views back down Steven's Gulch. Though they were probably not required this day it felt very safe to be using the climbing equipment. The snow was firm under the surface for most of the climb, but the the surface was getting soft. Most of the Lost Rat was filled with chunky slide debris and the few thoughts I had to descend this route quickly exited my head as I climbed. Wind was not a factor in the confines of the Couloir. It took me another ~2:00 to get up the Couloir. Photos from the climb.
Climbing the Couloir
Image #11 (not yet uploaded)
Top of the climb
A look back down the Lost Rat
The Lost Rat pops out above the Edwards-Gray's saddle on Gray's East Ridge. The climbers above me had left their skis/board and packs at the top of the Couloir as they then went on to the summit. When we passed they said they were going to ski back down the Couloir. I wished them a good descent and headed up the East Ridge to the summit under a 20-25 mph crosswind.
The East Ridge
On the summit I met a few skiers and a hiker. We talked for 10 minutes about routes and nearby peaks, pointing out to each other what we could see on a great clear day. It was everyone's first time on the summit and none of us could find the summit marker. I saw the registry capsule, but didn't sign it. I made it from the top of the Couloir to the summit in ~1:15.
Me on the summit
Mt. Kelso and Steven's Gulch
Mt. Evans and Mt. Bierstadt
Mt. Lincoln, Mt. Democrat, and Quandary Peak
The skiers had come up the main trail and advised me to down climb rather than ski off the summit, so I did. 100' below the summit I clicked in on a field of snow that ran continuously to the bottom. The snow on the descent down the North East Slopes was surprisingly hard as I headed towards the Gray's-Torrey's saddle, but the slope was very mild. After dropping off a small cornice on the saddle into some steeper terrain I hit a great section of creamy spring snow. These were some fun turns and the snow held pretty well at 11:30am. I had set off a small wet slide on a similar, but steeper, aspect of Evans a few days earlier around 2:30pm.
Looking back up my descent of the NE slopes
Dropping in from the Gray's-Torrey's saddle
As the slope leveled out towards to bottom I headed for the low ridge I had cut under to get to the Lost Rat on the approach. A short climb to the top of the ridge gave me access to a few hundred more feet of turns down the other side of the ridge. Then it was a fun out-run along the creek in Steven's Gulch back to the car. I had to gap jump the creek a few times to keep the skis on. It took me ~1:00 to get from the summit to the truck.
Hot dogs and cold beer back at the truck
The trip was rewarding, fun, and safe. The new gear proved worth the cost. Can't wait to get back and ski the Lost Rat and other couloirs on Gray's and Torrey's.