When I first climbed Grays and Torreys, I remember seeing some people on Kelso Ridge and thinking they were out of their minds! Now I realize they had it right all along. This ridge is totally fun, not crowded, not too long and it gives you just the right amount of a thrill factor. I posted for a climbing partner for this one and Sam aka Geno71 expressed interest. We agreed to meet at the Grays Peak TH at 6am and I was stoked!
Even after hiking this mountain three times, I still am surprised at how many people hike here, and how full the very large parking lot gets! I recommend arriving early if you want a decent spot. Shortly after Sam pulled up into the lot we hit the trail, around 615pm.
First light on Grays
According to Sam's GPS roughly 1.8 miles in give or take a few we arrived at the Kelso ridge junction. There is a cairn that marks the entrance. Once you start towards the ridge you are immediately taken away from the crowds.
Kelso Ridge Mine Shack
Looking towards the main trail from Kelso ridge trail
Once you pass the mine shack you are presented with a view of your incredible challenge!
Most of the ridge can be seen from here
There is a good trail up the ridge for a majority of the time, and when there was no trail present, it wasn't too difficult to stay en route. The next picture shows a look back on the first little section.
We mostly stayed on the ridge for the first few hundred yards
Shortly after the last section in the above picture we encountered our first actual climbing wall.
The dirt trail leads you right up the middle
After we climbed up the first of our many encumbrances, we hit a nice little scree slope. Once the scree slope was surmounted we confronted our first piece of snow.
Scree slope above Sam's left shoulder
The first snowfield, as you can see the trail skirts around
We were starting to gain elevation!
We stuck to the scree right below the solid rock rib, then ascended the wider scree slope towards the middle right side of the picture
Looking at the west side of Kelso Mountain
Once we climbed our way out of the wider scree slope (which can be seen in photo 10), the trail led us around to the right side of the rock ribs. We opted not to stick to the actual ridge at this point because there was a faint hikers trail that could be followed.
Looking back at the snow field that was seen a few pics back
At his point we were about halfway up and we were both feeling good! We just wanted to sit back relax and enjoy the scenery. I was totally surprised at how fun this ridge is!
Sam checking out our next moves
Checking out our possible glissade path on Grays. There looks to be three fingers of snow, we went down the middle finger(Dotted with rocks)
Right after this little bit of snow the trail flattens out for a few hundred yards or so.
Another little patch of snow
The remaining route as seen from above the last snowfield. Climbers can be seen near the edge of the ridge in the photo below.
I welcome this brief respite, but I know we still have a bit of climbing to go!
The remaining route
Looking back on Kelso Mountain
Photo where the climbers were seen
The trail was starting to get rocky again, and I knew the fun would be amped up! We caught up to the climbers in a rather steep gulley below the white rock outcropping and knife edge. There was ice and snow in the gulley and this gave me a bit of trouble. I wasn't wearing the best shoes because my "new" boots had killed my ankles last week. My shoes were very slick when wet so Sam and I had climbed a little higher to the left of the gulley to avoid the snow and ice.
While contemplating this move in the gulley, we met the two climbers, Brian and Connie. It turns out I had run into them on Shavano last year. They were a very nice couple, and we kind of ended up hiking with them the rest of the way.
Starting to get rocky again!
Immediately following the summit of the last gulley the white rock outcropping come into view
Sam on the knife edge, Brian and Connie await their turn
Once we seized the crux it was a quick little jaunt to the summit! This was the only point on the ridge where snow couldn't be avoided, it was about a 10-20ft section.
Climbers seen in Dead Dog
Brian and Connie conquer the "knife edge"
After hitting the summit, we were greeted by the crowds, it was the same feeling I had when I summited Mt. Evans! But on our way down, Sam and I decided we would give the glissade a go. We weren't sure if the snow would be too soft or not but we decided to try at any rate. This would help us avoid the crowds even while we were descending!
It turned out to be a blast! I think it was the longest continued glissade I have ever done!
Connie busting out a long, fast glissade!
This climb was a very nice change for Torreys! I had a blast on this ridge, and I too enjoyed climbing with you Sam, pm me for future hikes! Brian and Connie, I'm sure I'll see you again! If I don't then get registered here and PM me and we'll all go again sometime!
The people that hike this trail amaze me, they run the gamut from totally prepared, to not. As we were coming down we heard a few rumbles of thunder and people were still going up!
Anyhow, I hope you've enjoyed this report and I hope it helps someone out there!