| Grays, Torreys, and Billy Bob
Background story: Last summer, my Dad planned a family vacation that included hiking Belford, Oxford, Missouri, and Huron on the first day, and then Yale. We had a blast and definitely want to keep coming back for more of these 14ers!
I was in Denver for a friend's wedding on Friday, and I happened to have Saturday morning free. What better way to enjoy the day than climb a few more of these 14ers? It would be a bummer not having Dad as a climbing partner, but I couldn't turn down a chance for the high country. I started doing my homework, and picked Gray's and Torrey's due to their proximity to Denver and their crowds (normally I enjoy solitude while hiking, but I was doing these two solo, and thought this would be safest). Crowded is an understatement - I would definitely recommend these if you have to hike solo!
I got to the trailhead at 5:40am (after getting my little rental car all the way up that road - yikes!). The trail was in great shape, and I was able to move pretty quickly. I was feeling pretty good for my 4 hours of sleep and breakfast of clif bar and red bull. That lasted until the usual 13,000 ft "wall." I started to slow down a bit, and just didn't feel great. Luckily, it was right about then that I found my new climbing partner - Billy Bob.
I noticed a group of hikers in front of me had all stopped, cameras out. Billy Bob was just ambling down the trail. Then he headed my direction. He walked right up to me! I literally could have reached out and touched him! I froze, and didn't even move to take a pic at that point. He really had quite the set of horns, and I wasn't sure how he was going to use them! After about a minute of just staring at each other, Billy Bob hopped on the trail next to me, walked for a minute, and then layed down and watched all of the nutty people walking around his mountain.
After that little break, I was reinvigorated, and climbed quickly to the summit of Gray's (1 hr, 40 minutes to the summit). Although it's the tallest of the 14ers, it was actually quite accomodating . No false summit, no scrambling, just an awesome view awaiting you at the top. I stopped to chat a bit and write in the log book. Then it was off for the quick trip to Torrey's.
The saddle over to Torrey's is in great shape, and was quickly passable. It does get a bit steep though, which made it fun =) Once I summited Torrey's and realized that I would be able to catch my afternoon flight no problem, I decided to hang out and enjoy the view for awhile. It was absolutely gorgeous! It was really enjoyable to talk to other climbers, and hear everyone's stories. One of the guys on the summit has already done 50 of the 14ers, so he was able to point out many of the peaks on the horizon. I was really impressed by Chip, who lives at sea level, didn't start climbing until he was 50 yrs old, and has now summited fifteen 14ers. And there were guys from England and Holland at the summit. Certainly the most amazing encounter of the day was with the double-amputee who was using Gray's and Torrey's as a training climb for Kilimanjaro. There really are not words to describe that amount of strength, determination and perseverance. Wow.
So, after almost an hour of enjoying the summit, I started the descent. I could not believe how crowded the trail had become! Unbelievable! I ran almost the whole way down, and saw a few other trail runners out there. By then the sun had risen enough for me to appreciate all of the gorgeous wildflowers along the trail. It was beautiful!
I got back to the car without incident, and my last challenge was to get the little rental car back down that ridiculous road. There was a very helpful gentleman who followed me to make sure I could drive across the creek (felt like a river to me!) and get back down safely. If he happens to be reading this - thank you!
All in all, great trip! I just wish my Dad was there to enjoy it with me. Although he would have never been content with just two summits for the day... I'm sure he would have figured out how to fit in a few more! I was actually on my blackberry trying to figure out if I could fit Mt. Evans in before my flight =)
Looking forward to next summer and more 14ers!
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