| Gray's Peak - Alpine Serenity
So Gray’s and Torrey’s have been on my list for a while. The only thing I really don’t like about winter climbs is the loooong slog to the alpine. We’re blessed to live so close to peaks such as Grizzly, Sniktau, Parnassus, ETC – where you can jump into the world of alpine immediately!
Truth be told, there’s still a special place in my heart for the “long slog”. However, I decided to cut it short this time with a nice little camping trip at the summer trailhead.
Come to think of it, this is actually my first “winter” 14er. I’ve got a good amount of winter climbing experience, but I just realized – It’s all been accomplished on 13ers! From the Indian Peaks to the James Peak Wilderness, this is where I’ve come to know and love the alpine. How awesome it is to live within eye’s view of such wonderful back country terrain. I guess I’m not the “peak bagging” type, although I’m sure there will be a second, then a third, then a fourth…. Then maybe 54? We’ll see. Two or three a year perhaps. I’m just blessed to be able to climb anything.
I’ll try to write this report with any questions in mind which may come up, but I doubt a peak such as Gray’s will warrant any – especially with the standard route.
I left the trailhead at about 1700 on the 14th. This is the Bakerville trailhead just off of exit 221, I-70. As you can see, my windows are a bit dirty.
The plan was to make my way to the summer trailhead in a couple of hours, which I had no problem with. The road was snow packed (snow machines and the likes) and snowshoes are not required for this section.
As you can see, there’s some beautiful scenery, even on the way to the alpine. Early view of Torreys, before dusk.
There’s something special about a solo climb. Pondering an awe inspiring creation, being able to think clearly, breath deeply and sigh loudly. All without a second glance. Below the connecting ridge which envelopes the entire route up to Gray’s.
Starting to get a bit dark just after I set up camp. I found a perfect spot nestled in the tree line. It had my name on it – I quickly packed down the snow with my snowshoes and setup the hooch. It was very calm - I was protected from any forecasted winds which may arrive later. I opted to leave the storm shell off.
I’ve got to say – I’m pretty impressed with the MSR Pocket Rocket. It’s a simple design and works flawlessly. I left it out over night – It fired up right away (unlike my previous Jet-Crap) in the morning, boiling water in no time short for my Mountain House scrabble.
Things couldn’t be going better up until this point. The wind was calm, the temperature was mild and I was enjoying my time alone in the alpine – And they stayed this way for the most part.
I set my wrist watch for 4am. I’m an early riser and like the idea of getting of the mountain before noon. It just “suits” my temperament and gives me a sense of calm. I cooked up some Lasagna and downed a liter of water. At 2000, my head hit the 650 fill down parka and I was out like an inmate on death row awaiting execution early the next morning – Sorry, I don’t know what else to compare it to. Everything kept me awake. Every gust of wind, every falling pine needle hitting the tent, the ambient light of the moon through the roof vent in the tent… I know bears are sleeping right now, but I yelled “GO AWAY BEAR” at least three times. After that I read some psalms out of my bible which helped to quiet my spirit a bit. I’m bringing my Walther PPS .40 next time.
So five hours pass by (Why did I forget my AMBIEN??) and I drift off into a “semiconscious” sleep for an hour or so. At least I was warm all night, I boiled a liter of water which I conveniently kept down by my feet for the reminder of the sleepless night.
Awoken by the faint beep of my wrist watch, It’s 0400, ready to rock and roll. After some re-hydrated scrambled eggs and melting some more snow, I finally hit the trail at about 0600.
The morning started out great with minimal wind, however, that soon changed. I knew the winds were forecasted but I also knew it would be relatively warm.
Making my way up to the base of the alpine route, I was blessed with a beautiful view of Torrey’s in all her glory. Of course no picture can do her justice. Here’s a feeble attempt at a photo of some alpen glow..
I decided to go ahead and stash my snowshoes, trading them out for micro spikes which were just perfect for a standard route ascent. The going was good and I was making great progress. After changing my layers around a bit, I finally settled on a soft shell and some wind protection around my face, via a polyester buff. Believe it or not, the wind was so warm I didn’t even have to don my ski goggles. I was able to wear sunglasses the entire day.
Here’s a view looking back down the valley from whence I came, the standard route visible on the lower left of the ridge. Kelso Mountain is left center. The trees on the right are within a few hundred meters of my camp site.
Here’s another view of Torrey’s from the route on Gray’s. Everything looks primed and ready to slide. There was zero run-out at the bottom of the Coloir.
After a few more switchbacks and what seemed like an eternity, I topped out on my first winter 14er. I was the only one all day. Unless there was a summiteer from another route.
Looking back over at Torrey’s, I knew I didn’t have the energy today. After my solid hour of sleep the night before and some nausea and a headache coming on, I decided it would be a wise choice to leave Torrey’s for another day. Maybe Kelso ridge or Dead Dog Coloir. Those look fun.
Unless the Lord hasten his coming, see you next time Torreys..
And begins the long slog to the car. Fortunately I broke down camp before I started my morning ascent. All I really had to do was re-pack my rucksack and I was hoofing it back to I-70.
A really neat cabin on the way back to the car..
What a wonderful Alpine experience.
Oh, and here's a link to a video I shot from the summit.