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Grays/Torreys from Loveland Pass for newbies

FAQ and threads for those just starting to hike the Colorado 14ers.
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Grays/Torreys from Loveland Pass for newbies

Postby Txhiker42 » Wed Jun 26, 2013 11:48 am

Two friends and I are visiting Colorado in mid-September and are considering attempting Grays and Torreys via Loveland Pass. I did my first 14er (Quandary) and first 13er (South Arapaho) last summer with the hubby. It will be the first 14er attempt for my friends, but both are marathon runners and fit (yes, I know that running a marathon is vastly different than hiking a mountain but at least it shows they have endurance). One has done Wheeler Peak in NM before, and the other visits CO for her family's annual ski trip. We are going to do 2 days of lower elevation hikes prior to our 14er attempt. I'm not sure what we will do the first day, something around Estes Park or Fort Collins (I'm open to suggestions), but the second day I'm planning Twin Sisters, which I also did last year before Quandary.

I've read all the trip reports that I can find for Grays/Torreys from Loveland Pass and the route does indeed look challenging, which is what we are looking for (along with fantastic views). But, is it too much of a challenge for those of us just starting out? We will either be staying in Dillon or Idaho Springs the night before so that we can be hiking by 5:30 am. My biggest concerns are the lack of an appropriate bail out route in case of bad weather and all the ups and downs on the return. I figure that we can always make it to Torreys and see how the day is going before deciding to continue on to Grays.

It seems that the standard route from the Gray's trailhead would make the most sense for us, but we will be in a mid-size rental car and I am concerned about making it up Steven's Gulch road. I can't seem to find many pictures of this road. Is it very narrow with steep drop offs on the side? Is there room for 2 cars to pass each other without someone dangling off the edge? We will be hiking on a Monday in September-will there be a ton of cars up there? Although I assume that even if we had to walk the entire 3 miles each way from the winter trailhead that it might be less taxing than the extra miles we would be doing over 12,000 feet via Loveland Pass.

How does Steven's Gulch Rd. compare to the road to the Fourth of July trailhead? We drove that last year to South Arapaho, and my husband was not happy with me at all. Fortunately, last year we got a good rate on an SUV so clearance was not a problem then. Way too expensive this year to rent an SUV.

There's always Mt. Bierstadt, but we would really like to get two summits.

Any thoughts on our plans would be much appreciated. Thanks!

Re: Grays/Torreys from Loveland Pass for newbies

Postby metalmountain » Wed Jun 26, 2013 12:28 pm

The road up to Steven's Gulch isn't too bad, depending on the year. Sometimes its a bit rougher than others. But its not a scary road to drive at all, its just rough and a little steep in spots. To give you an idea of what can drive to the top, I saw a Honda Civic with one of those gigantour after market exhaust pipes driving through the parking lot a couple years ago. I would be careful with a rental car, but it could make it if you're careful. Just don't the the company where you are taking it! The other option is to park down low and and thumb a ride. I would put money that someone would pick you up before you got to the top.

The route from Loveland pass is somewhat long and you are correct that there wouldn't be many bail out options. And the ones that exist would turn your day into an epic pretty fast.You are up high for a long time, especially considering you start at the top of Loveland Pass I'm not sure you drop too far below 13,000 once you get to Grizzly. And then you have to go up and over everything again on the way back.

Plus, if you go the standard route you always have the option of heading up Kelso Ridge instead of the normal route up Gray's, which is a ton of fun. My vote would be for Steven's Gulch.

*Edit...In regards to the comparison. I think Steven's is a bit rougher than the 4th of July road. I got my Scion up 4th of July, but I wouldn't take it up Steven's.
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Re: Grays/Torreys from Loveland Pass for newbies

Postby Stephen Butler » Wed Jun 26, 2013 12:34 pm

I think metalmountain's description of the road is accurate. It is definitely not scary in terms of being on the edge of a cliff. I didn't feel comfortable taking my small car to the top but I did see a small passenger car up there. I went in mid-October of last year and hitched a ride after about a mile of hiking from the winter trailhead. If you have to start from the winter trailhead it is probably around 14 miles roundtrip to do Grays and Torreys.

If you are there on a weekend I imagine there will be plenty of cars heading up the road.

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Re: Grays/Torreys from Loveland Pass for newbies

Postby JeffR » Wed Jun 26, 2013 1:08 pm

Only you know how much challenge you all can handle, but just realize that >6000' of elevation gain (most of which is above 12.5K) is a huge amount of work for even fit people. And as was mentioned... even if you make the decision to turn back, there's no way around a bunch of gain on the return.

If you're still worried about the road, try the Horseshoe Basin approach. Better road (in an average year, don't know what it's like this year yet), much less crowded and less elevation gain.
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Re: Grays/Torreys from Loveland Pass for newbies

Postby Mike Cormier » Wed Jun 26, 2013 1:20 pm

I would agree with JeffR. I did this route a few weeks ago and I was out there from 7:30am to about 4pm. I enjoyed it, but I was also real glad to see my truck. I would suggest going along with the other options suggested in this thread. I definitely would not do this route if lightning was even a possibility - nowhere to go to without being a long way from your vehicle, plus having to think about it all day would subtract from the serenity.

Oh....and I did not continue to Grays. I turned around at the Torreys summit.

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Re: Grays/Torreys from Loveland Pass for newbies

Postby peter303 » Wed Jun 26, 2013 4:15 pm

Its straightforward and nothing technically difficult after the snow has melted.
It just kind of long has eight subpeaks (nine uphills) along the way. I kind of like to get all my uphill done in the beginning and just coast back, so was not enjoying the final few uphills.

Loveland Pass is not a route for newbies

Postby Urban Snowshoer » Wed Jun 26, 2013 5:01 pm

Txhiker42 wrote:Two friends and I are visiting Colorado in mid-September and are considering attempting Grays and Torreys via Loveland Pass. I did my first 14er (Quandary) and first 13er (South Arapaho) last summer with the hubby. It will be the first 14er attempt for my friends, but both are marathon runners and fit (yes, I know that running a marathon is vastly different than hiking a mountain but at least it shows they have endurance). One has done Wheeler Peak in NM before, and the other visits CO for her family's annual ski trip. We are going to do 2 days of lower elevation hikes prior to our 14er attempt. I'm not sure what we will do the first day, something around Estes Park or Fort Collins (I'm open to suggestions), but the second day I'm planning Twin Sisters, which I also did last year before Quandary.

I've read all the trip reports that I can find for Grays/Torreys from Loveland Pass and the route does indeed look challenging, which is what we are looking for (along with fantastic views). But, is it too much of a challenge for those of us just starting out? We will either be staying in Dillon or Idaho Springs the night before so that we can be hiking by 5:30 am. My biggest concerns are the lack of an appropriate bail out route in case of bad weather and all the ups and downs on the return. I figure that we can always make it to Torreys and see how the day is going before deciding to continue on to Grays.



Any thoughts on our plans would be much appreciated. Thanks!


I have done the Loveland Pass approach round-trip: i.e. starting from Loveland Pass, climbing Torrey's, and returning via the same route. The route is low on mileage; however, it is a lot harder of a climb that it may appear--it is probably the hardest "walk-up" route on Torrey's Peak. As a consequence, if you are just starting out, I would advise against this route, for a couple of reasons:

(1) Difficulty.

There is not much in the way of a trail on this route, though it is a fairly straightforward approach climbing from Loveland Pass to Grizzly Peak (a 13er); after Grizzly you have to descend close to 1,000 feet to a saddle, and once you've reached this saddle is basically a straight shot up Torrey's. Reversing your ascent route means descending all the way down to the saddle and ascending nearly 1,000 feet back up to Grizzly. Once you've returned to Grizzly Peak, it is mostly downhill back to Loveland Pass, though there are few uphills here and there.

Every climbing group is different in terms of pace but you're probably looking at 10 hours (easily) to do this route. Unless everyone in your group is in excellent physical shape (relative to 14er climbing) and is accustomed to long climbing days, avoid this route because you're likely to get yourself in trouble.


(2) Weather

Given the instability of summer weather patterns, this is probably not the best route.

Whereas many other routes start below treeline, climbing Torrey's from Loveland Pass means being above treeline for the entire route. If the weather socks in you are in serious trouble, as there is not necessarily an easy way to get down. At best you would find yourself a long ways from your car, at worst trapped on a high, exposed, ridge with no way easy way to descend.

Which scenario would depend on where you were on the route. If the weather socked in while you were between Torrey's and the saddle, you could conceivably descend into Grizzly Gulch or Horseshoe Basin/Chihuahua Gulch, though bear in mind both are a ways from Loveland Pass.

If you were caught between the upper flanks (or summit) of Grizzly and Loveland Pass, there is not a easy (or good) bail out route--trying to descend into Grizzly Gulch from the Peak or the connecting ridge is dicey proposition--it's steep and there are a lot of cliff bands.

.

That's my two cents.
Last edited by Urban Snowshoer on Fri Jun 28, 2013 8:31 am, edited 10 times in total.

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Re: Grays/Torreys from Loveland Pass for newbies

Postby Mark A Steiner » Wed Jun 26, 2013 5:16 pm

I went only as far as Grizzly from the Pass when I was 21 years younger and it was quite a round-trip piece of work even then.

Also, your vehicle must be off Loveland Pass by sundown. No overnight parking anymore - last I heard.
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Re: Grays/Torreys from Loveland Pass for newbies

Postby limbirds » Wed Jun 26, 2013 7:36 pm

I did it a couple of years ago. On the return at about noon, as I summited Grizzley, a big storm rolled in. Didn't want to be on the ridge for another hour, so I descended the gulley at the first saddle below Griz. That was fine, it took me to the transportation center, just above Arapahoe Basin. No problem right, just hitchhike. That works in winter, lots of cars returning to Denver from skiing. But in summer, on a weekday, not so good. I sat there for an hour trying to hitch a ride and in that time about 5 cars went by. Finally I started to walk. Just after the second switchback, a nice woman gave me a ride. Man was I relieved. It's kind of a tough grind, especially if you want to add the short traverse over to Grays and back. To increase your chances of success, I recommend taking Stevens Gulch. Shouldn't be too terribly crowded on a Monday. Cheers!
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Re: Grays/Torreys from Loveland Pass for newbies

Postby Jim Davies » Wed Jun 26, 2013 8:29 pm

You can usually get to the Grizzly Gulch fork on the Stevens Gulch road before the really bad parts begin. This cuts a mile each way off the hike, and hiking up the road is pretty easy. There's a steep section past Grizzly Gulch that gets "mogulled" from spinning tires; it's almost inevitable given the heavy traffic up there these days. There was an eroded gully in the road for a couple of years just up from I-70, but that was graded a few years ago and hasn't come back yet.
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Re: Grays/Torreys from Loveland Pass for newbies

Postby Txhiker42 » Fri Jun 28, 2013 7:14 am

Thanks for all the advice and information. Looks like we will go the standard route and take our chances with the road to Gray's trailhead.

Any suggestions for a short, scenic warm up hike for the first day we are in town? We are staying in Fort Collins that particular evening, so anything between the airport and there would work.

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