Peak(s):  Torreys Peak  -  14,267 feet
Grays Peak  -  14,270 feet
Date Posted:  08/21/2011
Date Climbed:   08/20/2011
Author:  talusman
 Climbing Progression on Kelso Ridge  

Let me start out by saying I would like to summit all of Colorado's fourteen thousand foot peaks. With that having been said, I feel like there are about 10-15 peaks that are probably outside of my skill-level. I am good shape. I mountain bike, run, hike and exercise regularly. But, I don't have any climbing experience. When I originally started hiking fourteeners, I did not have a grasp for what it would take to summit all these peaks. I got my first taste a few years back on Mt. Lindsey. To make a long story short, me and my hiking partner (in this case climbing partner) took the standard route up the Class 2+ gully. We got frustrated quickly and saw climbers on the NW ridge. We decided to exit the gully and climb to the ridge. We quickly got into some class 3 terrain with loose rock and no helmets. At one point, I dislodged a fist-sized rock and screamed rock. I looked back and couldn't see my partner. Everything turned out fine, but it impressed upon me the seriousness of mountain climbing. Since Lindsey, I have wanted to venture out on Class 3 terrain again.

Kelso Ridge has been in my mind for a while. It seemed like an ideal loop that summits both Torrey's and Gray's with a bit of climbing instead of hiking. I've been studying the route description and the picture for weeks now. (Speaking of, thank you Bill for this wonderful site. You're route description was spot on.) I felt like I was prepared and even had a helmet this time . So, we headed out Saturday morning to give it a go. We hit the trail at 6:50 AM.

Early on, we noticed these guys on the trail carrying an ironing board. I talked to them a bit and they were doing some "extreme ironing" on the summit. Their rationale was that you were all dirty when you get to the summit with these grand views and ironing their clothes would help "dress them for the occasion". They had an iron and blowtorch to heat the iron. I wonder if there is a new fad here. Note the guy with the pink backpack. Nice...

Extreme Ironing

Gray's and Torrey's about a mile in

Torrey's and Kelso Ridge

The Saddle Between Torrey's and Kelso Mountain

Parnassus and Bard Just a Little Up the Ridge

Kelso Ridge Ahead

Karren Crossing the Initial Rock Outcroppings

I had done 12 fourteeners to this point and on every hike, my wife, Karren, was my partner. The only exception is Mt. Lindsey. She had done the bouldering on Yale. She had experienced the exposure (as minor as it was) on Missouri Mountain. But she had even less climbing experience than me. I wasn't inclined to take her on Kelso Ridge. We talked about it this week and she wanted to try it. We looked at photos of the class 3 sections, we looked at videos of the knife-edge, we reviewed trip reports and she thought she would be okay with it. We got her a helmet and I tried to impress upon her that if at any point she felt uncomfortable that we should turn around. We skirted the initial rock outcroppings without a problem and climbed into the notch to hit our first class 3 climb. I was steeper than we both expected, but it looked very doable. I let Karren go first. She climbed up a few feet and decided that she wasn't ready for this. So, we turned around and headed down the ridge.

The First Class 3 Section

Looking Down the Notch from the First Class 3

We had discussed this scenario and had decided that we would split up and she would do the standard route to the saddle of Gray's over to Torrey's. We would meet up on the summit of Torrey's and descend Torrey's and summit Gray's together. Of course, this meant me climbing Kelso Ridge solo. I've done plenty of hiking, mountain biking, and running alone. But, I've never summited a peak alone. On most standard class I/II trails, I wouldn't have a problem with a solo summit. But, in this case, it would be nice to have someone else to confirm route decisions or help pick lines when climbing. Furthermore, my wife wasn't extremely keen on the solo concept. I hiked back to the saddle between Kelso and Torrey's with Karren with the intention of soloing Torrey's via Kelso Ridge. As we approached the saddle, we met another solo climber who was headed up. I took my opportunity and asked if I could join. He said I was welcome, but he travelled fast. Luckily, I'm in good shape . At this point, Karren and I headed different directions.

My new climbing partner, Mark, was a student at Colorado School of Mines and 14 years younger than me at 23 years old. He had done the Sawtooth and Longs Peak (in under 8 hours round trip) and, like me, had little climbing experience. Mark kept a fast pace, but I was able to keep up. Fortunately, during the class 3 sections, we both slowed down enough to get up safely. We made it to Torrey's summit at 10:23 AM, giving us a climbing time from the Torrey's-Kelso saddle of under 2 hours. Just prior to the knife-edge, we met up with a guy (I mean bloke) from England, Mike, who had been in Colorado the past few weeks climbing peaks. His resume included Bierstadt and Evans via Sawtooth, Wetterhorn, Uncompahgre and some other peaks I don't recall at the time. Mike finished the climb with us and it was great to have the company. It was great meeting you Mark and Mike. I enjoyed the company.

Now for the climb itself. Well, in a nutshell, it was a lot of fun. I was concerned about the various obstacles on this route. However, I didn't have any problems with them. The first class 3 climb was steeper than I expected, but there were plenty of hand-holds and foot-holds. The climb up the white wall to the white point was not hard, but gave me a little trouble. My hiking sticks (now in my pack) got caught on a rock. I had to roll to the side a bit to get past that rock. I took the easier line to the left and Mark took the more difficult line up the center. It didn't look too bad either, but it required a little maneuvering also to get past some rock. The knife-edge was easy. I was surprised to find myself walking the first small bit of it where the rock had good footing. However, after that first bit we all straddled it and leap-frogged it to the top. There were some small cracks you could get footing on to help propel yourself forward. Getting off the knife-edge onto the white rock was also easy, however, once skirting the white rock was the only time I really noticed the exposure. That brings us to exposure. It's definitely there. I guess I don't really have a problem with it though, since I didn't notice it much. I can't even say I really noticed the exposure on the knife-edge. It probably helped that I was focused on the task at hand the entire time.

Climbers on White Point

Looking Down the White Wall

Many Points on Kelso Ridge

Dead Dog

Mike Climbing Above Dead Dog

The White Rock and Final Pitch

Mark Climbing onto the Knife Edge

The White Rock

Mike Exiting the White Rock

The Final Pitch

Me on the Summit

Mark and I on the Summit

We rested on Torrey's for a bit and then Mark headed over to Gray's. Mark was planning to come down via Kelso ridge and that wasn't on my agenda, but I wanted to catch up with Karren so I headed down the standard Torrey's route with him. I met Karren at the saddle between Gray's and Torrey's and Mark and I headed separate ways. I was going to summit Torrey's again. This time on the standard route with Karren. Come to find out, Karren had summited Gray's instead of crossing the saddle to Torrey's. She had missed the trail split. The sign was confusing since it said Stay on the Trail and pointed to the left (toward Gray's). She did not want to climb up Gray's with me. Being the good husband I am, I climbed Torrey's with her anyways so we could eat lunch together on top and get a picture together. We did that and then I climbed Gray's from the saddle (solo this time). We met back up at the trail split and headed to the car together just as weather was rolling in. We got a little snow, sleet, and rain on the way back, but nothing that even required a rain shell.

The view of the Gore Range from Torreys was Nice

Karren and I on Torrey's Peak

The Holy Cross from Gray's Peak

And here's a picture of me on the summit of Gray's with Torrey's and Kelso Ridge in the background to sum up a great day on Torrey's and Gray's peaks.
Me on Gray's Peak with Torrey's and Kelso Ridge in the Back

Oh, and the "extreme ironing" guys made it to the summit of Torrey's and went into action.
Extreme Ironing In Action

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

08/22/2011 06:06
It never ceases to amaze me what folks will do on top of a mountain. I think I need to get into this extreme ironing business. I wonder what they charge for each piece of clothing.. Gotta be a good mark up..

Brian C

Nothing gets those wrinkles out...
08/22/2011 12:11 ironing at 14,000 feet I guess! Wow.


08/22/2011 13:26
My group did Kelso the same day. I think you snapped a pic of a few of us in pic #15. I'm not sure on timing though. Congrats!


extreme ironing
08/22/2011 14:05
i've been a fan of extreme ironing for some time, it's cool shit

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