Peak(s):  Grays Peak  -  14,270 feet
Date Posted:  09/25/2011
Date Climbed:   09/22/2011
Author:  Craig Cook
 All white on Grays  

My wife Kellie and had the opportunity to take a quick little “weekend getaway” this past week, and Colorado was the obvious choice for a destination. In our past three trips, we’ve always stayed in Colorado Springs, only venturing out to Denver and the Royal Gorge region. This time we wanted to do something different, and after getting suggestions here in the forum, we decided to stay in Georgetown, and the plan was to hike Grays and Torreys.

We left Kansas City early Wednesday morning, and the original plan was to have dinner at the Old Spaghetti Factory in Denver. However, since we got to Denver at 2:30 p.m. we passed on that option and instead went on to check in to our hotel in Georgetown. After going down to the lake in town and wandering through the old downtown area, we took off to drive a little ways into Guanella Pass. I really wanted to see the Sawtooth in person, so we drove far enough to get a good view of Bierstadt and Evans. Hopefully I can tackle those on our next trip.

Bierstadt and Evans with a bit of snow

Leaving Guanella Pass, we drove to Idaho Springs in search of Beau Jo’s Pizza, which was recommended to me by many members here – and it did not disappoint. Thanks to all who suggested it!

Beau Jo’s!

Okay, on to Thursday morning, and our actual hike out to Grays and Torreys. Driving a 2005 Cavalier with ground effects, we decided the wisest course of action would be to simply park at the 2WD trailhead and hope to hitch a ride up the road. I think only 4-5 cars passed us on the way up, and only one was a truck. Needless to say, we didn’t end up getting a ride. That was okay, as it was a beautiful morning with the trees changing color as fall moves in.

The leaves are changing

A beautiful morning

Getting a glimpse of some snow

We took a short break at the 4WD trailhead to use the restroom and take some pictures. Then we were off, finally on an actual trail. It was pretty straightforward for a while, and the sun finally showed its face over the ridge to our left, basking us in its warmth. We met a couple gentlemen who were hiking partners (they told us their names, but I can’t for the life of me remember!) who were nice enough to take our picture. One of them does a lot of endurance races, and he shot off up the trail – we never saw him again until getting back to the TH. The other guy stayed fairly close to us during the remainder of the trip, which worked out well for us later.

Grays and Torreys, with Grays full of snow

A beautiful mountain beneath a beautiful sky

We were all smiles at this point!

The snow doesn’t look bad from here

Upon reaching the switchbacks that go up the face of Grays, we started encountering some very slick snow. It wasn’t warm enough to start melting yet, and had been packed down to almost ice-like status in areas from people heading up ahead of us. It was slow going for us – we had trekking poles (thank goodness!), but no microspikes, which would have been nice. I’m pretty sure neither of us could have continued without the poles, though.

Further up, the snow began softening up, and we were able to follow the footsteps from those who had postholed before us. It was usually anywhere from 6” to a foot deep going through the switchbacks. I knew the snow might slow us down, but I didn’t realize just how much of a pain it is to trudge through it! It was exhausting work.

Near the end of the long switchback the cuts all the way across the mountain, Kellie began to not feel well. After taking a couple breaks and then fighting a little farther up, she finally decided not to push it any further. We stopped for maybe 15 minutes, allowing her to eat and drink a little, and change into a fresh, warm pair of wool socks.

Following in others’ footsteps

Looking longingly over at Torreys

Kellie making her way up through the snow

Contemplating what to do next, she told me to go and summit Grays, as we were so close. Torreys would simply have to be skipped this time, which was fine – it’s not going anywhere. After making sure she would be okay, we sat her water-proof jacket in the snow for her to sit on, and I unloaded my backpack and took a few gulps of water. Armed with just a mini-Snickers bar in one pocket and my phone in the other, I took off as fast as I could punch through the snow and made my up to the summit, catching up with the man who had been hiking with us right before the summit. He told me that he and his friend would give us a ride down the 4WD road back to our car, which was music to my ears, especially with Kellie not feeling well.

Finally atop the summit!

I wouldn’t be passing over to Torreys this day

Obligatory summit photo

He was contemplating going on across to Torreys, while I stopped long enough at the top to take a few pictures and eat my Snickers, then hightailed it back to Kellie. I think I made it up and back to her in about 30 minutes, and she was feeling quite a bit better and was ready for the trek back down. The wind was howling up near the summit, making the otherwise beautiful day pretty darn cold.

The hike down was pretty slick, as the snow was starting to melt and super soft, sliding out from under us multiple times. We slowly made our way down and soaked in the glory that was the rocky trail below the snow. At this point the gentleman hiking with us earlier caught back up, after deciding it was too late to bag Torreys. We all made our way back to the TH where the guy’s hiking partner was waiting with his truck. Apparently he had done both Grays and Torreys, descended and had time to go get a hotel room while the rest of us were still hiking!

This stuff was deceptively slick

I managed to get a smile from Kellie on the way down

Kellie and I back at the trailhead

We relaxed riding down to our car at the winter TH, thanked the guys for the ride, and packed up to head back east. After changing clothes and washing up at a rest area, we got to have our Spaghetti Factory dinner in Denver. The plan was to then drive to Colby, Kansas and stay the night, but we were exhausted and settled on Limon, Colorado. The 6 a.m. alarm on Friday woke us and we were back on the road and headed to KC.

It was an absolutely wonderful couple days in the mountains, teasing us and inviting us back for more adventures. A perfect getaway for my wife and I.

 Comments or Questions

Glad and Sad
09/25/2011 07:47
I am glad you got to the summit but sorry your wife started to not feel well. Altitude can get any of us at anytime. Glad that she is doing better. If you ever want to do Bierstadt in the winter, I'll go with but I will warn you, snow shoeing accross the willows, sucks!! I wouldn't touch the sawtooth though until the summer months, preferrably late July or later. Glad you had a great time.


Bad shirt!
09/25/2011 19:28
Nice trip! We flatlanders have to get em when we can!

Craig Cook

09/25/2011 21:08
JP - If I tackle Bierstadt next, I imagine it will be a summer hike. Would still love company for the hike, though. Have you taken your daughters up Bierstadt yet?

Ted - Agree with you about getting 'em when we can, disagree about the shirt! The gentleman hiking with us had a KU hat on, so apparently anyone can get along in the mountains!


Break the Habit
09/25/2011 23:25
Leaving poor Kellie behind while you grab a summit is becoming something of a habit! First Pikes, and now Grays. You owe her one or two, my friend. I suspect it has something to do with your obvious divided loyalties between MU and NC. Once you get that resolved, I predict she will be able to finally grab that elusive summit with you.

Craig Cook

09/25/2011 23:54
We're going to get her one soon! It would help if we could get a few days to let her acclimate first, but both of our hikes together were done the morning after we arrived. Add the distance of Barr Trail or the snow on Grays, and I'm proud of her for doing as well as she has. This is my hobby, and she has been wonderful enough to try and do it with me.

As for the MU and NC confusion, I have no excuse. I went to MU, so that's normal. The NC hat I have simply because I liked the colors!

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