Peak(s):  Grays Peak  -  14,270 feet
Torreys Peak  -  14,267 feet
Date Posted:  05/06/2012
Date Climbed:   05/04/2012
Author:  justiner
 Grays/Torreys - Cycling Fantastic  

On top of Grays Peak.

This weeks plan was to ride to the Summer Trailhead of Grays/Torreys, hike up both, and ride back, all in one fell swoop. I mean, why not? It's ~55 miles and 9,000 feet of elevation to the Winter Trailhead, 3 miles of hike-a-biking on the dirt road to the Summer Trailhead and 8 1/4 miles of hiking to both peaks and back - and then that 55 miles back home.

OK, fairly ambitious, I admit - I brought along my sleep kit, just in case.

The major challenge in doing something like this is - what to bring? The answer is usually, "Not much", as any extra gear means extra weight, and extra weight slows you down, especially on the bike and most especially while climbing up on that bike Realistically, you need to bring enough to do a bike ride, a hike and an overnight safely and relatively comfortably, the last point being somewhat subjective. I've needed a trailer packed full on previous excursions in to the mountains, but I've been working to ultra-minimize what I need.

Camping part is easy, as my sleep kit is already well-established: sleeping bag, liner, bivvy and pad. Cycling is also fairly well managed: bib shorts, jersey, cycling gloves, silly cycling hat, tiny socks, cycling shoes. The hiking part is where things become troublesome, as the weather in the mountains - most especially in spring, can wildly and dramatically change with little warning. Skimping on too many things is a bad idea, most especially if there isn't a warm car waiting for you at the end, holding clothes to change into and the means to easily whisk you away to where pizza and beer are eagerly awaiting. I ended up with bringing a raincoat, synthetic down vest, long underwear, winter gloves, winter hat, beat-up running shoes, running gaitors, micro-spikes, and -

and an ice axe, which I affixed to the top tube of my bicycle, using some velcro straps,

Nothin' but blue sky

Why an ice axe? Other than keeping up my reputation of being a complete bad-ass - I mean, what's more bad-ass than taking on a 45+ mile mountain route with a fixed-gear bike, other than taking such a mountain route on a fixed gear with an ice axe?! But, there's also snow on the mountains, even with our paltry snowpack this year, and ice axes can save oneself from a very long unintentional glissade. And maybe I'd take a snow route and keeping with the minimal thread - it's either an ice axe, or trekking poles - not both, so ice axe it was.

Left around 6:15am and got to the Summer Trailhead at around 1:00pm, leaving quickly for the hiking part of this exercise. Decided to take a little, "shortcut" straight up Grays, using one of the snowfields still lingering, which was neither faster, nor easier, but a little funner, than the mindless switchbacks that usually make up this Class 1 route. Was contemplating doing something a bit more fancier, like the Dead Dog Couloir, but being already so pre-fatigued for the ride - and alone, it didn't seem reasonable.

It's not a named route, or anything, so I dubbed it, the, "Dumb Tourist Couloir" and left it at that. Grays was much like the last time I visited in November, although I was soon joined by a visitor, munching on the local flora,

which, is always a treat.

At this point, I started experiencing the onset of an altitude-related headache - similar to Mt. Evans, the week prior, which was a bummer - I was eating correctly, drinking a-plenty, the only thing wrong was I hadn't gotten much sleep the night before and I had seriously put in a good effort doing all the moving and shaking to get up here. I knew it wasn't going to go away, until after I got down to a much, much lower elevation, but I pushed on the Torreys and then down.

Got back to the Summer Trailhead around 8:00pm, fairly whipped. Decided then and there a bivvy was in order, as bumping down that dirt road in the failing light with my headache, just wasn't going to happen. Night was somewhat surreal, as the moon was basically full, my head pounding, and the only relief came from non-sequitar dreams that I would wake up from, thinking my headache was gone (as it was, in my dreams), only to have the headache come back, with a vengeance. Every time I woke up, I thought that maybe I could sneak off back home - I had a goal of finishing all this up in a 24 hour period - but no, the headache kept me grounded. Sometime in the middle of the night, I ran out of water, and I still knew that getting down even more would help greatly. For whatever reason, my ultra-light kit neglected bringing something as simple as pills for the headache. Next time.

Woke up in the morning at around 5:30 am and rocketed back to Denver, an almost complete downhill trajectory. Back home by almost exactly 11:00 am and downing an entire half gallon of orange juice, my head felt quite a bit better.

Overall, felt strong on the ride up to the Winter Trailhead, even with the added load with all the gear and felt alright on the hike itself, although taking 6 1/2-odd hours to hike these two summits seems somewhat slow . If I didn't get that headache and felt a little more precocious and masochistic, I'm sure riding back home would have been possible, without the snooze, since the route contains 9,000+ feet of elevation loss. But alas, it wasn't to be this time.

But, I did succeed in bringing just enough equipment and nothing more and not getting into any dangerous situations because of something I left behind. I certainly came close in some places, but that's the rub when going ultra-light. I also benefited from one of the most incredible days one could ever hope for in the mountains - mild weather, cloudless sky, light breeze, no drastic weather change.

 Comments or Questions

Very impressive
05/06/2012 12:42
That is an incredible day and a fascinating TR.

Keep it up!



05/06/2012 12:55
What a great report.....nice to see people testing the boundaries of the mind and body. A fixie? The ride itself would be hard on that bike.
Thanks for sharing.


05/06/2012 14:36
Planning on doing the combo on Wednesday, did the conditions in Dead Dog look any better than the Dumb Tourist Couloir?


04/02/2015 19:45
How did you manage to go on a dirt road with a road bike? I was there in AWD and was worrying about my tires - so many sharp rocks on that ”road”

jrs1965 - did Dead Dog yesterday. It is in great shape. Just beware of the rockfall - it seemed that the right side of the couloir was raining rocks more often, so stay left if you can. If it is a warm day, leave early!


Dead Dog
05/06/2012 19:49
@jrs1965 - to *me*, the Dead Dog Couloir looked completely in - there was some evidence of sliding on some of the gullies to the South of that chute, but I couldn't tell how old that was or weather it was just from some aggressive carving of a skier.


05/06/2012 23:07
Awesome adventure, I never would have thought of riding then hiking up and back in a day - let alone on a fixie!


05/07/2012 00:09
(quote)How did you manage to go on a dirt road with a road bike? I was there in AWD and was worrying about my tires - so many sharp rocks on that ”road”(/quote)

Those tires are actually 32mm Schwalbe Marathon Plus's, so there's some burly to them. If I was smarter and more patient, I would have let some air out of them, at least on the descent, to make things easier. I had to skip out on some of the more rockier parts of the road, like that area where it goes through the private land that's pretty dug up. Other than that, go slow and pick your line.


05/07/2012 01:51
that's about all I have to say man.


05/07/2012 05:46
You are an animal. Those of us who own or have at least rode fixed before know that just the ride to the TH would be enough of an accomplishment. If I *ever* see you on a trail/climb/around town I will gladly buy you a brew or two. Hats off to you. Are you at all affiliated with Salvagetti?


05/07/2012 16:48
Beer accepted!

I joined the Happy Coffee cyclocross team last year (put on partly by Salvagetti), but wasn't able to race any races, because of a shoulder injury from the summer prior. They've been my shop now, since well, since they've had a storefront. I do urge you to try out the new Happy Coffee shop on 1st and Broadway though - damn good coffee!


05/07/2012 21:24
Nice jersey

You going to come race this year?


05/07/2012 23:29
If I manage to not eat complete sh*t this summer (and I'm living in Denver), I think it would be fun to try another season. Just need to lower those handlebars, pop on some CX tires and we're good to go!

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