Peak(s):  Torreys Peak  -  14,267 feet
Date Posted:  06/25/2012
Date Climbed:   06/23/2012
Author:  Shawnee Bob
 Torreys Peak, Kelso Ridge  

Columbines bloom with Grays Peak in the background. (Photo by Ketel1)

A lesson that is sometimes good to heed: Never turn down a good opportunity. Business had me going to Denver, and I put out word hoping to find someone who would want to bag a 14er close to Denver before I had to fly out.

I was thinking someone would say something about a nearby walk-up, which would have been fine. But Wildlobo was the first to take the bait, and his suggestion was much more interesting: Torreys Peak via Kelso Ridge.

Torreys Peak, still holding some snow. (Photo by Wildlobo)

Had to jump at that. Joining us would be Ketel1, Oso Blanco, Cookiehiker, Durant and Ted. The joke was that we'd all be fighting for last place to summit, but I knew better. I was the only flatlander in the group, so I knew I'd win that honor.

It seems that just about anyone who has done a 14er has done Torreys in tandem with Grays Peak. But doing it via Kelso? Not so much. Not that it isn't highly trafficked, but let's just say it's Class 3 rating, higher exposure and much-balloyhooed Knife Edge tend to keep the weekend strollers away.

We started out somewhat late (6:45 a.m., thanks in part to someone in a Toyota Tacoma who was babying that pickup on the 4WD road like it was made of balsa wood) but got started up the trail quickly.

Warm temps brought the wildflowers out early. The skies were brilliant blue, untouched by the haze of smoke belched out from wildfires that seemed to be breeding like rabbits across the state. Grays came into view, then Torreys -- kindred peaks with an unmistakable and classic Colorado skyline. Lost Rat Couloir looked played out, and Dead Dog, will still mostly filled, looked like it was getting ready to fade fast. Given how warm things got that day, I can't imagine the Dog will be around too long.

Kelso Ridge came into view pretty quick. We turned right off the main trail and up to the lower shoulder of the ridge where the ruins of some old mining building still stood. It was the first bit of steeper hiking in what would be pretty common. I remarked that it was the steepest I'd experienced since doing Belford 8 years ago.

Oso Blanco and Wildlobo go up the first Class 3 pitch. (Photo by Ketel1)

What made Kelso entertaining, however, were the Class 3 pitches. Not long after turning up the ridge, we ran up on our first Class 3 wall. The rock was mostly solid, as it would be most of the way. But there would be other factors worth noting.

I won't do a blow-by blow. But there are some things about the route I think are worth mentioning.

The Class 3 walls (which can be turned into Class 4 if you so choose) are not difficult climbs. They are exposed, and it's wise to test your holds. But nothing gave way on me.

Ketel1 traverses a ledge before starting her climb up one of the Class 3 pitches. (Photo by Shawnee Bob)

Cookiehiker victoriously ascends through a notch. (Photo by Oso Blanco)

But it's also worth noting that to gain these walls, you have to traverse some ledges that are exposed, narrow (and skinnier as you get higher, it seems) and at times sandy and loose. They're manageable, but care is warranted.

On an exposed ledge, looking down toward Dead Dog Couloir. Not a good place to slip. (Photo by Ketel1)

Not too far below the Knife Edge is one ledge that seemed to be about 18 inches, and a fall there would take you straight down into Dead Dog Couloir. That would be a disaster. Take your time traversing those ledges, m'kay?

Wildlobo and Cookiehiker working their way up the Knife Edge. (Photo by Oso Blanco)

Looking back on the Knife Edge as the rest of us cross. The angle of the photo makes the dropoff steeper than it really is. (Photo by Oso Blanco)

The Knife Edge is exposed, and getting across should be done patiently. But it is not as spooky as some would have you believe. The rock is solid; some of us straddled it and scooched up; others bear crawled it. I chose the latter.

Traversing the ledge on the White Rock just past the Knife Edge. (Photo by Shawnee Bob)

The White Rock at the end of the Knife Edge is where I felt the most "risk." After crawling up to the White Rock from the Knife Edge, you climb right and traverse a thin, exposed ledge and gain the final summit pitch. The rock is solid, but don't be in a hurry.

I wished the ascent stopped there, but there was steep hiking ahead. My flatlander lungs betrayed me, as that last bit of hiking, maybe just a couple hundred yards, blew me up. As I predicted, I won last place to the summit.

The gang on the summit.

Got to hand it to the crew -- they are all strong hikers, capable climbers and fun people. Cookiehiker lived up to her name. Summit cookies! A few celebratory drinks (I think there was whiskey and some tequila concoction) and we went down Torreys' standard route trail. Cookiehiker, Oso Blanco, Durant and Ted went ahead and tagged Grays. I got to the saddle and figured going up the same slop I just went down didn't seem too appealing.

The hike down was bloody hot. I don't know what the temp was, but it felt like mid-80s -- kinda warm for 12,000 feet.

Celebratory grub followed at Tommyknockers. Buffalo burger with blue cheese helped replace those calories I burned churning up the ridge.

I can't imagine climbing Torreys any other way, unless it was in the spring up Dead Dog. Kelso Ridge is a truly classic Colorado hike and climb, and I got to do it with an incredible group. Put Kelso Ridge on your to-do list if you haven't done it already.

Take it from me: it's not a bad way to end a business trip.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

06/26/2012 11:54
Whenever I get around to doing G&T this is the route I want to take. Would you recommend using a helmet or not?

Shawnee Bob

06/26/2012 13:27
I saw some people without one, but I'd recommend bringing the ole brain bucket. Rockfall is not uncommon there (heard a couple of slides), and it doesn't take much for someone above you to kick loose some rocks and such. That happened to a girl who was without a helmet; luckily, the pebbles and such that fell on her were small. But I'll bet she wished she had something covering her head at that moment.


06/26/2012 15:06
I would second the idea of a helmet. I saw a basketball sized rock bounce down one of the gullies up there after it was dislodged by a climber below me. The route isn't full of loose crap, but it does exist up there in a couple spots.


Loved it!
06/26/2012 15:12
Great TR, Great hike! I'm still beyond impressed with 'the fella from Oklahoma' making this hike and being a true joy to hike with!! Hope to join you the next time you're out in CO!

Shawnee Bob

06/26/2012 15:23
@Cookiehiker: Face it. What made the trip was the cookies. It was great tackling this route with you as well! When I'm up that way again, I'll be calling on you all for sure. Hopefully, 10 pounds lighter and a little stronger!

@metalmountain: Wow. Scary stuff. I heard/saw a decent sized rockfall on my way down that was kicked off by someone descending Kelso Ridge. It happens. I'll say it again: Bring the brain bucket!

Oso Blanco

Strong Group
06/26/2012 16:35
Perfect TR Shawnee Bob! The day converged with perfect weather, ground conditions and group members...pulling the train to the TOP! Let's all convene again for another Colorado highlight!

Shawnee Bob

Like a boss
06/26/2012 16:52
Great time hitting the ridge with you. You were pretty stout on that hill. Next time I'm out, if I can squeeze in a peak I'll be looking up you and the rest of the gang. Cheers!


Proud of ya buddy!
06/26/2012 18:16
Congrats, Bob! Great trip report and very proud of ya!


Nice work all
06/26/2012 18:58
Bill has sex calves.


Thanks Bob for looking for a climb!
06/26/2012 20:33
It was a great day out on the rock! Best when it's closest to your own back yard too.

Shawnee Bob

...and thanks for being patient
06/27/2012 02:15
with the slow flatlander. We WILL do this again. Whole host of 13ers and 14ers to keep us interested.


Great Group!
06/27/2012 22:49
Just saw this, Thanks again for a great climb!

Shawnee Bob

Good to meet you!
06/28/2012 01:04
Hopefully in the future I can run those trails like you! Great hiking and climbing with you, man.


Glad you all made it...
06/28/2012 22:31
Me and my son and his friend were the three un-helmeted climbers who passed you early on the ridge. I hope we didn't kick anything loose on you - I don't think we did; we were trying to be very cautious.

Looking back I would also recommend helmets for this climb. I should have known better.

Congrats to Cookiehiker for her first 3rd class too!

Nice to meet you all.

Shawnee Bob

No worries!
06/29/2012 01:10
Nothing got kicked down on us, so it's all good. When I was hiking down Grays, I heard, then saw a pretty nice little slide release, and it looked like it got kicked loose by someone going solo down Kelso. It happens. In one instance, I saw some small loose stuff get kicked down on an unhelmeted girl, and even though it wouldn't hurt her, it was a good reminder.


Thanks for the up-to-date TR!
06/30/2012 14:15
Hello all ...

We're (a half dozen flatlanders) hoping to do Torrey's via Kelso Ridge next week as well ... was just curious about some things though that perhaps you could answer for me.

First ... would it be possible to backpack in and camp 1/4 mile or so up the trail from the TH, or is it all willows and scrub? I've read that there are dispersed sites at the TH, but we'd like to get a little further up if at all possible. Otherwise, are there possibilities along the steep road, or even a tiny ways down Grizzly Gulch?

Also ... related to camping, is there still a stream running (under the TH bridge, for example), or has the hot weather dried everything up? I see some snow in your pics, but not nearly as much as last year

Was the main trail rather crowded last Saturday? We'd probably be hiking up on the 3rd or 4th. Any of you have experience climbing this route on the 4th of July?

Finally, how was the road to the TH? Accessible by a mid-clearance 2WD?

Thanks for any responses you can give, and thanks for the timely TR!

Shawnee Bob

Some answers
06/30/2012 22:05
Can't say I saw much in terms of camping on the road to the TH. My guess if you could camp up from the TH not far from the stream (it's flowing pretty strong right now, and will be next week), but you leave treeline very soon after leaving the TH. You may also want to check with the forest service to see if they're OK with camping outside the established campsites at the TH. When you break through treeline, it's all willows and tundra. There are rules about how close you can camp to the trail and the stream (I think it's like 50 feet from both, but you'll need to check me on that).

The trail on the standard routes to Grays and Torreys were moderately crowded for a weekend outing. There were about 40 or 50 people on Torreys' summit when we topped out at 10:45.

The route up Kelso Ridge was less crowded -- I think there may have been about 20 people on it. However, during the tighter portions of the route (Class 3 sections and the Knife Edge) it could get a little backed up. If you hit that route on a weekday, I doubt there would be many people at all on Kelso Ridge. On July 4, expect weekend-style crowds on the main trail, just like you would on any Front Range or Sawatch 14er.

A mid-clearance 2WD should make it up the road OK, just take your time. I saw two Lexus sedans up there; really, really bad idea on their part to take such a low-clearance car up that far, but it illustrates the point. Most SUVs won't have a problem.

Best of luck tackling the ridge! It's an amazing hike and climb.


07/01/2012 23:56
Is it legal to camp at the trailhead and/or along the road to the trailhead? Is there designated camping spots or can you just find a little real estate anywhere around the parking area?

Shawnee Bob

Camping questions
07/02/2012 00:41
Can't say about camping in spots on the road leading to the trailhead, but apparently there are camping sites around the trailhead that you can use. I think the forest service prefers that you camp at those spots.

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