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Elevation Gain: 4,731'
Route: East Ridge Direct, combo, standard down
(b) Yet ANOTHER Grays and Torreys trip report
(c) A class 4 variation up Grays
(d) All of the above!
While my personal goals do not necessarily involve the 14ers in calendar winter, my friends do like snowflakes. Some even want to grid some peaks. Craziness! Though I may think about gridding Torreys, I've been up there enough! Plus there are plenty of ski lines to do. So rather than spend another day at Mary Jane trying to find some untouched snow (I had already tracked up all the trees I could on the Panoramic Express the day before), I figured a day spent with friends in the mountains, enjoying the beautiful scenery was the most worthwhile option. Plus ski legs are NOT hiking legs, so one must keep both strong this time of year!
So at stupid-a$$ o'clock we start up I-70 to see how far up the road we can get. The road is well packed all the way to the first road junction to Grizzly Gulch. From here we strapped (useless) snowshoes to our back and headed up the well traveled road. We never needed them, and ended up dropping them at the sign along the trail.
So Caroline wanted only Grays, Shawn only Torreys, Kevin wanted Dec grid slots, and I wanted 2 new shiny snowflakes, and I guess some grid slots, if I have to...
Kevin convinced us to do the east ridge direct, and it did not disappoint! In fact, I will take this variation from hence forth! It is a simple detour from the main trail, and once above the first section of ridge direct, you regain the regular trail. It was just the spice needed to make another ascent of Grays more interesting. A little bit of exposure, a pinch of scrambling, and even a snowy couloir to view down for flavor.
Some fun with camera filters...
The views never disappoint from these heavily traveled peaks. I tell myself each time I come up here, that I won't take that many photos, that I won't write another TR. That I've seen it all before, that there isn't anything to say that hasn't been said. But each and every time, there's something about the views and the company that shed my sometimes jaded viewpoint. There's something rejuvenating about seeing a familiar place in a different mindset with good friends to shed the cynicism I sometimes feel.
So after a Caroline style fisheye, Caroline heads back down to the trail head, and Kevin, Shawn and I race over to Torreys. It's windy, so we don't spend much time there. Just a race up and down, a short summit stay, for once.
Happy Grays scramblers! - Photo Credit: Caroline
Time to go down. Especially as we were now engaged in Operation Catch Caroline before she makes it back to the cars. She swore we couldn't catch her, so the gauntlet had been thrown, and we were picking it up! We make excellent time on the snowy sections of trail, plunge stepping as quickly as possible. Taking only a short break to snack and to finish off my thermos of hot chocolate, and off we quickly went! The pursuit through the willows (to avoid a wind loaded slope) slowed us down considerably as we wove in and around and through punchable crusty snow. It almost felt like a drunken maze as we zigged and zagged through the nasty nasty willows.
Once back to the trail it was much easier to keep a fast 3mph+ pace in our pursuit of our prey. At the road it became an all out speed walk - jog - and even run to catch the wily Caroline. The road being all nicely snowpacked, made for nice soft quick foot falls as we all raced down hills. Nearing the end, Kevin even passed us in an all out run, since we were getting close to the cars, and we still hadn't gotten a scent/view of our prey. Little did we know that she had been relaxing at the vehicles for 40 minutes, by the time we got there. Darn, a failed pursuit, but a nice bit of exercise at the end of a great day out!
So there you have it. A fun little option on a fan favorite!
My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):
Did that little alternative route w/Jamie a few January's ago during a blizzard. Seemed safer than the standard given all the new snow. I'd agree with ya. It's a great scramble. Underloved if ya ask me!
Great pictures. Isn't it amazing how the sky can be SO BLUE!
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