Peak(s):  Grays Peak  -  14,270 feet
Date Posted:  02/24/2011
Date Climbed:   02/21/2011
Author:  alanonymous

 Blustery Gray's - Standard Route  

The plan: to enjoy our day off and go on a nice - relatively easy - climb. We were going to snowshoe/climb/ski as far as we comfortably could, and just enjoy the day. A disconcerting sign of things to come was on the drive in ... the car was getting blown all over the road on I-70 with the massive gusts of wind ...

We parked just off I-70 and departed at about 7:15am and began the easy and really enjoyable snowshoe up Steven's Gulch road.

Snowshoeing the road up, with Josh's ski hauling contraption

Snowshoeing the road up

We carried our skis (no skins ) up to the end of the road and the start of the trail. Based on other trip reports/weather reports/pictures, we didn't think there'd be enough good low avalanche risk snow up top, so we stowed our skis under the bridge at the end of the road, and left our ski boots in trash bags with the skis.

Once we got above the trees, the wind really started to pick up. It was anywhere from 5 mph to 40 mph with some substantially larger gusts mixed in. The forecasted weather for the day was 27mph avg with 40+ gusts, so seemed pretty spot on.

Start of the trail

Start of the trail

The higher we got, the colder and the windier, of course.


The pic below gives a pretty good example of what we saw and felt as we got higher. The temperature was -1 to -3 or so (thermometer was kind of cheap), and the gusting wind made things pretty awful.

Looks a little cold, right?

A look at Torrey's

Another look at Torrey's

We made it to a little bit above 14000 feet (at ~1:30pm), and I started questioning how good of an idea it was to continue. My toes on my left foot were pretty numb, and the fingers on my right hand were very numb and I just couldn't get them to warm up unless I balled my fist up in my mit and didn't use my pole, which messed with my balance. At this point we were more or less trailblazing going straight up, so the poles for balance and support were absolutely essential. Plus the biting cold hitting every square cm of exposed skin burned a bit. I decided to turn back down, and it quickly became a group decision. Gray's and Torrey's would both be there if we decided to try again another time!

Once we started down, it seemed like the wind got lower and the temperature got higher, but we were still pretty happy with the decision, as painful as it is to turn back when you're only 100 feet vertical from the top

Once we got closer to treeline with the gusting wind, there were some pretty neat ice formations.


We have no pictures of the struggle, but it took a solid 10 extremely painful minutes to get our ski boots on. They were absolutely frozen solid. Once they were on though, skiing the last 3 miles down turned out to be absolutely perfect. We finished 3 feet from the car.


For every 14er we do, we have to bring a celebatory beer along ... well, we didn't get to drink it at the summit like we had hoped, so once we made it down to the car, we decided to partake. It turns out that a bottle of beer in sub-zero temperatures, opened with an ice axe makes a big delicious mess.


Our reward for the night was a stop at Beau Jo's in Idaho Springs for a 3 lb pizza!


I still have a darkish splotch on my cheek where I got a touch of frostbite (on my right earlobe too), but it will heal just fine. I'm just glad we got down when we did!

The topo map from the trip is below (the battery died about halfway back, so the path displayed ends a little prematurely). I think we ended up going ~14 miles or so, though I don't have an exact number. In hindsight it's still pretty painful to be so close to the summit and not get there, but overall I'm pretty happy with the decision. Another 15 minutes for the last 100 feet could have made things a heck of a lot worse for us. Now I get to take my fingers and toes to another mountain!


Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions
Michael York

Smart Move
03/01/2011 07:05
Nice work, awesome story, and great pics... also a great lesson by example... sometimes it's just not worth the risk!

James Scott

02/26/2011 02:56
loved the picture of the wind blowing off the top of Greys? Torres? just marked as my background

Doctor No

Good photos!
02/25/2011 00:39
The mountain will always be there (or at least as long as we are). You made the right call.


Image #12...
02/25/2011 01:59
Party foul! But maybe since a 14er was involved the referees might let it slide. Nice report, good pics! I'll have to try Beau Jo's next time I'm in Idaho Springs. I normally like Tommyknocker's.


It's ok.
02/24/2011 23:51
You're right, it will be there. Nobody's going to question your decision to turn around, that's for sure.

Nice photographs. Beer slush. Mmm!

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