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Grays and Torreys Better than Expected

June 18, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

Grays and Torreys Better than Expected

Crowds on the highway, at work, at the store – anywhere except in nature, no crowds there please... please. It’s sacred. Its purpose is to remain undisturbed natural beauty – an escape, a place of solace to admire the Creator of all things beautiful. When I grow weary of man-made noise, give me solitude and a place to rest my mind. Give me nature.

Enter Grays Peak and Torreys Peak, among the most crowded 14er trails in Colorado. They are often hiked sequentially on the same day since the saddle between them is less than a mile long. They are also the two highest summits on the Continental Divide. Hundreds of people are on the trails of these two peaks every weekend in the summer. In some ways this trail is the antithesis of why I hike.
 
I’ve been putting off this trek for a couple years, dreading the thought of wasting my hard-earned time away from work to be in the thick of a crowd, a literal train of people heading toward what should be a place of peace and an opportunity for recuperation.

Having hiked a couple dozen 14ers, however, I had felt obligated to climb these two as they are among the three 14ers I had yet to summit on the Front Range. This year would mark the fulfillment of this self-imposed obligation, if for no other reason except to say that I did it. 

So on one recent Thursday evening I was reading an open invitation from a group of friendly people heading to these peaks on Saturday. Since it was very early summer; I had not yet done any glissading this year; and I reasoned that the crowds might not be too heavy… it is a beautiful area… I would be with a friendly group… why not just suck it up and get it done? I accepted the invitation!

No camping this weekend; no time to plan for it. I was up early, arrived at the trailhead at 5 a.m., ate some oatmeal, and headed out before my group arrived. Since the group was a younger crowd I figured they would catch up to me at some point. They did catch up right about the time I was nearing the final pitch to the summit of Grays.

The trail starts at the crossing of a bridge over Quayle Creek in Stevens Gulch. It’s a short distance from I-70 not far west of Georgetown up a gravel road that probably deservers a 4WD, but could be traveled with a 2WD given some careful consideration. 

When I arrived I was ready to be disappointed, being that I was focused on my dread of this trail for the past couple years. Well, it turned out I was not disappointed. It was beautiful! McClellan Mountain stretching westward and the more distant Mount Edwards with their remaining snow filled couloirs releasing fresh mountain runoff into the creek, filled the air with the sound of rushing spring water. I was engulfed in refreshing pine aroma. And the annoying crowds were really only a couple dozen eager people, wanting only to put boots on the trail to take them deeper into the Colorado country – like me. This might not be so bad after all. I decided to put away my negative expectations and judgement and just enjoy were I was and the kindred spirit of my fellow trail mates.

A mile from the trailhead along this same trail on the last day of 2014 an experienced climber was caught and died in an avalanche, and 9 years previous the same fate met another alpine adventurer. The trail now past avalanche danger seemed so innocent and welcoming. It was sobering. 

The trail steadily climbs up through the valley and provides a nice view of Kelso Mountain to the north. Some people will cut off to take the Kelso Ridge route up to Torreys Peak. Kelso ridge is a mile-long solid class 3 climb. This route is in my future. 

Soon the trail takes on the eastern ridge of Grays and the start of some talus. In just under 3 miles the trail splits. To the left is the Grays Peak trail and the right leads to the saddle between Grays and Torreys.

After a few switchbacks up the hill there is a stunning view of Mount Edwards. 

A short break at the summit of Grays before moving on to Torreys is well deserved. I arrived at the summit of Grays by 8:30am. The crowds are already starting to build – not much solace, but good company. 

The initial descent from Grays is a bit of a scramble but soon the rocks turn into a decent trail before heading up to Torreys. This is a steeper ascent than Grays was. We heard and felt a rumble just after starting the ascent. I later found out that there was a minor rock slide off the east face of Torreys. Expanding and contracting ice in the spring will cause rocks to crack, fall, and form what appears to be rock slides down the faces of these mountains. 

Torreys summit is gained after another 600 feet in elevation. Great views from the top of the final summit of the day. 

On the way down I did have a chance to get in a little glissading. I’m sad to say it may be my last opportunity of the year. 

Overall I would have to say that Grays and Torreys were not disappointing at all. Sure, there were more people than I prefer. But to have these views and to be a participant in this great Rocky Mountain experience – who could count this as negative? Great day! I hiked 8.2 miles and had 3400 feet elevation gain.  And I’m very much looking forward to spending more time up here on Kelso Ridge.


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