Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Grays Peak (4352m) and Torreys Peak (4351m) - Colorado, USA    September 1, 2014

After our Tonquin Valley backpack the very next day we got up early to start our Colorado road trip with one of our outdoor friends. This was why we actually got up early enough to see the alpine glow for once on the last day. After two days of driving we got to Golden Colorado, and the next day we had a half day rest there visiting the some people our friend knew, the mountaineering museum, and a Nepalese restaurant. Then we drove over to the Grays & Torreys trailhead. 

The trailhead was in a national forest reserve so you could 'dispersed' (or we would call it random) camp there. People obviously did this a lot, and a lot of them, because there were many level tent sized places devoid of underbrush next to fire rings. We chose one near our friends vehicle (the road is more for 4x4's than cars) and set up camp above 11,000 feet.

Camp at the trailhead. In front of the tent you can see some Colorado craft beer we are trying out.

Map of trail on trailhead sign.

Trail statistics on trailhead sign.

Nice areal photo with the route drawn on it, on trailhead sign.

The next day we did an acclimatization hike. It rained a lot of the night and morning so we didn't get around to it until about 2 or 3pm. We had been out of the tent a few times in the morning and had heard reports of very strong wind, sleet and hail on the tops of the mountains. We were glad we had not planned to go this day. Still when the rain finally stopped we got ready and set off for our hike. Surprisingly (or not) people were still coming off of the mountain and some were still going up. In Colorado it is strongly recommended you start very early and get off of the mountains before noon to avoid getting stuck in a potentially deadly and quite common afternoon thunderstorm.

 Once out of the willows we got a good view of Grays ahead of us. 

Our turn around point for the acclimatization hike. This man continued on. We heard thunderstorms to the north not fifteen minutes later, however they did not come into our immediate area. We saw this guy again hours later at back at the trailhead as we prepared for dinner. He had made it to the top.

The next day we woke up at 4am and were off up the trail by the light of our headlamps just before 5am. Quite a few people, mostly from the camp were starting around the same time. We could even see people who had started earlier.

Finally getting some light over the horizon as we get back to our turn around spot from the day before. We had a nice clear day for our ascent. We were really lucky. It was very windy though.

Alpine glow on Torreys Peak.

Finally in the sun on the ascent up Grays easy north slopes. I was feeling quite tired at this point from the thin air but thankfully didn't have any other affects of altitude on this trip such as nausea and headache. The acclimatization hike and sleeping at the trailhead was most likely doing the trick.

Torreys again from the same place.

The sun coming over the horizon. Breaks were short even after the sun appeared due to the very strong and cold wind.

Looking back down as we get nearer to the top.

Looking over at Torreys peak and the route up it.

Looking back down from the top. The route starts in the valley still half in shadow to the right and goes around the small mountain in the center of the photo till it ends up on the left of the ridge like bit below, ascends onto that, then goes up the face on switchbacks. The whole route is not very steep at all, which is good when you are up this high. It was a bit of a plod though. The snow did not make it tricky as it was rarely icy.

Summit of Grays Peak looking south.

Summit of Grays Peak. Not a good photo of me but what can you do. I was cold.

Summit of Grays Peak looking west.

Grays-Torreys col looking back at Grays.

Grays-Torreys col looking up at Torreys.

Summit of Torreys Peak looking northwest.

Summit of Torreys Peak looking southwest.

Summit of Torreys Peak looking south.

Summit of Torreys Peak looking east down at the trail below.

Summit of Torreys Peak looking southeast back at Grays Peak. You could see that it was getting quite crowded over there. For whatever reason a lot of people chose not to do Torreys as well (which is only slighly lower) and only ascended Grays. Seemed silly to us. I mean you already did most of the work. For us it did not add on very much extra time. 

Descending Torreys Peak required only a few meters of elevation gain from the col till you descended another trail back to the main Grays trail. This one was less crowded which was nice as there was almost a congo line going up Grays by this point. It was the last day of the September long weekend so a lot of people where to be expected. I've never seen so many people on one mountain though. I've never seen so many people on any trail ever except maybe Johnston Canyon or the trail to Agnes Lake both in Banff National Park. It was crazy busy here. It is good so many people enjoy getting out to the mountains, but I personally prefer a bit more solitude on my trips. I'm glad therefore that I don't live here and have to deal with this constantly.

Looking back at Grays as even more people show up. We saw everthing too. People in shorts, too many dogs to count of all types, and even some quite small children.

Looking back at Grays again from farther down.

After our ascent we packed up camp and left to find a good pub for a bite to eat before finding our next campsite. This one an actual maintained one you have to pay for.

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