Hobbies Climb of Grays and Torreys Peaks

2010.10.26 00:01

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Climb of Grays and Torreys Peaks

The Front Range, near Bakerville, Colorado

October 3, 2010

Grays and Torreys Peaks are two 14'ers near Denver. Out of 54 Fourteeners of Colorado, Grays Peak is 9th highest in Colorado and Torreys 11th. They are side by side less than a mile away by sharing a saddle in between and both can be climbed in one day. Grays Peak is the highest peak in the Front Range and also is the highest mountain in the chain of North American Continental Divide. It is only about 40 miles west of Denver just south of Interstate 70. Therefore, this duo is very popular climbing destination for people in Denver and visitors from out of state.

The round trip to Grays Peak is about 8 miles and 3,000 feet elevation from the trailhead. If one wants to bag Torreys Peak as well, it will add another mile and 500 feet elevation. Some people say it's easy one day's climb but I am not sure about that. 

Geopolitically, they are the county lines between Clear Creek County and Summit County of Colorado.
For mountain climbers, both are simply two big piles of rocks penetrating high into the cold rarefied air space for them to scramble and climb. They are the esoteric playgrounds of human perseverance and courage, good or bad.

In hydrological point of view, both summits and their summit ridges are on the line of Continental Divide, meaning the western slope drains to Pacific Ocean (theoretically) while the eastern slope drains to Atlantic Ocean.

In the western slope, water forms the Snake River that flows into Lake Dillon in Summit County. A part of the water in Dillon Lake gets forcibly diverted through an under-mountain aqueduct tunnel to Denver municipal water department and the rest goes down further north to eventually join Colorado River and then gets sucked up by the thirsty states of Utah, Arizona, and then disappears forever in California. They never have a chance to enter the Pacific Ocean. What a sad story for the fate of a beautiful mountain stream !!

In the eastern slope, water forms Stevens Creek and then joins Clear Creek to run through Golden, a city west of Denver. Here, some of the water gets suck up to enter Coor's Brewery tank to become Coor's Beer (now, don't count on me for the accuracy of the information), and the rest becomes South Platt River in Denver. Later South Platt joins her sister, North Platt River, in Nebraska to form Platt River. The Platt River joins the mighty Missouri River and then Mississippi to drain happily into the Gulf of Mexico.

The trail is heavily crowded in weekends during the summer hiking season. The trailhead parking area gets filled to it's full capacity in early morning and a lot of people have to park their cars far away from the trail entrance. We waited until the summer season is over. As the autumn season comes, all the vacationers and the dangerous afternoon thunderstorms also disappear. That means we don't have to wake up 2 O'clock in the morning to find the parking spot in the trailhead and we don't have to worry about finishing the climb by 1 or 2:00 PM in the early afternoon under the threatening clouds. That's why three of us showed up at the Stevens Gulch at 8:00 AM on October 3, 2010. Aren't we smart, lazy, or something else?

We left home at 6:30 AM, drove on I-70 west and came out at the Bakerville Exit 221 and headed for south into Stevens Gulch (4 miles on Stevens Gulch Road) on a steep gravel road. The road wasn't bad enough to require 4-wheel drive vehicle. At the end of this road we found the Grays Peak Trailhead with a few empty spaces for our car.

8:41 AM; We left home early in the morning and arrived at the Grays Peak Trailhead in Stevens Gulch.
We came out to Bakerville Exit from I-70 just east of Eisenhower and drove on non-paved road in the Stevens Gulch to reach the trailhead parking lot (11,280'). This lot is supposed to be completely filled up in summer time but we found a few spaces this morning.

The trail map from the tailhead (11,280') and the two summits. The trails are well maintained, marked, and very easy to walk up. There's no danger of getting lost here. Within the confines of narrow valley surrounded by huge inescapable wall, one can't get lost here.

Map of surrounding area. Loveland Pass at northwest and Mount Evans southeast.
The Continental Divide runs through the summit ridge of Grays and Torreys.

8:47 AM; Bulletin and Information boards at the trail entrance. Stepping onto a steel bridge crossing the Stevens Creek starts the climbing toward the long summit trail.

9:11 AM; At the very beginning of the trail. Morning sunlight hits the summits of Grays (14,270' 4,350 meter; far left) and Torreys Peak (14, 267' 4,349 meter; far right beyond the southwestern ridge of Kelso Mountain).

9:27 AM; Once near the base of Kelso Mountain (at right but not visible), Torryes Peak gets hidden behind it.
Grays Peak looms far away in fron of us. The trail winds through the flat valley floor of the Stevens Gulch toward the base of Grays Peak.

9:45 AM; The trail starts slowly into an uphill climb. Turning the corner of Kelso foothills, Torreys Peak with her majestic grandeur appears again at right. Steep eastern face of Torreys Peak is very intimidating while gentle slope of Grays Peak is more inviting at left.

10:09 AM; We start to climb the central terminal ridge in the Stevens Gulch toward Grays. Now, it is getting steeper and rougher. Who says one can climb on a wheel chair?

The eastern face of Torreys with northeastern ridge (from the summit to the right). This is Kelso-Torreys Ridge with it's saddle visible at the right edge of the picture. Kelso Mountain (13,164 ft.) is further up to the right (not visible here).
There's a well defined trail to the Kelso-Torreys Saddle (12,400'). Some people climb this ridge to the Torreys summit. The climb of the ridge doesn't reqire technical climbing (Class 3) but it is said to be quite rough at times.

10:56 AM; Shang Rhee and John Lee, trodding slowly up the central ridge toward Grays Peak.
About this time, already above 13,000 feet elevation, winds started to come from east, sweeping up the slope unhindered. On an alpine tundra slope, there's nothing that will stop or slow the wind. It was getting chilly.

10:56 AM; After a rest stop in the midway after a steep pitch. The Kelso-Torreys ridge is well defined from here. Beyond the rige is probably Baker Mountain (12,448')

11:51 AM; We started to climb the summit cone of Grays Peak. It is now very steep.
Occasional patch of snow but the trail is well defined with only small rocks.

12:00 Noon; We passed about 13,900 feet elevation and our rest-stops came more often. The Stevens Gulch in one view with Kelso at left and McClellan Mountain (13,587') at right.

12:00 Noon; Now, we are slightly above the Grays-Torreys Saddle. Torreys Peak in front of us.

12:00 Noon; Climbing gets slower in the last few switchbacks near the summit over 14,000 feet elevation. Now, only 200 feet to go.. The air is thin and one can not get enough air !! A lot of people, just like these couple in front, stopped frequently to catch breaths and to relieve pains in their legs. No one can quit now. We are almost there.

12:25 PM; At the summit of Grays Peak (14, 270', 4,350 meter), the roof of the Front Range. I heard about it a lot and finally had myself standing up here. Behind us at right is Torreys Peak, the next destination. Me, John, and Shang.

12:25 PM; Looking back southeastward, the way we climbed up.
 Mounts Evans and Bierstadt just beyond the group of standing people.

12:26 PM; Far away is Dillon Lake in Summit County. And beyond are the Gore Range at right and the Ten Mile Range at left. Porcupine Peak (11,803') at middle left. The foreground is Montezuma Valley.

12:26 PM; Chihuahua Lake below, the highest source of Snake River that is the source tributary of the Colorado River. Grizzly Peak (13, 427', straight behind the lake). Lenawee Mountain (13,201', at left edge). The Loveland Pass (12,000') is hidden just beyond Grizzly Peak.

12:29 PM; Telephoto view of Mount Evans (14, 264' center left) and Mount Bierstadt (14,060', center right). The rough-looking saddle between these two mountains is known as "The Sawtooth". These two summits are 1.5 miles apart and can be climbed in a day from the Guanella Pass trailhead near Georgetown.

12:34 PM; On the way down to the Grays-Torreys Saddle (13, 707'). Torreys Peak in front.
Coming down this side of Grays Peak was steep and rough. People coming up from Torreys seemed to be having hard time. It was wise to have clmbed up the Grays first. It was very windy and cold.

2:02 PM; We had the lunch break near the saddle and then reached the summit of Torreys Peak (14, 267', 4,349 meter). The trail was fairly gentle except the last pitch at the Torreys summit.
Here is the trio of the day at the summit, right of me are; Shang Rhee and John Lee.
On the way up Grays Peak, as our hands were freezing, I gave my right glove to John. 
So, I only had a glove on my left hand while John kept his right hand in his pocket.

2:04 PM; Other people went down the same trail we climbed up from the Saddle.
You see the zigzagging trails on the eastern face of Grays Peak in the background.

A wild fire to north near Boulder area (?), seemed to have just started.

2:06 PM; At the Torreys summit, about ready to descend.

2:24 PM; Stevens Gulch below with light-colored climbing trails,
seen on the way down to the Saddle at the edge of cliffs of Torreys Peak.

2:25 PM; The eastern face of Grays Peak with it's zigzagging climbing trails. At left, is Mount Edwards (13, 850'), a part of McClellan Range forming the eastern wall of Stevens Gulch.

2:26 PM; Suddenly, we encountered a single mountain goat near the Saddle.

2:27 PM; He (or she) is not much concerned about my approach or the deep rocky cliff at his right.

2:40 PM; On the way down from the Saddle, we entered the giant scree slope on the eastern face of Grays Peak again. Without the established trails, it will be very hard to climb or descend. You can see faint lines of trails. A few climbers are going down on the traversing trail that connects the Saddle to the main Grays Peak trail.
Far away in the background, you see Mount Evans and Bierstadt. The afternoon sun had gone to the other side of the mountain and it was getting chilly. The trail being well-established and worn, the descending pace was fast and easy. We returned back to the trailhead safely at 4:27 PM.

Photo (Taken 10-03-2010) and webpage by SNUMA WM - October 25, 2010
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