Monday, April 9, 2012

Grays Peak

Since moving to Colorado in August I have wanted to try and get up a 14er. I knew better; the shape I was in was crappy for climbing peaks. After a few months at the gym and slowly raising the elevation in peaks I decided to head up Grays Peak. Grays is probably one of the easiest 14ers, but that didn’t matter to me. When you climb a 14er you earn it whether it’s the easiest or the hardest. But, I had no intention of setting myself up for failure, so I picked a 14er with a trail to the summit. I will note that the trail was covered in ice and snow, but it was pretty easy and straightforward.
I seem to always be monitoring the weather on NOAA around the areas of the 14ers that are in close relation to Denver. I had almost sold myself on climbing Mt. Bierstadt, which is a 14er visible from the Denver area. But, with the high mountain roads still being closed because of snow I started monitoring the message boards to get some first hand reports. If I were to climb Bierstadt there would be an additional 3-4miles on closed roads. I’m not training for the Olympics, I wanted to make my first 14er as easy as possible. Last night someone posted that they were able to drive all the way to the Grays Peak trail head, so that immediately changed my plans to head up Grays.
Grays Peak road is typically closed all the way down to I-70. This adds an additional 3 miles each way, but since the report of a few rigs making it to the trail head, it was time to see how good the 4X4 in my Blazer was. This was a pretty rough road without snow, but soon I saw a couple Subaru’s parked along the side of the road. The Blazer did awesome plowing up the rutted ice covered road. There were a few dicey spots but my clearance was just enough to get me through. I arrived at the trail head around 8am, and I was the only person to make it the entire way. Shortly after arriving I geared up and was quickly on the trail to Grays.
There is a bridge crossing right out of the parking lot, once across the creek the trail was snow covered virtually the entire way. I didn’t put my micro spikes on till my second break since the snow was not completely frozen to ice. I was surprised at how warm it was, since the forecast was for a breezy 30 degree day. I covered the first 1.4miles and 1K ft in about 40 minutes. At this point on the trail there is a large sign showing the routes up Grays and Torreys Peak and giving a few stats of mileage and elevations. I took a nice break here and put the snow cap away and was able to wear my ball cap for once. The entire area was so amazing; I didn’t know what to take pictures of. The area was very unique and I loved the geology features all around me.
After my first break I made my way around Kelso Mountain and got the full view of Grays and Torreys. I was now getting my first look at a couple of the coulior’s that my friend Mike had been telling me about. I looked at them and said shit he wants to climb those, they look vertical. Not much further down the trail I noticed a skier climbing up the Dead Dog Coulior and laughed a bit when I saw a dog playing up there. The skier was still on the apron so they had a long way to go yet. Looking over at the Lost Rat Coulior on Grays it didn’t look like there was snow all the way to the top. They were a sight to see that was for sure. I kept making my way around and up onto a ramp of sorts and took my second break at around 13K feet.
At this point I put on my micro spikes. You could really see the switch backs covered in ice all the way to the top. This last 1K+ feet was pretty brutal. More of me being out of shape and being at high elevation. The trail was pretty gentle all the way to the summit. Not long after I took off from my break I heard some hooting and hollering coming from the summit. I could see two people up there and soon they were off to climb Torreys. At this point with all my huffing and puffing I had decided no 2fer today and I was happy with climbing just one 14er today. After 3.5hrs I had made it to the summit of Grays. I looked at the GPS, it said 2.5hrs of moving and 1hrs of stop time. Usually not that much stopping time, but that will get better with more mountains.
The summit was incredible. There was relatively no wind and it was warm for once. I didn’t even have to wear my gloves; it was nice bathing in the sun. I found the summit register and signed in, took a look over at Torreys and the two people were just about to summit. Now it appeared that there were 4 people on top, but I’m not certain. I wanted to head over to Torreys, but I was enjoying the solo summit so much that I was happy were I was. Next I found the Grays Peak Geocache and left my MT GOAT trackable for someone to take to another summit. Not long after I was on my way down. I just descended the same trail I ascended. The going was fast with the spikes on and before I knew it I was down to the point of my previous break. I saw the two other climbers making their way down, I was hoping to see a massive glissade but they chose life. I can’t blame them, I didn’t do it either. I took a couple glances at Dead Dog Coulior and saw some boulders making their way down at incredible speeds. I was thankful to see the skier was not in coulior at the time. Within 10-15minutes I was back to my first break area. I put my spikes away had some water and was off for the car.
I made my way without postholing more than to my ankles except for one or two times. Since it was so warm I was not looking forward to the drive down. I knew the slush and mud would have the Blazer all over the place. While getting my gear stowed, 2 other climbers came down the trail and asked for a ride. So we made a trade a beer for a ride…anytime. The road was worse than I thought, all over the place and sideways at times. Eventually we made it down to their Subaru. I was glad I was able to make it all the way to the trail head, because they had a good 2 miles more and probably another 1K ft. I don’t need any extra obstacles at this point. It was a great day, and I am happy to finally get up to 14K in Colorado. Now just do one a week, well let’s not get that carried away.
Date: 4/9/2012
Starting Elevation: 11,266ft
Summit Elevation: 14,240ft
Elevation Gained: 2,974ft
Distance: 7.07miles
Time: 6hrs

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