Saturday, July 13, 2013

Grays and Torreys

My buddy Craig is in his last bit of training for a climb of Mt. Rainier in a couple weeks and he contacted me to see if I could get out on Friday.  I was happy to join him; I always love talking about the Cascade Volcanoes.  We had a difficult time deciding on what mountain to climb since the weather everywhere was forecasting so poor.  With a 50% chance of thunderstorms by 9am all along the Front Range we decided to go with Grays and Torreys with a 5:30am start time.  I have previously done Grays and Torreys but individually, so I was looking forward to doing them together this time.  For Craig he had not done Torreys yet, so he would at least get a new 14er under his belt.
On Thursday we sent out a message to see if anyone wanted to join us and got no response so it was just Craig and me on this one.  We met at 4:30am at the T-Rex lot on I-70.  As we pulled off of the Bakerville exit and got onto the dirt road to the Stevens Gulch TH we both noticed how the road was in really poor shape.  Last year I went up to this TH four times and have never seen the road so bad, but there were still cars at the top.  Some people just don’t care about their vehicles I guess.  On the disturbing side of things, we could smell the pit toilet across the lot so avoid this at all costs and find a tree.  The main lot was almost full, with only about five spaces left at 5:30, so we knew the trail would be busy today.  We were finally off around 5:45am, along with about 15 others.  One of us still had some business to tend to so it was a slow hike over the first 1.5miles, which is where the first main sign along the trail is.  It was a bit chilly and the wind was gusty so I couldn’t decide whether to keep my jacket on or off.  As long as we were moving the jacket off option worked best, and I was glad I went with pants over shorts today because it stayed on the cool side the entire day.
Torreys from Grays Peak
After making the corner heading to the west past the sign I was talking about the mountains really open up and you get amazing views of Grays and Torreys.  This is probably one of the most photographed spots in the area, I know I have a 20 or so photos of the Dead Dog Couloir.  From this point there is about 2,000ft elevation gain over about 2miles.  This is where you can get mentally beat, especially when you have hiked this trail so many times.  Just find your happy place, get some good views of Torreys in and trudge along up the trail.  For the first timers it will be a lot easier, but I find it much more difficult to do these hikes, while enduring some pain when you have been there before.
After the end of the long, long switchbacks I made the summit of Grays about 8:45am.  There was only one group of three guys up there when I arrived, so I tagged the top and found a wind shelter to enjoy my snickers bar.  The weather looked good so far, so I’m not sure where the forecast of thunderstorms at 9am came from.  I watched as Craig came up the last few switchbacks and we were finally both on summit number 1 for day.  After some fuel and a few pictures, Craig said he was good to try for Torreys so off we went.  I didn’t think it would take too long, but we closely watched the weather so we wouldn’t get surprised by any developing storms.
The last half-mile up Torreys was steep and seemed eternal.  We took our time and eventually made it to Torreys summit.  Summit number 2 of the day was had and it was a small crowded one.  There was a good 20 people at least on top.  There was even an older guy doing push-ups….weirdo.  We could see storms building so we knew it was time to go.  We slowly made our way down to the saddle and found the trail that cuts across the face of Grays back down to the main trail.  There was a snow crossing that was more like a ledge.  I wouldn’t recommend doing this crossing early in the morning, since it was a little dicey around noon.
We could see the black clouds starting to make their way over Grays and we were about off the steep sections so we thought we were good.  After some trudging down the rocky trail we were finally down into the basin again.  The thunder and lightning was starting to surround the mountains and then came the rain.  Craig suggested rain coats, so we stopped and dug them out of our bags.  About two seconds later the down pour commenced.  We had a good rain to deal with for the remainder of a mile and a half or so.  As the storm passed I was sweating pretty good with my coat on so I made the idiotic move of putting my jacket back in my bag.  It was great for about 10 minutes, then it all started again.  My ankles were done, but I tried to double-time it down the trail to the car.  That didn’t work to well either, but we eventually made it back to the car.  The rain was still in a downpour so we saddled up quickly into the car and were off.
Another hiker asked for a ride down to his car so he joined us down the bumpy, muddy road.  We had a serious hunger for Tommyknockers so; a quick stop in Idaho Springs was the key to finishing our climb.  It was a great day hiking with Craig, and always good to get out in the mountains.  I wish I was joining him on Rainier, so good luck Craig and have a great birthday climb!
GPS Track
Date: 7/12/2013
Starting Elevation: 11,280ft
Grays Peak summit: 14,270ft
Torreys Peak summit: 14,267ft
Total Gained Elevation: 3,600ft
Class: 2
Distance: 8.45 miles
Time: 5:45 moving, 2:00 stopped. 
Climbing Partner: Craig

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