Andy in the Rockies

Trip reports, videos, and photos from hiking, climbing,
and mountaineering adventures in Colorado and beyond.

Torreys and Grays Peaks
September 21, 2002

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Julie and I left Ault (a little rural town east of Ft. Collins) at 4:30. By 6:30 we'd made it about halfway up the dirt road to the Stephens Gulch Trailhead. At this point we ran into a very rough section of the road were there were deep ruts. I was unable to negotiate these without scraping the bottom of the car ('93 Saturn SL2). After two attempts I gave up and parked the car on the side of the road. There was already one car that had apparently had the same experience. Julie and I geared up and began our hike.

While we hiked up the dirt road 20 vehicles probably passed us. I debated trying to hitch a ride with one of them because I had no idea how far the real trailhead was. However, by the time I made up my mind to ask the next pickup truck that passed us if we could jump in the back, we arrived at the trailhead. It took us 40 minutes to hike from our car to the trailhead and I estimated that the distance was somewhere between a mile and a mile and a half.

The trailhead was a zoo. There were tons of cars in the parking lot and many groups of hikers getting ready. Julie and I stopped at the restrooms to lighten our loads and let one large group of 15+ hikers leave before we started out on the trail. We hiked for about an hour through the tundra meadow below the Peaks. There were a lot of mining remains on the opposite side of the valley and they were fun to look at. By 8:20 I was starting to get cold. I was wearing my polypro long underwear top and my convertible pants. I thought when we reached the sunshine I would warm up so I resisted the idea of putting on my heavier polypro sweater. However, after we reached the sunshine, the wind picked up and I was even colder than I was in the shade. So I put on my polypro sweater, a pair of light gloves, and my stocking cap. These kept me warm enough (just barely) for the remainder of the hike.

We hiked along for another twenty minutes and reached the point where the tundra gives way to rockier slopes at 8:40. Julie was beginning to feel bad. She had a headache and her stomach hurt. After a short rest break, she decided to head back to the car and take Poudre with her. I was really hoping that Julie would make it to at least one of the summits but this was not to be her day. I made a note to myself that if Julie was ever going to attempt another fourteener we should spend the preceding night at altitude. Maybe that would help. Anywho, I soldiered on alone.

Without Julie and Poudre I made really good time and I arrived at the saddle between Grays and Torreys at 9:35. I decided to climb Torreys first. I'm not sure why I did this, but I think it was because the trail that goes up to Grays started to go way out to the east, whereas the trail to Torreys seemed to be very direct.

After another fifteen minutes of steep hiking I was on the summit of Torreys Peak. It was cold and windy on top. The temperature couldn't have been much more than freezing and one hiker estimated the wind speed to be 40 miles per hour. From the summit I could see I-70 to the east, and Quandary Peak, Breckenridge, and Lake Dillon. On the summit I met a bunch of kids from the outdoor club of my high school Alma Mater (the infamous Columbine High School). I got one of them to snap my photo. As I was leaving a bunch of them were posing for a photo with their shirts off. Ouch! After spending five minutes up there I was ready to get moving to stay warm.

The descent from Torreys Peak down to the saddle and then up the other side to Grays Peak took me 50 minutes and I arrived on the summit at 10:40. For some reason it didn't seem as cold and windy on top of Grays. The climb up from the saddle to the summit of Grays was steep. I ended up walking a hundred feet, then resting for 30 seconds, and then walking for a hundred feet etc to make it to the top. Based on this experience, I think it is probably easiest to climb Grays first. The branch of the trail that goes from the fork (where I decided to go to Torreys) to the top of Grays is longer, but not as steep. There was a couple on top who were trying to identify as many fourteeners as possible. I joined them in hopes that they could help point out Bross, Lincoln, or Democrat to me. Unfortunately we couldn't distinguish any of these, but we could identify Quandary, Longs, Eveans, Bierstadt, and Pikes.

It took me about an hour to make it down to the point where Julie had turned back earlier in the morning. I stopped for some snacks and shed my sweater and gloves. It felt good to sit in the grass and enjoy the sunshine. Since I left Julie I hadn't rested for more than five minutes in one place. It felt really nice to sit for ten minutes, especially where it was warm. I also enjoyed a new trail mix blend that I stumbled upon. At King Soopers (aka City Market), I really like their Honey Bee Mix that you can buy in bulk. To this I added a bunch more banana chips so that my Honey Bee Mix has a triple portion of banana chips. It really hit the spot.

After my break I continued on and made it back to the trailhead at 12:30. Unfortunately I still had that mile and a half to go before I got to the car. Down at the lower elevations it is quite warm and I pack away my stocking cap and converted my pants into shorts. I finally made it back to the car at 13:00. Julie and Poudre have been waiting for me for about two hours. Also, there were about ten cars parked along the road before the big ruts. I wasn't the only one that couldn't get over them.

On the way down to the Front Range, we decided to stop at the original Beau Jo's in Idaho Springs for a couple of beers and some pizza. They had one of my favorite beers on tap (Easy Street Wheat brewed by Odell Brewing Company in Ft. Collins) so I was a happy camper. If you've never been to Beau Jo's, I highly recommend it. There pizza is very unique?it's the opposite of New York style pizza. The dough is very, very thick and they pile inches of toppings on top. Instead of sizing their pizzas by diameter, they size them by weight.

Upon satisfying our hungers and thirsts, we continued down I-70 into Denver to help Julie's brother celebrate his birthday.

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