Friday, August 19, 2016

Peak of the Week: Grays (14,270') and Torreys (14,267')

Gray and Torreys in the morning light
Grays and Torreys are two of the most popular 14ers in Colorado. The reasons for this are simple: located just off I-70 they are two of the most accessible 14ers in the state, they boast a bevy of high-quality and highly varied routes, and the popular traverse between the two peaks in one of the most user-friendly 14er routes in the state, making it handy for mountaineering newbies and pets and less-fit hikers.

We have included these two peaks together for the popularity of climbing the two peaks at once, but these peaks are each worthy in and of themselves. Grays Peak offers multiple routes other than the standard Grays Peak Trail hike (such as the fun Lost Rat Couloir). Torreys Peak also offers numerous alternative, such as the class 3 Kelso Ridge. The popular traverse between the two makes for an easy way to tick off two great mountains in a single day and a great way to get elevation in this beautiful part of the state.

From I-70 take exit 221 (Bakersville) about six miles east of the Eisenhower Tunnel and cross a dirt parking lot. Find Forest Road 189 and follow signs for 3 miles to the obvious trailhead (11,268'). This road may be a bit bumpy but I have seen passenger cars make it all the way to the top. There are places to park earlier if you wish to avoid vehicular abuse. I had no trouble whatsoever making it to the top in my Subaru.

Grays/Torreys Traverse (class 1-2) 
Looking across at Torreys from Grays
This easy route is one of the most popular climbs in the state. With a high trailhead and a solid trail for nearly the entire section (except for a few very small stretches) this route is famous for its brevity, allowing less-fit hikers to bag two 14ers in a relatively short amount of time. From the trailhead, follow the main artery up an easy-to-follow class 1 trail to the summit of Grays Peak. From here descend to the saddle between the peaks (some small class 2 perhaps) at aboout 13,700 feet, and ascend to the summit of Torreys (perhaps some class 2 again). Descend back to the saddle, rejoin the Grays Peak trail and return to your car. Simple, classic.

Lost Rat Couloir (Grays Peak) (Class 3, moderate snow)
This fun snow climb is a great introduction to snow couloir climbing and a great way to make more of this gentle mountain. Follow the Grays Peak trail for a bit over a mile until just before a sign. You can see the couloir on the face of Grays a bit left of the summit. Follow a small, faint road left into a snow basin and contour towards the base of the couloir. Enter the couloir around 12,800' and climb moderately steep snow to the ridge (snow and avalanche gear recommended). Turn right and follow the ridge to the summit.

Kelso Ridge (Torreys Peak) (class 3)
This is a great scramble that makes more of Torreys Peak. It is a bit exposed and includes some excellent class 3 scrambling. Follow the Grays Peak trail for nearly two miles. Turn right around 12,300 onto a climber's trail that ascends to the saddle between Torreys and Kelso Mountain. Reach the saddle at 12,450' and turn up Kelso Ridge toward Torreys Peak. Scramble up the ridge (with some routefinding issues) to the summit. Enjoy the white-colorado "knife edge" just before the summit.

Grays and Torreys are two of the most popular mountains in Colorado. Do NOT expect solitude! Arrive early and beat the crowds, or just enjoy the social experience that is these mountains. If hiking in the winter, be prepared for avalanches and all of the usual objective hazards of winter mountaineering. Just because they have a reputation for being easy doesn't mean they are in the winter!

Grays and Torreys- An ascent of the standard traverse in the summer time with photos, description and more

Grays and Torreys on

Torreys Peak on

Grays Peak on

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