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Torreys Peak
Elevation: 14,267 feet
Climbed: Aug 28, 2005; Aug 11, 2007; Jun 12, 2011
Mountain Range: Front Range
Colorado Rank: 11th
Class Rating: 2
Latitude: 39.642759
Longitude: -105.821178

Trip Report

Jun 12, 2011
The dog is dead...long live the dog!

I climbed Dead Dog Couloir on a warm day. The amount of snow on the mountain was incredible for June. More later...

Aug 11, 2007
I climbed Torreys Peak via Kelso Ridge from the Grays (formerly Stevens Gulch) Trailhead. The weather was perfect.

The most memorable part of the route was the knife edge just below the summit. I basically straddled the knife edge as I made my way across. It wasn't elegant, but it served the purpose.

Since I had already summited Grays Peak and Torreys Peak in 2005, I did not traverse to Grays Peak. The main reason I re-climbed Torreys was to test myself on Kelso Ridge prior to my planned climbs of Wetterhorn Peak and Uncompahgre Peak later this month. I descended the standard route.

Aug 28, 2005
Since I live in Colorado Springs, it was inevitable that the first fourteener I summited was Pikes Peak, the southernmost fourteener in the Front Range. When I again became interested in standing on the summits of high peaks, I tended to ignore the other Front Range peaks, opting instead for climbs in the Sawatch, San Juan, Tenmile, and Mosquito ranges.

After ascending 15 other mountains since Pikes Peak, I was finally ready to concentrate on two peaks in the northern Front Range, Grays Peak and Torreys Peak. These two peaks are the only Colorado fourteeners located on the Continental Divide.

On Saturday, August 27, 2005, the day before the climb, a phone call came that my grandmother, Trula Hamm, had died at age 93 following hip surgery. If my fascination with mountains had a definitive beginning, it was when I heard the stories my grandmother told of her time living in the North Cascades from 1937 to 1941.

Since I wasn't flying out for the funeral until Tuesday, there was still time for my planned climb of Grays and Torreys. As I gathered my hiking gear, and my thoughts, on Saturday evening, I decided to dedicate my climb of Grays to my grandmother. I taped together two pieces of paper and, in black magic marker, scribed "Grandma, this one's for you...Grays Peak, El. 14,270 feet...August 28, 2005...Trula Hamm...11/3/1911 - 8/27/2005." I folded the paper, slid it into a large zip-lock bag, and stowed it in my backpack.

I awoke early on Sunday morning in Colorado Springs, grabbed my gear, and headed north on I-25, west on C-470, and then west on I-70 to exit 221 at Bakerville. From the Bakerville exit, I drove south on a dirt road for about 3 miles to the Stevens Gulch Trailhead, situated at an elevation of 11,230 feet.

The trailhead parking area was already crowded when I drove in around 7 AM. I soon had my hiking boots laced, my GPS unit reset, a pack on my back, and trekking poles in my hands. The sun was touching the top of McClellan Mountain as I left the trailhead.

The trail immediately crossed a stream, either Quayle Creek or a tributary, on a solid, metal-framed bridge. The sturdiness of this bridge seemed appropriate considering the army of boots that trudge up this well-traveled trail. Close proximity to Denver, a beautiful valley, and a well-defined Class 1 trail combine to make this a very popular recreational destination.

The trail is definitely built for high-traffic use. The well-constructed lower section of the trail was framed on both sides with landscaping timber, used also to create a series of steps as the trail climbed over the first rise. Very soon, however, the landscaped trail ceased and instead became a pleasant, rocky trail through the grassy valley.

After navigating a couple of rises and turns, Grays Peak came into full view straight ahead, connected to Mount Edwards on the east side via a high connecting ridge. Torreys Peak remained hidden by the grassy south slopes of Kelso Mountain, but not for long. Each step forward revealed a bit more, first of the snow-lined connecting saddle between Grays and Torreys, then of the summit of Torreys as it slowly began to peak above the surrounding slopes.

Just under 13,300 feet, a sign indicated a fork in the trail, with Grays to the left and Torreys to the right. I took the left branch, since Grays Peak was my immediate destination.

My thoughts wandered as I climbed higher on the mountain. I thought of my grandmother. In recent years, her eyesight and health had failed. I enjoyed thinking that she could be climbing with me for the first time that day, seeing the stark contrast of the bright remnants of snow against the azure sky. I soaked up the sunshine, the sounds, and the smells of the mountain.

As I approached the next switchback from below, I noticed a few hikers milling about for a moment, then descending. I soon dismissed them from my mind, concentrating again on the methodical crunching of granite debris beneath my boots.

Suddenly, as I looked up, a mountain goat was standing just ahead of me, next to the switchback. He seemed unfazed by my presence, nor by the earlier hikers I had noticed leaving this area a couple of minutes earlier. I took advantage of this surprise encounter by taking several photographs of the mountain goat against the craggy cliff edge just beyond.

Resuming my journey, I was soon standing on the summit of Grays Peak. I retrieved the zip-lock bag from my pack and pulled out the note I had written the previous night. While I held the small banner proclaiming "Grandma, This one's for you...", a fellow hiker snapped my summit photo atop Grays Peak.

After about twenty minutes on the summit, I set my course north and began my descent to the saddle between Grays and Torreys peaks. As I approached the low point of the saddle, the size of the snow field lining the saddle became more evident. What appeared as a tiny strip of snow from far below was much larger than I anticipated. Even in late August, this strip of snow refused to give way to the persistent sunshine.

Even though the hike from Grays Peak to Torreys Peak is only about 3/4 mile, the climb to Torreys was a workout. In just under one hour, which included time for a few photographs on the saddle, I was standing on the summit of Torreys. Mount Evans and Mount Bierstadt were clearly visible to the east.

I grabbed a bite of lunch from my pack as I hunkered behind a rock, avoiding the chilly nip of the wind. There were quite a few people on top of Torreys when I was ready to take a summit photo, so rather than set up my mini-tripod, I looked for another hiker to take my photo. Coincidentally, it happened to be the same person who had taken my photo just an hour or so earlier on Grays.

OK, maybe it's not that big of a coincidence that the same person took my photo. After all, many people who hike Grays also traverse to Torreys. The much bigger coincidence is that the very next week, out of all the fourteeners in Colorado, I found myself standing on Mount Lincoln with this very same hiker. He recognized me from the week before. And guess who also took my summit photo on Mount Lincoln? That's right!

Descending again to the saddle, the trail crossed the snow field as it dropped off the saddle. Most people hiked across the firm snow, but at least one person slid down the snow field on his butt. A little more fun was worth the price of a damp backside.

The east face of Torreys is very steep and rugged, forming one side of the well-known Kelso Ridge. The main trail avoids the east face, but does provide a great view of the difficulties one would encounter on that route.

Most of the scenery was behind me as I continued to descend the mountain. Many times this caused me to pause, turn around, and admire the retreating views. Eventually, I turned around to see that Torreys Peak had again hidden itself behind the sloping, grassy shadows of the early afternoon.

I reached the trailhead roughly 6 hours after I started. Based on my GPS tracks, I noted the following hike times:

Leave Trailhead - 7:11 AM
Arrive Grays Summit - 9:38 AM
Leave Grays Summit - 9:58 AM
Arrive Torreys Summit - 10:54 AM
Leave Torreys Summit - 11:10 AM
Leave Saddle - 11:33 AM
Reach Trailhead - 1:19 PM

The day was very satisfying. The weather cooperated fully, with plenty of clouds providing visual contrast, while not a drop of rain fell. A close encounter with the mountain goat provided additional variety and interest. The trail was pleasant and just the right length, a round-trip of eight miles, to end the day feeling fairly refreshed.

This was also a day filled with many pleasant memories.

Suffice it to say that my Grandma climbed this one with me.


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