TRIP REPORT: Grays and Torreys Peaks (14,270’/14,267′)

Grays and Torreys are some of the most popular 14ers because of their close proximity to I-70 and Denver. Even on a Monday during shoulder season the parking lot was nearly full by the time we arrived at 6:15am. 4WD/AWD and high clearance is a must. The road is steep and rutted out. I didn’t bring my jeep on this particular trip so I left my sedan at the 2WD trailhead right off the freeway and hopped in a friend’s SUV to carpool to the upper parking lot. While it was great weather and a fun day, I wish I had taken the advice of some friends of mine and done Kelso ridge to Torreys rather than the standard route. I think it would’ve been way more fun, and I very much encourage anyone who enjoys some class 3 fun to do Kelso ridge.

We started off that early October morning just before sunrise, it was chilly, the first snow had capped the peaks. It took us about an hour to hike the first mile and a half to the information sign just below 12,000′. We watched the aplenglow engulf the high peaks, as we continued our way up through the glacial basin.

Evans and Bierstadt in the distance

Once we made it to the shoulder on Grays, it was a simple follow up the switchbacks in the snow to the summit. Unlike some other class 1 peaks, this was a fairly straight forward climb. No real false summits. Spikes helped stick to the icy snowpack. We summited Grays in 3 hours with amazing views of Evans, Bierstadt, the Mosquito, Sawatch, and Elk ranges.

Mosquito and Sawatch ranges
Torreys and Kelso Peaks from Grays

After a brief snack and photo break on the summit we headed down the north shoulder of Grays toward Torreys. The descent was quick, maybe like 10-15 minutes, but the climb up Torreys was steep and annoying. It took about 35-40 minutes to climb torreys from the saddle. Since the trail faced the sun, it was dry. The scree trail wasn’t too bad, but it was a bit of a grind and made me wish I had taken the Kelso ridge route instead. I actually really enjoy class 3 scrambles as long as its solid. Walking up a steep scree ridge was kindof boring frankly.

Luckilly, there are no false summits for Torreys on the standard route either. It was a quick straight shot up the shoulder to the summit. the similar views continue, with the added view of a snowy Grays Peak. The weather was simply perfect! Sunny skies, and little to no wind. The Kelso ridge route was clear from the summit and could be seen the entire way up and down the standard route.

Kelso Ridge from the summit of Torreys

We hung out on the summit for a bit before heading back down to the saddle to meet up with the bypass trail. Descent took a little over an hour and a half back to the car. We saw a number of ptarmigans on the tundra and again, overall it was a goregous day and I was glad to finally check these two off my list. After climbing Longs the first time at age 13, Grays and Torreys were supposed to be my next 14ers during high school. We were on our way when we got weathered out. I had wanted to climb them ever since so it was bitter sweet to make them #14 and #15 for me!

TRIP REPORT: Wetterhorn Peak (14,015′)

What a cool peak! Wetterhorn was a blast. This might be my #2 favorite fourteener now because it was so much fun! My favorite part was definitely the infamous final pitch and would do it again in a heartbeat.

This was an all nighter adventure for most of us and we were all feeling it by the end. That Friday evening, I drove from Salt Lake, my climbing partners drove from Denver, and we met up in Lake City and headed immediately to the trailhead aiming to summit by sunrise. We parked at the 2WD trailhead before all loading in my friend’s 4Runner to climb the super sketch 4WD road to the upper trailhead. (High clearance vehicle DEFINITELY needed) We started hiking by about 3am and while we were taking our time, we were still making great time as the first 2 miles breezed by in less than an hour. The trail was very well marked and easy to follow in the dark.

Navigating the boulder field on the way up to the saddle was a bit trickier to follow in the dark, but easy in the daylight. The trail is still fairly visible and easy to see in light as we came down, but we did get off track a tiny bit on the ascent in the dark as it was harder to see. Once on the ridge, the trail heads up a steep sandy section before entering the class 3 section. Navigating the class 3 section felt a little like a choose your own adventure. There were a small handful of cairns sparsley laid out, but getting up to the flat spot really was up to you as long as you stayed infront of the rock rib. Some of us tried to climb the rock rib thinking we were already at the notch… Not Reccomended. Ended up in some class 4 territory for a second and had to backtrack.

On the class 3 ridge with the Notch and summit above us.

After navigating the ridge for some time and watching the sun begin to rise behind Uncompahgre, we made it to the flat spot just before the notch. This signifies you are like 10 minutes from the summit and you can see it right infront of you. After climbing the notch, and butt-scooting down the slab, you come to the base of the final pitch which has super solid holds and feels like your climbing a natural ladder. This was definitely the coolest part of the route. Comparitively, I would say this was steeper than the homestretch on Longs Peak, but easier and shorter as the homestretch gets SUPER slippery and feels way more exposed. As steep as this pitch on Wetterhorn is, it feels a bit enclosed as you climb and you don’t feel as exposed as it looks.

We came up on the summit at 7am, just in time to see the sun finally come up over Uncompahgre. The morning views were spectactular and we even found out later, a nearby climber on Matterhorn snapped a photo of us on the summit!

Heading down that final pitch wasn’t as nerve wracking as one would think. It is so fast and you’re done before you know it. Navigating the remainder of the class 3 section was much easier to follow on the downhill as we could see the route below us. After that, the trail was once again easy to follow back to the car.

Us on the summit of Wetterhorn! Photo by Todd Field

Overall, I freaking loved this peak. It was such a fun climb! Highly reccomend for those new to class 3 peaks, I thought this was a fairly mild class 3 and would be a great first one for those working on their fourteener climbs and working into more technical climbs. 4WD and high clearance definitely needed to get to the upper trailhead (we were nearly sideways at one point). If you must start at the lower trailhead, it will add a little bit of extra mileage.

Happy Climbing!

The 14er Quad: Democrat, Lincoln, Cameron, Bross

Report from 6/30/18

I’ve been home from Nepal less than 2 weeks and the high altitude fever was already killing me! time for some more high peaks! 4 in a day to be exact.

Located South of Breckenridge, CO and North of Fairplay lies a series of 14ers in the Mosquito Range. Some of these got checked off my list on Thursday.

We left Littleton around 3am to drive the 2 hours to South Park. the trailhead for this quad is located up a dirt road Northwest of Alma. My partner and I started hiking at 5am. After reading various forums on the internet, we decided to take the advice of many and do the loop backwards, starting with Bross. The trail is steep with slippery scree and many have mentioned that it is much easier going downhill on Democrat, especially if you have bad knees. So, with that advice, we started with Bross. As we neared 14,000′, we ran into 2 mountain goats who were surprisingly chill with us hanging out with them. After a few selfies with the goats, we moved onward to the summit. Within 2 hours we were on top of our first out of 4 fourteeners for the day at 14,172′.

**A little note about Bross: Mount Bross’s summit is located on private property, so technically, you are not legally allowed to go to the summit. The trail scoots right along 14,000′ so if you do not feel comfortable trespassing, then you still at least hit 14k. The mountain itself lacks structural integrity. It is an old mining site and has not been maintained so with the summit trail closed it is a “climb at your own risk scenario. Also, NEVER EVER enter one of the mines as they all risk collapse. Other people have reported that on occasion there will be someone monitoring the fork in the trail on Bross to keep people off the summit. We didn’t see anyone on our ascent. My guess is because we started with Bross instead of Democrat and no one was monitoring the mountain that early.

After spending about 20 minutes enjoying the summit, we moved on to your next peak. Headed down the saddle, following an old mining path past Mount Cameron, we soon arrive at our highest point for the day. after 50 minutes of traversing, we were standing on the summit of Mount Lincoln at 14,295′.

A short 10 minutes of pictures and smiles, we move on to Mount Cameron. Since Cameron’s prominence does not meet the 300′ minimum, it is not an official 14er, and is listed as unranked. It is basically an extension of Lincoln’s shoulder. Regardless, it is named and still a peak in my book, and the trail goes across the summit so after maybe 20-25 minutes of hiking, we were standing on Mount Cameron at 14,238′.

We spent a good amount of time resting on the summit of Cameron knowing we had a large obstacle ahead. The downside to doing the loop backwards is the fact that Democrat is last, and it is the hardest of the 4. After dropping over 800 feet in elevation, we then had to re-ascend 700 of that within a half mile. it was slow, steep, rocky, and exhausting in the hot sun. After what felt like forever, we finally stood on the summit of Democrat at 14,148′. We are 4 for 4 on this fourteener loop!

Car to car, including our summit breaks, it took us 8 hours. We arrived back to our car at 1pm, and headed into South Park for lunch!

Definitely recommend this loop as you can check off 4 peaks of your 14er list. Be sure to acclimatize well before doing this climb as it is a long day above treeline. Bring lots of water and always be prepared for weather!