Peak(s):  Grays Peak  -  14,270 feet
Torreys Peak  -  14,267 feet
Date Posted:  06/13/2014
Date Climbed:   06/09/2014
Author:  SolarAlex
 Grays and Torreys the fun way   


Day 1



The ski season this year has been so amazing...its really a shame every year can't be this awesome. This year I have been venturing into backcountry riding, doing some touring on Berthoud Pass and RMNP. This spring I've been trying to get out and get some peaks in. The Tuning Fork on Torrey's has been at the top of my wish list for a couple years now. On Sunday it was looking like we were going to have perfect weather on Monday and maybe even a little new snow, so Chase, Will, Joe and I made a plan to give it a shot. We made it down to Bakerville about 545am, and hit the turn off for Grizzly Gulch shortly after. All was going well, until we came upon the first creek crossing. not the creek crossing where there is the log crossing. The first creek crossing, right by the ruins. Absolutely raging, even though it was probably 20 degrees outside. I didn't want to drive my truck through it because I was afraid of how big it was going to be on the way down, so we parked by the ruins and started looking for a way across the creek. Its probably worth mentioning that I could have driven across it without any real issue, as the water looked deeper than it was.
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We spent a solid 30 minutes poking around in the forest trying to find a way across while keeping our feet dry...Given the cold temperatures and the snow/ice on the ground, bare footing it didn't seem a like a particularly good idea. Chase had forgotten his socks, so he really didn't want to do that. Joe found a downed tree that was covered in snow and ice, perched over a particularly fast part of the creek. I wasn't feeling super enthused to try to cross this tree bridge with a snowboard on my back, and neither was Chase. Joe got down on all 4s and managed to get across, followed by Will. I took a couple steps onto the log and said forget it...this wasn't even the real creek crossing that a previous TR had mentioned as being the "crux of the day" , so Chase and I decided we would drive up Stevens Gulch and hike up via the standard route...Joe and Will agreed that was a better idea and carefully made their way back across.
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attempting to cross the creek


Back in the truck, we drove up the road, plowing through a couple snow drifts to park at the summer trailhead. We started the hike up the trail on start #2. We made good time hiking up through the willows, with the occasional posthole. Will showed us the fine art of skinning up flowing water/mud while we all watched in awe.
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Will getting it done in the muck

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I would say that traction is unnecessary for this section, but poles were definitely helpful at times. The trail dried out when we neared the turnoff for Kelso Ridge, and then became snow covered again once we started ascending Grays. Traction could have been useful in spots as it was a little slick, but we all managed fine. It was actually surprisingly cold...the wind felt more like an early spring wind rather than June...easily 20-25mph from the north. The temperature never seemed to warm up even with the sun on us.
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dead dog

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dead dog


As we were nearing the saddle between Grays and Torreys, we saw a duo descending the dead dog. Immediately Chase was all about it, as he has been talking about skiing it for years. Joe and Will were also up for it, but I feel like my riding ability isn't quite there yet...The thought of making turns on a 50 degree no fall slope made me a little nervous, so I decided that I would summit Grays and ride down and wait for them on the apron. I was kinda bummed about not being able to get the Tuning Fork, and even more bummed that I was wimping out on the Dead Dog, but I think it was the right decision. Plus it was getting pretty late (noon) and I was pretty sure that they weren't going to be able to ski it. I hiked up the remaining route and topped out about 1215. There were a couple other groups on the summit and I enjoyed chatting with them and eating my sandwich. It was really cold on the summit...the weather this day was truly bizarre.

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summit shot!


After about 15 minutes, I decided I couldn't tolerate it anymore and geared up for my descent. There was a strip of snow off the summit, so it was a true summit descent! well, at least for about 20 feet. After that it was a mix of rock hopping and walking down to the continuous snow, about 100' off the summit. The snow was hard and somewhat icy, so the descent wasn't the most fun I've ever had. Still, making turns in a spectacular setting, and in June no less, is always awesome. About halfway down it started to get softer, and the riding became more enjoyable. Soon enough I was down on the apron, sitting on a flat rock enjoying the sun, waiting to see what the guys were going to do.



They found the conditions on Dead Dog to be acceptable, and rode down...They were able to ski off the summit which was pretty awesome to watch. I'm not going to lie, I was nervous watching...I could hear rocks falling and loud cracking noises (assuming from cornices?) so I was relieved when they made it down. They were all super pumped. Heres a sweet photo of Chase dropping off the summit

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chase getting serious


Again, I felt like kind of a tool for not joining them but I didn't let that overshadow the fact that I had just had a great solo descent of Grays. The hike out was long and crappy, post holing for ages. Somehow, I missed the drop down into stevens gulch and instead found myself in head high willows bushwhacking and post holing through a flowing creek. I was able to get another 200' of turns down a gully though, so that was cool. Soon enough we were back at my truck, heading out.

That afternoon over a couple beers, Will and I decided to go back the following day to Grizzly Gulch and the Tuning Fork. We planned on wearing sandals/trail runners for the approach and just walking through the creeks. I was excited to give it another try. We gorged on Peppinos Pizza and passed out early, planning on another 4am start.


Day 2



I woke up at 4am, feeling a little sore but still excited to get going and get the tuning fork. We drove to the trailhead, and geared up for the hike in. The north face of Torreys is truly impressive...I feel like Torreys gets overlooked because of the ease of the Grays-Torreys hike, but that mountain is a gem. Kelso ridge is awesome, and there are at least 3 really awesome ski/snow climb routes. Plus its so convenient and close!

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I elected to wear an old pair of trail runners for sloshing through the creek, and will wore his chacos. Stepping into the creek definitely woke me up...freezing!

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wake up!


Unfortunately this was the first of several creek crossings, partly because we got off route. The road was a mix of mud and post holing. Not fun. The post holing was really taking it out of me and I was starting to feel kind of crappy. Finally, we reached what appeared to be the last full foot immersion creek crossing, and I switched over to my snowboard boots and dry socks, which was great. My feet had been numb for quite some time.

Soon we came upon this gigantic debris field from what had to have been a historic avalanche that tore down the Emperor at some point this winter. Trees over a foot thick were snapped like twigs. One of the more impressive/scary things I've ever seen. I took a ton of photos, but its hard to do it justice...an entire section of the forest is gone. It a mess of downed trees, snow and rocks.
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We made our way through there, and then followed a couple skiers across a small snowbridge and up to the start of the climb. There is a moderately steep hill to hike up at the start, and as the route description says, the right side is the easiest access to the tuning fork.

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will

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will

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hiking up the initial slope


No crampons were necessary up to this point. We put them on right below the start of the tuning fork, as the bottom part of the route is decently steep. The snow was pretty firm. This was my 2nd time climbing in my snowboard boots with crampons on, and its still a little weird. Its not like with a mountaineering boot where there is no lateral flex, so traversing felt a little sketchy. I was really feeling it by this point, I don't know how some of you skiers on here do these multiple day multiple peak trips so casually. Superhumans for sure. Slowly but surely we made progress up the route. The views were great, which helped to distract me from the burning in my legs.

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taking a rest, although it makes it seem more serious this way

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About halfway up, my left crampon popped off. Not exactly fun trying perch on a snow slope and reattach a crampon with a pack on your back. I got back on, only to have it pop off again about 200' up. I was getting pretty frustrated at this point, and may or may not have a let a stream of profanity fly, but I got it back on and kept going a ways longer. Will called down to me that it was probably time to descend, as it was getting pretty warm. The upper section was still pretty firm, but we were worried about the steep slopes at the bottom, as they would obviously be hotter. I wanted 20 more minutes to try to top out the route, but my crampon came off again and I gave up probably 200-300' from the top. I wasn't happy about it but the route will be there another day.

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will relaxing

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We geared up and began our descent. It was interesting trying to transition on a firm steepish snow slope. I found a nice rock to sit on which helped a lot. Will skied down to me and then we took turns skiing from point to point down the rest of the skiers left fork. The top part was pretty firm and bumpy, but after a little bit it got softer and became a ton of fun. It was such a cool place to be snowboarding. The views were great, the snow was great and my fun meter was pegged. My legs were screaming, but I didn't want it to end. Before I knew it, we were back down at the bottom looking for a place to cross the creek. Its always fun to look back at your tracks, to know that you actually did that.



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tasty


We crossed the creek on the same snow bridge as the morning and began the hike out...lets just say that this pegged my fun meter in the opposite direction. Postholing, postholing, mud, creeks, avalanche debris. I took a few more photos of the debris field just because I've never seen anything like that before.
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probably not a good place to be midwinter

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And it was HOT. Will really showed me why skiing is superior to snowboarding on approaches, as he was able to piece together strips of snow and mud and ski for an impressively long distance. I suppose it helps that his skis are being warrantied. I began feeling every ounce of my heavy pack at this point, and was just praying to come around a corner and have my truck be waiting for me right there. Slowly but surely we hiked down the road. I didn't bother taking my boots off for the creek crossings, so i was sloshing my way down to the truck. Finally it came into view and relief washed over me. I threw my pack down in the back, took my boots off (GLORIOUS!!!) and plopped down into the drivers seat and took a minute to reflect on what an awesome couple of days it had been. I'm about as amateur as it gets when it comes to ski mountaineering, so getting 2 peaks in 2 days was a pretty big accomplishment for me.

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free at last


Hopefully there will be a few more days on my board before the snow melts!



Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions
Billy Goat Benjamin
Question
07/03/2014 15:41
Hey, I enjoyed your trip report and the videos were cool too. Thanks! My crew and I are hiking Grays and Torreys on Sunday. Do you think there will be a lot of snow. We'll start from the summer trailhead obviously, but last time I hiked 'em was late August. Should I be concerned about tackling Grays and Torreys with just hiking boots?
Thanks!



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