While most of you were still fast asleep Saturday morning, I sprang awake to my alarm at 4AM. Why such an early start? The goal that day was to climb a 14’er or two, Grays Peak (14,270 feet) and Torreys Peak (14,267 feet) located just west of Georgetown in the Arapaho National Forest. In the summer, you need to be at the trailhead between 4AM and 5AM to find ample parking or risk adding several miles to your trek to the summit. We had a bit more time on our hands as the snow had fallen on the high mountain peaks and the forecast for Saturday was a high of 41 degrees late in the day. That was according to the Weather Channel, which I find to be an unreliable weather source the further into the mountains one travels.
I met Steve and his son shortly after 5AM in Littleton. We double checked our gear and supplies before we headed west into the mountains. A short time later, we found ourselves exiting I-70 west of Georgetown and began the journey about a half hour down a forest service road to the trailhead. Unfortunately as we had begun our assent up the trail, Steve’s 4WD decided not to cooperate. Not wanting to damage the drivetrain, we pulled off to the side of the road in a bump out to determine our next move.
Having traveled with the goal of bagging a 14’er, we decided to hike up the forest road to the summer trailhead. I had been reading and studying the assent of Grays and Torreys Peak diligently throughout the summer and again over the past several weeks. Originally, I had thought the trek to the summer trailhead from our location would be about 2 miles but my calculation was a touch off. Piling out of the car, we suited up. No lie, it was cold and windy, with an air temperature of near 20 degrees. With the wind-chill calculated in, the temp was in the single digits just before 7AM.
We started our climb at just over 10,000 feet and what was supposed to be 2 miles, had actually turned out to be almost 3.5 miles. About an hour and a half later we had climbed to the trailhead at 11,293 feet. From the trailhead and looking out over Stevens Gulch, to gain the summit, we were looking at climbing 3600 feet over 4.5 miles in not so favorable conditions. The winds gusting 30 to 40 miles an hour, with the clouds above screaming over the peaks. If we had continued our trek, it would have meant 6 hours of climbing out and back in addition to the time required to hike back down to the vehicle. Deciding that we did not want to potentially be finishing near dusk, and the weather not as we had expected, we began our trek back down to the car. Along the way, we stopped to take a few pictures and checked out an old abandoned building.
Exiting the forest service road was somewhat adventurous as the road is slightly iced over in spots. Slowly, we crawled our way back to I-70 and beelined into Idaho Springs to grab lunch at original Beau Jo’s. Their specialty is Colorado Mountain Style Pizza. The best way to describe it would be a thick doughy crust paired with the perfect combination of sauce, cheese and toppings. Oddly enough, our waitress plopped a container of honey on the table as she took our order. I was bit confused, however, it all came together when the pizza arrived; you drizzle the honey on that crusty goodness.
After delicious lunch, we headed back to the hustle and bustle of the city. On this short trip, however, I learned a few critical things. If I were to attempt a summit in winter conditions, I need to make a few adjustments. For starters, an insulted hydration pack would be useful to prevent the tubing on the pack from freezing. Secondly, I would opt for the Oboz Bridger insulated winter boots, in addition to replacing my cold weather gloves. Outside of that, my friend and I had agreed that we would make another attempt in the summer of 2018. But more importantly, Stella and I will be back in the winter to snowshoe to the trailhead as this would be a picturesque winter trek.