13,442 Feet…

 

Version 3

A bit over 2 months ago, a friend and I set off on a quest to conquer what Colorado people refer to as a “14’er.” Unlike our attempt last year at climbing Grays & Torreys Peak, this time around we had started far ahead of the game. For starters, we were able to drive to the summer trailhead to begin the trek, and the weather this time was far more favorable: crystal clear blue skies, temps in the mid 30’s, and only an occasional wind gust of 40+ mph. We began the trek just before 8AM. And one benefit of hiking in the fall is that the trails are far less crowded, and you typically do not have to worry about an afternoon thunderstorm.

When we had crossed the bridge over a small creek running through Stephens Gulch, the trail was snow covered from an earlier bout of snow the week prior. About a mile into the trek, Grays & Torreys Peak came into view, and were roughly 3.5 miles from the point where we stood. With Mt Kelso above, the trail in essence, follows the ridge below until turning southeast towards Mt Edwards. Heed caution in the winter because the southeast slope of Mt Kelso is prone to avalanche (Backcountry Avalanche Awareness), which tends to overtake the trail. From there, we continued towards a ridge, with Stephens Gulch looming below. This would then take us to the Grays/Torreys trail junction.

Version 2

Unfortunately, that is where our day had come to an end, at 13,442 feet. My climbing partners’ knee could no longer take the strain of the quest in order to conquer Grays & Torreys Peak. Turning back was a difficult decision for me because I could have continued; however, I tend to prescribe to the mantra of “leave no one behind.” Plus, the descent along the ridge above Stephens Gulch had been a bit sketchy.

With that said, it was a picture-perfect day, and the views were spectacular. When gazing north toward the Front Range, you could see Longs Peak inside of Rocky Mountain Nation Park, nestled amongst the various peaks. That day, I had been so close to bagging my first 14’er, yet it will still be there next year. And…there is no such thing as a bad day in the mountains!

 

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