Me scrambling about 3/4 of the way up Kelso Ridge. Most of the route is visible back to the saddle between Kelso Mountain and Torreys Peak.
My partner and I were looking for a short, fun route to beat the lousy weather lately, so we decided on Kelso Ridge of Torreys Peak. The weather looked really questionable, so we agreed on a early start to beat both the monsoon season weather and the crowds that flock to this area during the summer.
We both drove to the Stevens Gulch Trailhead the night prior, and were surprised to find several other cars already there. As I crawled into my sleeping bag, it began to rain. The rain continued to about 3:30 am. Not a good sign...
4:40am: My watch alarm goes off. It's chilly and damp because of last night's rain. I dress quickly and eat a little breakfast. I get my pack ready.
5:10am: We hit the trail with headlamps on. It's a lot cooler than it has been recently, and we hike along the Grays Peak Trail until daylight hits.
6:30am: We've passed the trail junction for Kelso Ridge, and we are now at the saddle between Kelso Mountain and Torreys Peak. Kelso Ridge stretches out ahead of us to the summit.
We don helmets and begin to climb the ridge. We quickly meet our first challenge, a 20 foot tower with traverses along either side. We check out the traverses, which appear to be Class 3, and opt for the direct line up the tower, which is Class 4. In what would be a recurring theme, we decide the harder climbing line is actually easier and safer than the traverses for us. We prefer climbing directly on the rock than scrambling on loose junk that is exposed.
Past this area, the climbing eases and we negotiate several towers. Again, we go straight over most of them to avoid the loose dirt and rock to either side. The rain from the previous night has made things slick. We follow trail segements from difficulty to difficulty. The center part of the ridge is marked by very wet and loose dirt on the trail segments. Often, we do the "one step forward, slide two back" routine. However, this part of the trail is rarely exposed, so the looseness is more of a nuisance than anything.
Eventually, we come to the crux of Kelso Ridge, a 40 foot tower with traverses to either side. This tower is near the top of Dead Dog Couloir, and most falls here will send you on a wild ride down the couloir to the valley below. Climbing the tower directly is about 40 feet of Class 4 climbing on occasionally loose rock. The right side traverse seems really lousy. The left side traverse is loose Class 3 that goes directly above Dead Dog. Again, we opt for the direct route over the tower, preferring solid climbing to a slippery traverse.
I go first and climb up about 15 feet when I see that I'm on a more difficult line. I traverse 10 feet to my left into a slightly easier gully and gain the top of the tower quickly. The infamous knife-edge ridge is directly ahead of me. My first thoughts about the knife are that it is way over-hyped. It's not more than 15 feet across, and it only has a very mellow up-slope to it. It is extremely exposed to Dead Dog, however. A fall here would have dire consequences.
My partner goes first and I follow him. I negotiated the knife by using foot holds on either side of it while bending over and keeping my hands on top of the knife, sort of "monkey style." For me, exiting the knife onto the rock above was much more difficult than the knife itself. We bypass the white rock tower avove the knife, and the summit is a mere 200 yards away. We walk up another loose dirt slope and gain the summit.
8:10: We stand atop the summit of Torreys Peak. We can already see the congo line going up the Grays Peak trail. We spend about a half hour and begin to walk down the mellow Grays Peak Trail ourselves. We pass tons of people on their way up. Looking around, clouds were beginning to build again.
10:30: Back to the cars. As I drive away, it starts to rain again, and I think about the poor folks on Grays and Torreys. An early start always pays off!
Generally, I found the Kelso Ridge to have very enjoyable scrambling on good rock. The sections that were loose were generally the walking sections. We did find lots of loose rock that could potentially harm a lower climber, so care must be taken if another party is below you.
We usually chose the harder climbing options on the ridge to avoid loose and exposed traverses. If you choose this way, you will encounter several Class 4 pitches. As I said above, we found this Class 4 terrain much more viable than the loose Class 3 traverses.
The crux and knife-edge ridge were enjoyable and not too hard. This portion has the most exposure, and rockfall here will endanger anyone in Dead Dog below you. Care must be taken not to dislodge rocks.
I think this route would be a great introduction for a novice climber to harder terrain. The climbing, rockfall, and exposure are all fairly benign, and the route is really fun. It keeps you constantly occupied until you are 200 yards from the summit.
Me pulling the exit move off of the knife-edge ridge on Kelso Ridge.