Not The Best Start
With the weather being tricky on July 4th the day lent itself to more drinking and lounging around than climbing. I did manage to get 3 pitches in and a 6-mile hike in to Blue Lake in the Indian Peaks. The hike was more to bleed the system of the toxins that I willingly and joyfully added to my system earlier in the day so I would feel descent for Kelso Ridge the next day. My plan failed.
My new partner arrived at my house at 4:00 am. I did my best to keep the hangover from him. I never want a new partner to think that I’m going to be some kind of pill because I was blitzed the day before. On the inside I was a pill, on the outside I was “normal”. But I was suffering. The day started out with a speeding ticket for my partner and a raging headache for me.
This is what I think of speeding tickets and hangovers!
Minor Route Details
We made it to the trailhead and began hiking at around 6:30. In no time we were on Kelso Ridge. The ridge was far easier than expected. There was not a single section that gave me pause. It annoys me that some of the descriptions that I read for this route are so overblown, almost in a manner in which the writer wants to instill a sense of fear in the reader. I read comments like, “if you fear exposure, this is not the route for you. BEWARE! BEWARE!!!
Here I am fearing exposure. NOT! Me just past knife edge.
I’d say if you fear exposure and want to get into traversing ridges up high, this IS the PERFECT route for you. The exposure is minimal. The knife-edge is a pussycat, mellow but still fun and provoking wonder if it will reach out and scratch you. It never scratched! We made it to the summit in about 2.5 hours from the trailhead.
The pussycat knife edge.
Me on summit
My partner wanted to head up Grays. Grays made me yawn in the past on a previous trip so I didn’t want to hit it again. I opted to run back down to the valley and then ascend the west ridge on Kelso solo. Now this was fun! Somehow I managed to make it far more difficult than it needed to be. By staying right on the ridge, you can make it class 2+. By staying left on the ridge, the climbing was 4th class, attention getting and fun.
My goals on Kelso Mountain were to summit fast, in hopes of beating the storms that were coming in all around me and also to ensure that my partner would not have to wait for me at the car. I was fast like ninja!
My impression of Kelso Mountain? It has too many false summits but lots of fun scrambling if you search for it. I’d hit a falsey and think, “YAY! I’m here! That was fast!” Then I’d see the summit further to the East. Grrrrrrr. I traveled further across the ridge. “Yeah, now I’m here! That was STILL fast!!!! I’m cool! Wooo Hooo!” Then I’d see the summit further to the east yet again. I’d hit a more technical section on the ridge thinking that when I pop up on top I’d see a nice fatty pile of rocks as the summit marker. Wrong song ding-dong!!! Anyway, by the time I made it to the summit I thought, “FINALLY! Now I just need to run down this thing and make sure my partner doesn’t have to wait for me.”
The Run Back
I began descending the South slopes. “POW!” In comes the thunder. “Crackle!” I see lightning out of my peripheral vision. There is no real trail that goes down the slopes so I ran, slid, slipped and slopped my way down as fast as I could. By the time I made it to the main trail in the valley, I was soaked and had a hole in the ass of my pants. It began hailing a bit and there was more rain. Something inside of me kicked in and I felt happier and more exhilarated than I had felt in weeks. I was running fast. My pack was bumping me and annoying me but I managed to stay fast and stay strong. It was raining harder. The thunder was beautiful. I was in the zone. You runners out there can relate to this feeling of bliss that I’m talking about. I like to call it the G-Spot of running. I was in the mountains and I didn’t have a care in the world. For a brief moment in time I had forgotten about daunting work issues, a feeling of stagnation in my life, car repair bills, etc… Up here, that was the small stuff and in the mountains I never sweat the small stuff. No fear, no pain, nothing but happiness.
And So It Ends
Grays, Torreys and Kelso Ridge from the summit of Kelso Mountain.
I made it back to the car 30 minutes before my partner. It was his car so I waited outside in the rain. I took off a wet layer and put on a dryer, more water resistant layer on top. I sat under a tree, took some Tylenol, ate some food and started thinking about what I wanted to do this weekend. At that point I realized that my hangover was over but with a twinge of sadness I also realized that my day was over too.
A fun day out in the mountains is always bitter sweet. It’s so sweet because I’m in this place that makes me feel more at home than the place that I actually pay for and call a home; my townhouse in the burbs or Littleton. Yet it remains so bitter because I always have to leave. So I’m sitting here writing this during the wee hours of the morning, trying to rekindle the memory through a trip report. Can you feel it? I really enjoyed myself and I hope you guys enjoyed my report!
Trailhead to summit: 2.5 hours
Torrey’s summit to valley floor to Kelso summit: 1.5 hours
Kelso summit to car: 1 hour