Grays and Torreys via Stevens Gulch TH

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Trip Report
Colorado, United States, North America
Date Climbed/Hiked:
Aug 15, 2002
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Created On: May 27, 2003
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I arrived at the Denver International Airport at 10pm on August 14, 2002. I picked up my rental car which turned out to be a Daewoo compact. Little did this poor car know the abuse it would be receiving over the next 4 days. Immediately after leaving the airport, I headed straight for the Grays Peak Trailhead (Steven's Gulch Trailhead). From I-70 west, I jumped off at the Bakerville Exit. Just south of the exit is a dirt road which leads to the trailhead. This dirt road was the first test for my Daewoo rental. This road was three miles of uphill pure torture for this poor little car. The road was full of pot holes, or maybe it would be better to say that the pot hole field had a road going through it. Needless to say, I had two hands on the wheel the whole way.
I eventually arrived at the trailhead parking lot at around midnight. I could hardly believe that only 5 hours before I had been at 500 feet above sea level, and now I was preparing to sleep at 11,000 feet above sea level. The thought intimidated me. "Was I going to wake up in the middle of the night with problems breathing, or headaches?" I pitched my one man tent on a spot just off the parking lot. I didn't want to walk to far from the car, because I was afraid that I might walk off a cliff. It was pitch black outside and my little flashlight did not help much. Once I finished setting up the tent, I crawled in with my fleece blanket and my bottle of water. I should have used the full sleeping bag that I brought, because I froze that first night . I woke up about every hour, because I was cold, and one time I woke up because I heard something scampering around outside my tent; or at least I thought I heard something. I tried to make some noise to scare it away, and went back to sleep. Maybe I was just dreaming!
The next morning, I woke up and crawled out of my tent around 5:45am. My view was mountains all around me. I was in awe. Facing directly in front of me was Mount Kelso, which is only a 13er, but it looked huge to me. I swore that it had to be either Grays or Torreys. You can't really see Grays and Torreys from the trailhead. Also, 14ers don't have trees on the summit, and Kelso did. I was naive, but learning quickly. After eating my breakfast - two cinnamon pop tarts (yummm!) - and packing up my day hiking pack, I headed towards the trailhead at around 6:15am. I actually walked down the road about 50 feet so that I could gain a total 3,000 feet of elevation to the top of Grays.
The trailhead starts by crossing over a nice, solid bridge. The trail is very clear, lucky for me, as I had no clue where I was going. I did have trail maps with me, but I was clueless about reading them. So, I just followed the trail. I met a family from Maryland and another group from Chicago on the way up. I passed them both, which worried me. "Was I going too fast, would I crap out at 14,000 feet, or before, of severe AMS, because I climbed to quickly. Would I ruin my whole week adventure because I pushed too hard the first day?" But, the main thing that I noticed about the people that I passed was that they were huff-and-puffing due to exhaustion, and I really was not. I was hoping that all my marathon training would give me an edge, and this was the first sign that I did have that edge.
As I was passing the family from Maryland, the Father offered me some Ibuprofen, because I mentioned that I had a very mild headache coming on. I learned to add this drug to my regular diet. Most of the Grays trail to this point was dirt with some low vegetation. From the middle, to top, the trail gets much more rocky, but still pretty flat and easy to follow. I witnessed my first Pika on the way to the top of Grays. Cute little buggers. They look like Chinchillas without tails. Most of the time you don't see them though. But you here them, as they squeak at people going up the path. They squeak on your left, and then on your right. I'm sure that they are communicating to each other, probably something about people coming and possible food. The trail was very clear until the last 500 ft up Grays At this point the obvious options were to continue up switch backs to top of Grays, or to climb up to the Grays/Torreys saddle and then summit from the saddle. I chose to continue up Grays via the switch backs, as this looked like a less aggressive route.
Grays was generous in that it did not have a "false peak" Once you hit the top, you were there. My time from the trailhead to Grays summit was just over 2 hours. Once I hit the summit, I was in utter ecstasy. I had summited my FIRST 14ER!!! I was the first to hit the summit that day. I'm sure that I confused later summiters with my input to the summit register. I accidentally put the date as August 16, 2002 (the actual date was the 15th). Opps, I had changed my watch last night and goofed. The view was outstanding. I was amazed at the view down into the valley that I had just come from. One of the first things that I noticed was that the tree line was well below the summit on these 14ers, but that was not the case for Kelso; a 13er. This definitely distinguishes a 14er, I quickly learned.
After spending 15min on Grays, I started going straight towards the Grays/Torreys saddle. I could not immediately see over the edge and I did not know the quality of the path. But, I just followed the trail map, which indicated a good trail directly between the two peaks. Once I got to the edge, the trail was actually clear, and was only a slight bit more aggressive and rocky than the trip up. Keep in mind, this is my first 14er climb, so I was bit more cautious and naive. I quickly stumbled down into the Grays/Torreys saddle. As I was climbing up the steep peak to Torreys, I ran into my second set of critters - mountain goats. These were a mother and baby. I wasn't quite sure of them, but they didn't seem to care much about me. My only worry was that I would turn my back on the mother and she would butt me off the side of the mountain. Whole unjustified! I suspect that they were interested in me for any food I might have to offer. The baby was a little timid, but they both let me get quite close to them. Once, the baby stumbled, because I got too close, too fast. The baby regained its footing without hardly a skipped beat. I guess these beasts are pretty agile on the mountain.
Overall, it took me about 35 minutes to drop from Grays to the saddle, and climb back up to Torreys. I was the first on summit of Torreys also. The 700ft trip up to the Torreys peak was a bit steeper, but not really what I would call a scramble (no hands use). I liked the top of Torreys better. Just something about it being a smaller top, made it feel more like a really tall mountain. I again signed in with the wrong date. I setup the camera to take a picture of myself on Torreys. I had captured the Summit. I spent about 15 minutes at the top of Torreys, just absorbing the view on my second 14er summit. I was a bit worried about going down the steeper slope of Torreys, but the trip down was really not that scary after all. I met a guy on the way down who was speed hiking/running the two peaks this morning. We talked a bit about hiking fast and also what peaks he had already done. It was good to meet another fitness/running nut on the mountain. Overall, it took me about 1 hour and 15 minutes to get down from Torreys. I did not take the route back to the top of Grays, but instead took a route down from the Grays/Torreys saddle. I felt very good at this point. However, I was starting to develop a slight headache. I suspect that the ibuprofen that I took earlier had help to hold off the headache a little bit. When I got down to the flat part of the trail, I ran a lot at the bottom (the last two miles). However, I stumbled on the terrain several times on the way down. This made me think twice about running these trails, especially on the way down. I returned to the trailhead about 10:45; 4 hours 30 minutes round trip including time spent at the summits. I took another dose of Ibuprofen, since it had been several hours since the first dose. I met another man at the trailhead parking lot, who obviously had extensive experience climbing 14ers and running at altitude. I told him my plan for the next few days and he was very supportive, and told me I would do fine. He suggested that I might want to try Bierstadt next. So, based on this suggestion, I decide to try for a 3rd 14er on my first day.


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