Grays & Torreys were to be the last 2 summits of our summer trip to Colorado. We had been down in the Leadville area for most of the week and came back up to Thornton (north of Denver) to spend the night. We were up @ the crack of dawn Thursday morning and on the road to Grays/Torreys trailhead. We arrived before 0700 and saw the trailhead sign.
We had about a 3 mile drive up a slightly rough gravel road. It was slow going, but that was a good thing. It delayed our start for just long enough.
We had just started our hike when a storm moved in and we headed back to the truck for cover.
We sat there for over thirty minutes and said that we would give it until 8:00. If it wasn't done raining by then, we were going to head to Boulder to hike Flat Irons. Low and behold, at 7:45, the clouds cleared and the sky was once again blue. We set out once again, crossing the foot bridge and up the trail.
Through The Gulch
The trail is in excellent shape and it's pretty much impossible to make a wrong turn. We wound our way through Stephens Gulch, up the gently rising trail until you start the switchbacks on the face of Grays. This trail felt pretty easy to me and I think we made decent time in under 2:30 for the ascent. There were quite a few people, but also quite a few decided to leave when the rain started. We talked to one man and his young daughter who were on their way back to the trailhead. He said that they had to turn around on the face due to white out conditions. It was hard to believe, looking at the crystal clear blue sky that I was seeing. I experienced firsthand though, how weather can change so quickly on this mountain.
The hike really flew by and before we knew it, we were on the summit with about 8 other hikers. The view back into the gulch was just breathtaking. Most of the hiking trail is visible across the green valley floor far below.
We signed the summit log and took our summit shots.
We were all set to cross the saddle and bag Torreys, however, when we looked to the south, there were big black clouds looming in the distance. They seemed pretty far away, but they also seemed very menacing. We decided that we would skip Torreys and head down.
We started down, but at the first switchback, we saw a faint trail that cut over to the saddle. There were 3 other hikers heading that way. The sky still looked good so we decided to cut back over to the saddle and once we were there, we would evaluate the weather.
To Go or Not To Go
We got down to the saddle, took one look to the south, and decided that we needed to haul ass NOW! The storm was almost upon us. We looked across and saw that there were about 4 people between Grays and Torreys that would not make it before the storm. We turned and headed down as fast as we could without falling. I think we got to around 13,300 or somewhere near there and the sky let loose.
We got pummeled by rain, sleet and maybe even small hail! Our hoods were on and we were in rain gear but the sleet still stung the face. When we heard thunder, we didn't mess around. We hunkered down in the rocks and tried to stay low. We looked on the saddle and it was in complete white out. I felt bad for the people that decided to go for it.
The storm lasted about 15 minutes or so and then we continued our descent. By the time we got back down to the gentle trail in the gulch, the sky was clear and the sun was shining. At that point, I thought "dang.... we could've ridden it out and bagged Torreys", but I know we made the right choice in the end. And besides.... this gives me a good excuse to go back!
To Sum It Up
I really enjoyed this hike. Super easy access to the trailhead. It's only 4 miles off the interstate. It has excellent views. It wasn't overly crowded. (mid week) I found it to be VERY easy. (and I'm a flatlander)
A word of caution: The weather can move in rapidly, especially if it's coming from the south. The peaks and saddle block all view of incoming southerly weather. By the time you see it .... it's way too late.