Monday, July 4, 2016

Grays Peak and Torreys Peak

I hadn't successfully climbed a 14er since San Luis Peak back in 2012. Weather conditions near the summit forced us to abort an attempt at Mt. Sherman in 2014. So when the opportunity arose to do Grays Peak and Torreys Peak on my current visit to Colorado, I took it!

Grays Peak and Torreys Peak
My former WellBiz Brands colleagues Alicia Miller and Travis Little -- who were part of the aforementioned ill-fated assault on Sherman -- also came on this trek.  The forecast called for mostly sunny skies, but when we hit the trail at 8 a.m. the summits of both peaks were enshrouded in clouds.

Torreys Peak
A seasonal stream gave a nice reflection of Torreys Peak and the clouds.

Grays Peak Trail
A couple of hours into the ascent the clouds had begun to break up and sun was peeking through.  Some alpine wildflowers were in full bloom.

Yearling Mountain Goat, Grays Peak
We had a real treat along the upper switchbacks to Grays -- three yearling mountain goats grazing along the trail.  This one was also in a bit of a playful mood, bounding among the rocks.

Marmots, Grays Peak
We reached the top of Grays about four hours in, where we were greeted by some sunbathing yellow-bellied marmots.  They seemed pretty comfortable until one of their buddies elsewhere on the summit gave a warning chirp, at which point they quickly scampered off.

Torreys Peak
The original plan had always been to summit both Grays and its nearby neighbor Torreys, which I was glad about since on my one previous climb of Grays it was snowing heavily when we reached the ascent, causing us to head straight back down.  Conditions on this day couldn't have been more ideal -- warm temperatures and no threatening storm clouds to be seen.  So despite some misgivings about the route to Torreys being a little steep, we agreed that there would never be a better chance to bag the peak.

View From the Saddle Between Grays Peak and Torreys Peak
The view from the saddle between the two mountains was stunning -- just a perfect blend of green vegetation, stark rocks, blue skies, puffy clouds, and even some patches of remaining snow.

Grays Peak
The decision to press on was the right one.  Even going at a fairly slow pace -- well, Travis and I were moving slowly anyway -- we still reached the top of Torreys quicker than we expected and took in the view back to Grays.

Mother and Baby Mountain Goat, Torreys Peak
We weren't alone on Torreys, either.  A curious baby mountain goat and its protective mother kept an eye on our descent.

Grays Peak and Torreys Peak
Looking back on the peaks as we neared the end of our hike it was clear to see how the weather had improved as the day wore on.  Both summits were clearly visible and bright sunlight bathed the valley.

Rocky Mountain Columbine
It was nice to see columbines again.  This lone blossom stood out nicely from its darker background.

We actually had to park more than half a mile from the trailhead since many other folks had the same idea that we did and got an earlier start.  So our total round-trip distance ended up being close to 10 miles.  Stopping for pictures, enjoying some summit beers that Travis had thoughtfully carried in his backpack, and generally moving at a fairly leisurely pace throughout the day had us finish in almost exactly nine hours.  So the length of a typical workday, but with a lot more nature.

That's four 14ers for me now, having also done Mt. Bierstadt back in 1997.  Only 49 to go, and at my current pace of four every 19 years I should finish in the year 2154 when I'm 185 years old.  It's good to have goals!

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