Grays Peak

I wasn’t sure what to do on Labor Day, since I didn’t plan to work and the kids were doing different things. So I decided to climb a fourteener. I picked Grays and Torreys, which are supposedly the “second easiest” mountains to climb, after Bierstadt which Thom and I hiked last year.

My main goal was to see how I might do in a couple of weeks when I head up to Seattle for Thom’s wedding. We’ll be hiking ten miles into the North Cascades for a four-day mountain adventure, and Thom warned me that it’s a “tough” trail. If it’s tough for a guy who spends most weekends climbing mountains, it pretty much means it’s going to be crazy difficult for me! I figured a little practice might be in order.

I have a new pack, and I loaded it with a bunch of stuff that I absolutely didn’t need (like a tent) just to give it some weight and make it more “realistic”. I wanted to find out if the pack would work on steep trails.

I kissed Laralee goodbye and headed out. The drive to the trailhead is about 90 minutes, and there were a lot of people. It’s a popular destination, since both peaks are “easy” fourteeners. I had to park about a half-mile from the trailhead on a narrow rocky road, meaning my hike was a bit longer than it might have been otherwise.

Anyway, I got underway and started to climb. After a while it was obvious that the exercise I get playing ultimate and biking doesn’t really work the same muscle groups. Combined with the thin air (the trailhead is at 11,000 feet) I was breathing heavily as I went.

Up around 13,000 feet, the trail divides and you can hike to either Grays or Torreys. Here’s a view of Torreys, partially hidden in clouds. There was a big storm rolling in, and I knew I had to get up quickly.


I decided to do Grays because it wasn’t (yet) in clouds, so I took that fork and made it to the top. Here’s the view from up there:


Woo hoo!


After a few minutes on top to catch my breath, it was time to head down. Almost immediately, the wind picked up to about 20-25mph and it started pouring freezing rain. They were those little ice pellets that sting, especially in the wind. Both peaks quickly disappeared into clouds, and I could hear distant thunder getting closer. It was definitely time to get moving!

Obviously climbing the other fork to the peak of Torreys wasn’t an option. Here’s the view looking down the mountain– you can’t even see the trail anywhere.


I slogged through the freezing rain, which mixed with snow and left me pretty much drenched. My pack was awesome: everything inside stayed dry, and I could hardly even feel it on my back. I can check that off my list.

I found out that some of Zack’s Boy Scout leaders are planning a trip to climb Grays and Torreys this Saturday, and they’ve invited me to join them. Twice in one week? Hmm.