| Grays, Towers, & Beer City
High they're, my name is Vomit. I know it has been awhile since I've gotten on here w/ reports, but figured I'd post a quickie of the high terrain during Thanksgiving. This is just a basic report of conditions on some Front Range 14ers, so nothing special, just a fun read more than anything. Actually, this trip marked my first time up Grays/Torreys, which is rather pathetic considering their close proximity to Denver. I always go far to climb for some reason that I neglect these closer mountains.
Bierstadt was what I accomplished first, having set off in late Friday morning for Guanella Pass. About six cars when I got there (I love winter hiking for that reason), & an ice-free mud-frozen hard trail that wasn't in slippery flooded conditions like that of early summer. There's also that small lake to the left of the trail when you start the initial down climb to the creek - I went out on the ice & found it to be about 1/2 foot thick, making the lake easily walkable. I tried sliding & jumping just to see what would happen.
Bierstadt from the Atlantic City boardwalk.
Is there a name to this lake/tarn? Right next to the trail near the parking area.
It was surprising how calm it was, a little breeze here and there. The wind didn't really kick up until that first steep hump above all the tall bushes to where one begins that long endless grassy-covered schlog to the summit ridgeline. Since I started late, most people were coming down, so I knew I'd have a summit to myself, for a good hour until some later dwellers showed up. But as figured, the summit ridgeline was quite brutal, the breeze coming from the north, but it wasn't as harsh as it could've been. It was quite tolerable to be honest, & the wind was avoidable if you hovered on the southern face looking down towards Frozen Lake.
Views were incredible. Crestones marked the southernmost sky (saw the isolated Greenhorn Mountain east of the Sangres as well), the Elks were somewhat poking up to the west, Longs Peak had a low cloud system over it, & well, the haze was evident to the east. Looks like we're starting to see effects from the passing of Amendment 64 ha ha.
Mt. Evans nearby. Road looks dry, might have to bike up it sometime.
The lovely atmosphere & late afternoon sunset made for a pleasant descent. The peaks slowly became more tinted w/ orange & by the time I got back to the parking lot, the moon was fully visible right over Bierstadt. Calm & absolutely still, couldn't beat it.
The evening alpenglow.
So the ascent up BeerCity was pretty basic. It was from the summit that I finally took my gaze on Grays & Torreys, the twin pinnacles of the Front Range. I never really had interest in doing these 14ers, at least from the standard approach, because of crowds and in general just because they didn't sound appealing. But the November skies really seemed to make it worth a check, plus after learning Grays marked the Continental Divide high point, it gave me incentive. A minute of research, I figured I'd try my luck heading up the road to Argentine Pass via the road entrance at Keystone ski area & see how far I could get up w/o any serious snow blocks. I figured there's be less snow going up that basin for having a southern view, & definitely fewer people overall.
I started up fairly early Saturday, made my way towards the start of the Montezuma Road, then hit the dirt road that led to the Argentine Pass trailhead. The road was covered w/ crunchy sugar snow, & I didn't have outstanding traction w/ my tires. Some slick inclines, I'd get stuck midway up, spin out of control, then reverse back to a low spot & floor it up. It really was next to impossible to get stuck, simply because there was plenty of tire tracks leading all the way up to the parking area & you could easily reverse down. One section I had to cross involved an ice pool, but it seemed like it had melted a little coming back down. Conditions should be ideal even now, if you want a nice solitude approach up Grays or nearby peaks, this is the moment to do it.
Higher up you go, the less snow there is. Just where the trees were thickest, that was the hardest section to drive in, as well as an area midway up the dirt road where you ascend up a rocky section w/ some high protrudes. Beyond that, sections of the dirt road were visible up to the turnoff for the Pennsylvania Mine & beyond.
At the trailhead, I was surprised to find myself the only one there. I figured there's be at least another car or two. It didn't bother me honestly, just more to enjoy on my own. Passing the gate & remains of an ore funnel, I followed the old mining roads up Horseshoe Basin towards the ridge following up to the south slopes of Grays. Snow was sporadic, but easily avoidable. A few cairns here & there showed me the path up the grassy slope, which became rockier & rockier w/ each step. Behind me, a line of snow streaked up the mountainside, revealing the road up to Argentine Pass. I need to bike up that road one day, looks like a lot of fun.
Argentine Pass trailhead.
Glancing down the Horseshoe Basin near the summit ridgeline.
Final leg of Grays.
One highlight of the trip occurred just below the ridgeline to the summit. Two mountain goats, watching me curiously, soon got up & moved onwards in sketchiness. And then sure enough, right before my eyes, some testosterone-crazed hormonal trigger in the larger male goat sparked, & they started the gang bang. Ten times or so they did it, I didn't care to tally. Not sure why they did it that many times, either the male goat was just prepping each time or simply couldn't work it right. Uh huh, I never felt so privileged to be the only one witnessing this.
Nothing beats Rated R summit sex.
This would be a Planet Earth postcard.
Well, past the romantic air, I encountered Hurricane Sandy on the serrated ridge connecting Grays to Ruby Mountain. What should've been a relatively easy plocket to the top turned out to be a Category 17 hurricane plowing me off my path w/ relentless uplifting wind drafts making several desperate attempts to assassinate me by blowing me off the mountain into the exosphere. And if it was this bad below the summit of Grays, I knew that traversing to Torreys was going to be like jumping off a diving board into a tank full of great whites.
Somehow, & by divine intervention, I survived & reached the summit of Grays, finding a few other mountaineering champs huddled in the large snowy rock shelter. From the top, Torreys looked far & close at the same time. So I figured I'd just rush it to that peak, & see if I lived or not. And holy crocketeers, the ascent up Torreys was exhausting & humiliating, like being a spinning propeller on a helicopter w/ a cold hard-headed headache forming from motion sickness & intense concentration. I honestly didn't celebrate that long when I did reach the summit - there was nowhere to hide & escape the blast.
Torreys summit, down the standard basin I didn't ascend.
If it wasn't so awful, I would've enjoyed the view much more. I guess that's why I take panoramas, to see the views without the elements. It seemed the day overall was clearer than Bierstadt, & Longs definitely poked out high to the north, along w/ the Never Summers, Rabbit Ears, Park Range, & Parkview Mountain, one of my personal favorites. Capitol Peak was very prominent as the western beacon as well as the lava-rimmed Flat Tops. Plenty of good views, always intriguing to think that nearly every 14er you can see is named after someone or named after their appearance, based on whichever range they're in. For example, all the ones in the Front Range are named after people, those in the Elks are named after their characteristics.
The Tenmiles, the Elks, Holy Cross Ridge.
So I met a number of hikers & climbers on both peaks, though more of them on Grays. Torreys I had to my lonesome. Many of the fellow climbers were in better suited winter equipment than what I had. Seemed like everyone I met came from the Bakersville exit area, an easy ascent back down to the trail. As for me, I had to re-climb Grays to get back down to the Horseshoe Basin. What was I thinking? Plocketing forward, the traverse back sure was slow, & I didn't care to rush, the several blasts of blowing snow crossing the divide into the Atlantic watershed & smacking me in the face. But before long, I was back on top of Grays, & was presumably the last person to leave the summit for the day.
Back on Grays, jeans & sneakers to prove it.
Sitting in the rock shelter, it was quite tempting to stay up here till the sunset, but I knew I had to get down. And it was a slow descent, & finally back on the ridge opposite of the horrific wind. I was grateful for calmness as an orange alpenglow lit up alongside Argentine Peak & Mt. Edwards, the moon rising high above like it did on Bierstadt.
Down the windy hellhole ridgeline towards Ruby Mountain.
Grassy ridge down to Horseshoe Basin. Argentine Pass ahead & Evans/Bierstadt.
Wide view of the basin.
Before long, I was back on old mining roads, crossing long icy sections & meandering past forgotten mines. One mine really had my attention, on the bottom flank of Argentine, w/ what appeared to be an old structure w/ perhaps a rail track leading inside. It was getting dark, I didn't really get to examine it.
A nebula sunset.
I got back to the trailhead when it was astronomical twilight, the near full moon casting long shadows. I started up the car, warmed up, then headed back down the road, gliding through the snow & making my way back to the entrance of the dirt road. Currently, the start of the road is not gated - not sure when it would be. Keystone itself was lit up, & I went over Loveland Pass, took a stop to gaze at the moonlit peaks, then skedaddled off.
Driving conditions headed back to Keystone.
Well, conditions were still tolerable overall. I managed to do everything in tennis shoes, blue jeans, & a hoodie. Oh yes, I definitely got some looks, a few laughs, & some remarks for that. All these winter-geared climbers probably saw me & knew I was doomed from the start. But here I am, triumphant over my insanity (it was mandatory that I survived in order to get this report posted). This time of year though, I would strongly recommend a face mask, a no brainer to many intelligent climbers. Maybe get some heavy lead anchors too so you don't get hurled off the summit.
Before I sign off, here's some spherical panoramas of the summits & other areas encountered along my ascent/descent. View full screen & use the arrow keys to navigate, zoom in, etc.
Unnamed lake along Mt. Bierstadt trail
Mt. Bierstadt summit
Argentine Pass trailhead - Grays Peak south ridge approach
Grays Peak summit
Torreys Peak summit
Well, all the cold headachy wind & billy goat porn has definitely escalated my urge to purge. So please excuse me while I go *VOMIT*. Adios for now, until my next spherical report!
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):