| The Ups and Downs of Torreys' West Ridge
Anxious to see how the snow pack in the high country was coming along, I decided to make an excuse to go up to Loveland Pass last weekend. The resorts were busy making snow, but my car said it was a warm 34 degrees at the top of the pass at 6:30 am. Not great for snow-making, but absolutely beautiful for a mid-October climb.
I had read the route description and elevations, but it didn't click that the first .8 miles is nearly 1000 ft of vertical gain. My lungs, however, were quite aware of the situation. This route is a true ridge traverse, with no switchbacks and no shortcuts. But I was soon rewarded at the top of Point 12,915 with a beautiful sunrise and amazing views.
Sunrise from Point 12,915
Keystone and the 10 Mile Range
Sunrise and the route ahead
I followed some tracks in snow up to Cupid and returned to a faint trail on the east side. Sunny aspects were still dry, while north and west aspects were holding patches of snow. The saddle below Grizzly Peak was warm and sunny, but the climb up was anything but. Grizzly's west side was a steep scree-fest with unstable and variable snow (sugar, slush, ice) covering a majority of the trail. Once reaching the top, the true bear of this climb started to become more apparent. The saddle between Grizzly and Torreys was a long way down!
Grizzly's west ridge
Torreys and Grays from the summit of Grizzly
The descent to the saddle was fun on stable class 2 rock. I stayed at the top of the ridge, but if you're acrophobic, you should stay a little further to the right, as it drops off pretty good on the left. If there was a trail, I never found it, but I would stay to the left as much as possible.
Heading up Torreys on scree and slush
Going up Torreys was about as unenjoyable as going up Grizzly...but longer. The snow wasn't solid or stable enough to climb up the gully that parallels (and intersects) the trail, and the trail itself was all scree. I imagine that the gully would be a fun glissade in the spring.
As the route description says, once you reach the false summit that you've been looking at, it does actually get mellower. The crowds of G & T also came into view and while expected, it felt a little weird. One of the ups of the West Ridge is that it's far less crowded than the standard route. I had the entire route to myself that day!!!
Steven's Gulch from the summit of Torreys
Looking down on Grizzly from Torreys
I enjoyed a rest and some company on the summit, but with clouds coming in, I didn't want to linger for too long. I missed the trail on the way down Torreys, but found myself on perhaps more stable talus. It appeared to be snowing on several peaks in the area, but I somehow escaped it.
Going back up Grizzly's east ridge was actually much better than going down the west side. The unstable snow from the morning hadn't melted, as I had hoped, but became more icy. Being the only person on the route, I made sure to tread carefully.
I was happy to be done with that, but there were plenty more ups and downs to go. If you aren't into going up on the way from the summit to car, this isn't your route. Aside from the lack of crowds, one other upside to this route is that you get "summit views" for nearly the entire hike. You never duck below treeline, but with 5500 feet of elevation gain, you can definitely check that 3000 box.
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