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Route #4) Torreys Peak - Kelso Ridge
Notice! In the winter months, the southeast side of Kelso Mountain is prone to avalanche activity which may run over the summer Grays Peak trail. Unless you're confident that the snow in this area is stable, it's best to leave the trail near 11,600' and take a more direct line up through Stevens Gulch before re-joining the Grays Peak trail near 12,100'.
Clear Creek: 303-679-2376
Take I-70 to the Bakerville exit (#221). Leave the highway and drive south over to the dirt parking area near the start of Forest Road 189. This is the winter trailhead and, even if the upper road is open, low-clearance passenger cars should park here. Itís almost 3 miles to the summer trailhead. Reach a junction after one mile - stay straight and follow the sign for the Grays Peak trailhead. Continue another 2 miles to the trailhead at 11,280í. There are restrooms and a few dispersed camping spots near the parking area.
Hike 1.75 miles up the Grays Peak trail (Photo #1) to a flat area (12,200') where the trail crosses a flat, rocky area. Photo #2 shows the view of Torreys and the Kelso Ridge route. Continue on the Grays trail and, when it begins to climb off to the left, stop and look for a smaller trail to the right, near 12,300' - Photo #3. The smaller trail leads to the saddle between Torreys and Kelso Mountain. Leave the Grays Peak trail and follow the trail over the base of the slope under the saddle. Look for the old, small mine shack up on the slope. Hike up the trail to reach the saddle, near 12,400' - Photo #4.
Turn left and hike onto a bump (Photo #5) to see the Kelso Ridge route - Photo #6. You can now see much of the route up Kelso Ridge, but it’s hard to identify the actual route from this vantage point. The ridge has a bunch of rock sections - some easy and some more difficult. Hike over to some initial rock outcroppings and pass them on the right side - Photo #7 and Photo #8. Next, near 12,700', stay left of the ridge crest and climb into a notch - Photo #9. Drop a few feet and ascend the first section of Class 3 rock - Photo #10.
Back on the ridge, the route comes back into view and may still look confusing. Scramble along the ridge, drop to the right and regain the ridge near 12,900', where you can see your next obstacle - a point of white rock - Photo #12. Continue along the ridge. Before reaching a wall on the left side of the white rock, drop to the right to find a dirt gully that climbs to the base of the wall - Photo #13. Hike up to the base of the wall and climb it - Photo #14, Photo #15 and Photo #16. It's Class 3, but you could take a more difficult line if you like. Above the wall, turn right and climb to the top of the white-rock point - Photo #17.
Up ahead is another point on the ridge - Photo #18. Drop a bit to the right and begin your ascent of this point - Photo #19. Once near the top of this point (13,350'), scramble along the left side of the ridge (Photo #20) and regain the ridge to see yet another point - Photo #21. Hike/scramble along the ridge and then follow a trail toward the top of this prominent, 13,700-foot point - Photo #22. From the top of the point, walk along the ridge and then follow the trail toward the right side of a small point - Photo #23. Photo #24 looks back on this area (13,900').
Continue on or left of the ridge crest (Photo #25) as you approach more serious terrain on the upper route - Photo #26. Taken from the east, Photo #27 shows the remaining climb. Photo #26 was taken along the ridge from a location on the right side of Photo #27. The next obstacle is a bump of rock the blocks access to the routes crux - the “Knife Edge.” As you near this area, the route stays left of the start of the steep bump of rock - Photo #28. Near 14,000', and left some large, smooth, angled rocks, climb steeply to the right to reach the top of the bump - Photo #29, Photo #30 and Photo #31. “Dead Dog Couloir” is down to your left, but it’s best to ascend the steep rock to the right. Again, Photo #27 provides a helpful view of the area.
After reaching the top of this pitch, scramble over to the exposed knife-edge - Photo #32 and Photo #33. There’s a tower of white rock on the other side of the knife. Scramble across (Photo #34 and Photo #35) to reach the white tower. Many find the knife edge the crux of the climb and you cannot easily avoid it. Climb around the right side of the tower (Photo #36), drop a bit, and turn left to climb the final, Class 2 pitch below the summit - Photo #37. Photo #38 looks down on the knife edge and Photo #39 was taken on the summit. For the descent, it's easiest to use the standard trail.
The road to the trailhead is somewhat rough, so a good clearance vehicle is recommended.
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