Peak(s):  Kelso Mtn  -  13,164 feet
Torreys Peak  -  14,267 feet
Grays Peak  -  14,270 feet
Edwards, Mt  -  13,850 feet
McClellan Mtn  -  13,587 feet
Date Posted:  08/10/2013
Date Climbed:   08/10/2013
Author:  donquixote17
 Grays/Torreys Valley Traverse  

I did the traverse around the Grays/Torreys valley and wanted to include some details about accessing the Kelso Mountain northwest ridge as well as info on how to get from the east ridge of the valley back to the road.

I had read some trip reports on similar traverses around the valley and it sounded like a lot of fun, so I drew up a route that looked good to me.
Map of the route. Yellow dot is the start and finish location

Google Earth view and elevation chart of the route

I started at 4:15AM with a headlamp and parked at about mile 1.9 on the dirt road right next to the abandoned building on the west side of the road. There is a short road that is cabled-off just up the main road road from the abandoned building. I assume that it is just an old mine road that leads to the mine hole at the end of it. If anyone knows for sure whether this is private or public land, please let me know. I followed the road to the creek and crossed the creek by walking/hopping through it since it was very shallow there. In the dark, I lost where the road went, but was able to find it again after going uphill and to the right. I followed the road to its end where a sharp gulley starts. I started up the ridge on the right side of the gulley.

From there it was a long steep hike to the top. There is no proper trail, but it was obvious enough where people have walked before. There was no bushwacking required, which was very nice! I basically stuck to the ridge all the way up. Once above treeline, the ridge continued to steeply climb Kelso and I ran into a few locations that required low third class scrambling. I had never done Kelso Mtn before and I always just knew it as the humble 13er next to Torreys. So I was surprised at how tiring the climb up Kelso was. It was a 2,400ft climb in 1.2 miles, so quite steep, all the way up. I reached the summit at 5:45 and headed down to the Torrey's/Kelso saddle, looking forward to the sunrise.

Grays and Torreys from Kelso just before sunrise

After descending Kelso, I put on my helmet and headed up Kelso Ridge on Torreys. It was fun and tiring as usual and I made it to the summit by 8:15.

Kelso Ridge and Kelso Mountain from the top of Torrey's

I met a guy on top and we chatted about Anatoli Boukreev and Steve House. It's always fun to meet new people on a hike! I was afraid of storms after noon, so I headed on over to Grays by 8:55 and remembered that these peaks are quite popular. This was the only section on the traverse where I saw many people. On the rest of the traverse I saw a total of 14 hikers, including the headlamp light I saw on Grays from the Kelso northwest ridge. Peaceful bliss.

Onward to Edwards, I headed down the Grays east ridge along a nice trail that I never knew about. Next time I hike Grays, I'm going to cut off the standard route after the big rock lookout point and take this peaceful trail up the east ridge.

Mt. Edwards after descending Grays

I cut off this trail when it started heading to the standard route and followed light trail segments up Edwards. I stayed close to the ridge which allowed for a bit of class 3 scrambling, but was left heart broken when I realized that Edwards has two false summits. I should pay more attention to my maps. From the summit of Edwards I was able to scout out potential bail out gulleys if the weather got bad. I had originally planned on descending a gully just before point 12,267', but the view I made it look like there could be some rocks/cliffs in the gulley, so I decided that I would descend the gulley just north of Ganley Mountain, which looked to be the safest gulley to descend both in person and on the topo map.

Blue: Potential bail out gulleys, Red: The gulley I descended

At this point I was quite tired, but I saw clouds forming, so I pressed on towards McClellan and Ganley Mountains. I saw a small herd of goats on McClellan, but other than that, this section of the hike was uneventful and scenic.


On top of Ganley, the weather still looked fine, so I took a long break before descending the gulley.

The gulley I chose to descend

I put my helmet on again and the gulley started out very easy because I was able to slide down the fine pebbles and dirt like I was skiing. But lower in the gulley the rocks got bigger and much more difficult to descend. Big surprise, the scree gulley ended up not being fun to go down.

The daunting look into the gulley. No obstacles, just one long rock slide

I made it down the gulley without incident and walked back to my car by 1:30.

Total Distance: 9.2 miles
Total Hiking Time: 9 hours 15 minutes
Total Elevation Gain: 6,000 ft

Overall, I thought the traverse was a lot of fun and was a big accomplishment for me. The climb up Kelso northwest ridge was great and seems like it is the most intuitive way to do the traverse as long as the land is in fact public. I didn't enjoy the scree gulley descent and if I do the traverse again, I might just continue down the ridge and bushwack back to my car.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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 Comments or Questions

You'll sleep well!
08/11/2013 02:22
Thanks for this post!

A great write up on a long hike! The maps with your highlighted routes were nice.


Might've seen you
08/11/2013 20:42
Hey man, I think we ran into each other on your way over to Edwards, near one of those false summits and we discussed the potential bummer of descending the scree. I had no idea you had come from Kelso, that's pretty awesome!


Yep, that was me
08/12/2013 02:49
It was a good hike to get used to a bunch of ups and downs. Hope you enjoyed the rest of your hike and met up with your family alright!


I didn't do too much exploring
08/12/2013 21:20
But it seemed like the sides of the gully were sharp cliffs and it was just flat grass on top of the cliffs. So I didn't see a solid rock alternative. But the ridge has a wealth of gullies and ribs and if you looked hard enough, you might be able to find a good rib to climb down.

Steve Climber

Nice report!
05/09/2014 12:26
Thanks for sharing the full circuit, most of all, the descent gullies. Did you happen to venture toward the sides of the gully (i.e. would there be a more solid rock variation skirting near or even on the ribs)?

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