Peak(s):  Torreys Peak  -  14,267 feet
Date Posted:  09/30/2014
Date Climbed:   09/20/2014
Author:  hokiehead
 Torreys Peak - 1st Class 3: Kelso Ridge Up, (Grays DNS), Standard Down  

Start of climb: 6:44AM
Torreys summit: 10:18AM
Back to TH: 1:00PM
mileage: 6.75 mi
Total elevation: a little more than 3000'. note: we {sarcasm} intentionally {/sarcasm} parked below the TH and walked the extra because {sarcasm} we're hard core about the 3000' rule and {/sarcasm} the lot was packed.

Executive summary: Awesome climb for my first ever Class 3 route of a tall summit. We skipped Grays due to being hardcore about the 3000' rule, and my climbing buddy's injury. Those I meet on CO peaks are very cool people! Lots of sarcasm.

Detailed version:

Planning and route selection:
My Cyclone buddy (the Iowa State kind) was visiting from Wisconsin and we had planned to hit Grays and Torreys at the end of his week's visit. Cy has a lot more climbing experience than I, never mind being younger and more fit, so we decided that Kelso Ridge would be a great climb for my first Class 3 route and his first official 14'er. I went through my normal preparation routines -- including reading multiple TR's on 14'ers. I've also become a recent proud owner of Roach's book, so added that to my prep ("this is a climb, not a hike")!

Now, I note that most trip reports of Kelso Ridge have this two parts:
(1) 2 to 3 pages of text and photos describing their route up Kelso, crossing the knife's edge and climbing the walls in as much detail as can be recalled regarding the choices made, number of times getting off route, comments on the exposure, etc...
(2) a single sentence or phrase, something like "... and then we walked over to Grays, and then we walked down"
I was hoping this TR would be something like that.

I had been monitoring TRs and CRs for these peaks for the weeks leading up to this and was getting worried until about a week before the climb. However, the most recent reports were "clear" and the weather was only getting better.

Multiple threads here on 14'ers discussing "good first Class 3 routes". Thanks to everyone who suggested Kelso Ridge -- I agree! Background: This was my 3rd 14er; I have some top-roping experience, but no sport/trad.... yet; the "difficult class 2" on Halo Ridge of Holy Cross more than prepared me for the endurance here -- that was a good idea as I had confidence that my fitness level was sufficient. The climbing on Kelso Ridge turned out to be PERFECT and exactly what we were hoping for. I considered the exposure to be mild and didn't feel in danger at any point (if this is 4/6 exposure, I'm feeling more confident that all the 14'ers will be within my reach if I keep at it). The top roping experience was a big help: getting a feel for good hand holds and foot holds, knowing how/where to apply force to push myself up and into good positions, as well as experience looking more than one move ahead. I had some concern going in about how hard it might be climbing at that elevation, but the short Class 3 sections were fine for our fitness levels (i.e. if you can climb a steep talus Class 2 slope at 13k, you can probably climb a moderate class 3 slope at 13k -- based on my 1 statistically insignificant data point).

Second, if you're debating whether or not to wear a helmet on a Class 3 -- STOP IT. Go get a helmet -- yes, I'm an old guy saying it, but all the advice you read here is dead on. Both Cy and I cracked our heads twice during the ascent on overhanging rock and were very grateful we had the protection.

Equipment and supplies taken:
water -- I took 3 liters, drank < 1 (which surprised me, two points: 1. why am i carrying so much more water than needed? 2. shouldn't I be drinking more?)

food: Buffalo jerky (b/c Cy was visiting Colorado and he had brought some heinous tasting beef jerky on our RMNP trip the weekend before), granola bars, PBJ, snickers bars, trail mix -- ate about 1/2.

printed route description from 14'ers (referred to frequently)
14' TR's and Roach's book (prep only, didn't bring)
Trails Illustrated map, compass (never used)
downloaded route info from 14'ers to my phone (never used, stuck with the old school, kill treeing paper)

clothing:hiking pants, synthetic T, synthetic base layers, rain jacket (didn't use), gloves, stocking cap, sunglasses, wool socks, hiking boots, Hokie cap (game day,and all)

bug spray (didn't use, didn't need)
trekking poles (thank goodness)
phone used for downloaded route descriptions/photos, text messages from the summit (yeah, I'm 'that guy')
first aid supplies (that, at the time, did not include Ace bandagess)
head lamp (not used)

Summary of the trip:
Up at 4AM, final trip prep, hit the road by 5AM. Realize I forgot my sunglasses, go back, really hit the road by 5:15. Mrs. H came with us -- she's not quite up for the tall summits, but the plan was for her to kill time in Silverthorne while Cy and I did Torreys and Grays, then the three of us would do a moderate 2 - 4 mile hike later that afternoon. She dropped us off down the road from the TH, found someone to get the 'hike start' photo and we're off at 6:44AM.
Obligatory TH photo

I loved the way this climb started. Nice gentle uphill hiking to get my heart moving for the first 1.75 miles until the Kelso Ridge trail breaks off to the right and gets steep. We missed the Kelso turn the first time and had to double back a little (note: route finding is not yet one of my core competencies). Found it, turned off and went past the old mine shaft.
Nice gentle uphill to get started

the mine -- we didn't get up close and explore, too excited about the coming climb

I'm noting that this TR is approaching "a quick blog of your hike" -- I want to get better at taking notes and documenting tricky parts of the route so my TR's will "have good beta" and add a little more value for other climbers. Great view of aspens as we climbed.
Colorado is awesome!

Once we crested the ridge, we had a good view of the remaining route to Torreys.
Kelso Ridge

Here's a shot of Cy climbing the first Class 3 wall. Mild exposure, and this shot is representative of the level of challenge a climber should expect on this route.
First Class 3

The general advice to stay to the right of the ridge was good. We got slightly off route a couple times, but in general was able to follow the route description here.

This is the second Class 3 section, on the white rock. We went left of the ridge this time, and there were other Class 3 options, but this was good.
Second Class 3 - The White Rock

There was no snow impeding our path, but there was one patch of icy rocks on the ridge shortly before the knife's edge -- No issue finding dry rock for hand and footholds once I realized it.

Cy went first across the knife edge, butt-scooting most of the way. I didn't see a need to do anything more daring. I felt very confident all the way across -- I had solid hand holds as well as good places to plant my feet, the whole way.
The Knife Edge

Once across the edge, it's a short climb up the final talus slope.

Summitting Torreys felt great and Cy had now officially bagged his first 14'er. We both had plenty of gas left in the tank, and, if you had asked us at that point what the probability was of us also summitting Grays, the response would've been "1".

I sent Mrs. H a text confirming we were still on schedule to be picked up at noon, discovered there is not a survey medallion on top of Torreys, snapped a few obligatory summit photos (no manila folder sign with Little H being absent).
Torreys Summit -- no chance we couldn't make it to Grays...

As I started heading down, another climber pointed out that the tube from my hydration pack was leaking -- the mouthpiece/nozzle had come off. I started looking around in a panic and eventually turned to head back up the summit, when the first angel of the day put her hand out and handed me the mouth-piece! "I saw it on the ground, picked it up, looked around and saw you looking about frantically...". No idea who you are, but thanks! I put the nozzle back on the Camelback tube, and we start booking down the hill, leaning on trekking poles.

I'm about 200 yards down the slope when I notice that Cy is pretty far behind -- he's usually quicker than me, so I know something's up. Sure enough, about 10 yards down Torreys, he stepped off the trail to allow some ascending hikers to pass, twisted his ankle, rolled on it and sprained it. Thank goodness for the poles, as they allowed him to take most of the weight off and he continued down. We immediately decided to bail on Grays (although, I find myself tempted to tell people we didn't plan Grays because we're hard core about the 3000' rule). Cy kept leaning on his poles, and we made it about 1/2 way down before being passed by a couple of more angels, who we had talked to on the summit. They could tell he was hurting, and when we explained the sprained ankle, BOTH of them offered an Ace bandage! The gentleman, @MountainHiker on, told us that he'd carried that bandage for 3 years without needing it, and that the last bandage he carried also went to a stranger in need -- clearly it's good karma to carry an Ace bandage with you -- it apparently means that someone besides yourself will need it! I have since purchased two and added them to my pack, looking for the opportunity to pay it forward. @MountainHiker and @MountainHikerette -- thank you so much (from a Packer fan) -- we really appreciate your kindness!

Passed CFI volunteers doing trail maintenance on the way down the standard route -- thank you (again) for your service!

We made it back down at 1PM. Mrs. H, of course, didn't get any of my text messages following the summit one where we confirmed she should still get us at noon. {sarcasm}She really had fun hanging out at the TH wondering what was going on.{/sarcasm}

Note -- we met up with a group of 4 guys from Denver on the ridge and have pix of you crossing the knife edge. Fire me a PM and I'll get the photos to you.

The aftermath:

With Cy's bum ankle, we also skipped the planned afternoon hike. Grabbed a bite in Breck then adapted our plans from 'hike' to 'scenic drive', discovering the awesomeness that is the Boreas Pass -- Three thumbs up from our group as we couldn't have timed it better for the Aspen colors!
Boreas Pass

Got to Denver, ate again (Trattoria Stella, which also gets thumbs up), and went to see Elton John at the Pepsi Center.
Sir Elton John at the Pepsi Center

Sixth time that I've seen the Rocket Man in concert (first time was 1989) -- great stuff, making for an epic Colorado Saturday. Interesting note: Elton shared that he once recorded at Caribou, near Nederland, which I thought was pretty neat. We rolled home around midnight, checked the DVR only to learn that I had somehow screwed it up and didn't record the Hokie/Yellowjacket football game. DAMMIT! Although, from reading game reports, I didn't miss much and it's looking like a good football season to spend outdoors being active.

The next day, Cy had to return to the land of bratwurst and cheese, but I stilled owed Mrs. H that hike. The Snowshoe Hare trail in Golden Gate Canyon SP offered the perfect "day after cool down". Although we probably didn't pick the best section of the park for aspen viewing, we did have the entire trail to ourselves.
Golden Gate Canyon SP

No offence intended to those who are 'hard core about the 3000 foot rule'. We were just amused that both the parking lot situation as well as the injury conspired to keep us true to that, without necessarily trying (maybe it's a sign).

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12

 Comments or Questions

Nice job
10/01/2014 07:09
I agree, Kelso is a great choice for a Class 3 starter. I'd also recommend Wetterhorn, I absolutely loved that peak.

Also, I agree with your thoughts on the helmet. I didn't use one on Wetterhorn or Kelso Ridge, and both times, just had a nagging feeling of wishing I had one. On Kelso, like you, I lightly hit my head on an overhanging rock, and that wasn't a whole lot of fun. I will definitely be purchasing a helmet over the winter.

Nice report, and I good luck on future climbs.


Nice Report
10/01/2014 23:06
I would be thrilled to give away every bandage I carry! It was nice meeting you guys.

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