Peak(s):  "Cupid"  -  13,117 feet
Grizzly Pk D  -  13,427 feet
Torreys Peak  -  14,267 feet
Grays Peak  -  14,270 feet
Edwards, Mt  -  13,850 feet
Argentine Pk  -  13,738 feet
Date Posted:  09/10/2016
Modified:  09/13/2016
Date Climbed:   09/10/2016
Author:  emcee smith
 Mt. Edwards the Hard Way   

So this was a dumb decision. Although a fun, challenging outing, I totally underestimated the effort. Apologies for the lack of photos near the end but after Edwards I was trying to avoid the wind and get down before dark.

After a summer of doing repeat peaks, I was looking for something to challenge myself and to cap off the summer with something new. I thought that ultimately a 2 day traverse from Loveland Pass to Echo Lake would be that challenge. Although I was certainly challenged, there is no part 2 to this report, after arriving onto the Guanella Pass road my trip was over. Honestly, sitting on top of Edwards I knew that there would not be a day 2 nor would it be likely that I would tag Square Top as part of day 1.

Thinking that with the great weather forecast, I would be able to take my time so carrying camping gear should not be a big deal. The map shows "easy" ridge walking. Heck, even the CDT trail runs between Argentine Pass and Grays. I was pretty frugal with my camping gear, but didn't want to bivy (so had tent, bag, pad, etc.). I ended up carrying 31.6 lbs including 4 liters of water (8.8lbs) and about 4 lbs of food.

My wife dropped me off at Loveland Pass at 6:10am and I felt pretty good walking up to the ridge line. I didn't seem too out of breath and the weight didn't seem too bad. I made it up to the ridge at 6:44am thinking that was a pretty good pace to set me for the rest of the day. It was a nice sunrise.


I didn't waste much time across the ridge line, still feeling plenty strong. Wasn't too long before I made the drop down to start the climb up Grizzly.


I made it to the top of Grizzly by 8:08. I was still pretty pleased with my time and effort level, although with the larger pack and additional weight I was thinking a bit more about my step placements.

Looking back along the trail.


And ahead into the abyss


I had been on the top of Grizzly quite a few times before, several times with the intention of attempting Torreys. I was always turned back by the perceived level of effort to make it up and back. Since I was traversing, that wouldn't be a problem, right?

Most of what I had read previously suggested sticking to the ridge proper for most of the way. There were just too many tempting paths down to the saddle that I dropped off a bit early. It wasn't difficult, and may have saved a bit of time, but looking back, the ridge proper would have been the most efficient path (true for Grays to Edwards as well).

Down in the saddle, looking into the shadows for my hike up to Torreys.


And a bit up Torreys side, looking back. Easier to see from here the proper ridge route versus dropping straight down.


For the most part the trail up Torreys was manageable. It was steep and loose in some areas, but I don't recall my feet sliding back too much. It seemed a long ways up, and there were one or two false summits. Once you can see the true summit, the trail is actually pretty mellow and nice the rest of the way. I made it to the top of Torreys by 10:35am.


By this point I was starting to feel tired and a bit run down. It was very intimidating looking at Grays, Edwards, and seeing Square Top way off in the distance. I had a pretty good snack, relaxed a bit and hydrated. I didn't keep good track, but I was probably 1 liter down by this point. I wanted to drink 2 liters by the summit of Grays. I left Torreys at 10:50am.

Going between Torreys and Grays was not too bad, mostly as I had been there many times before, and for whatever reason all of the company helped keep my pace up. Usually I can make this traverse in under an hour, but today it took a bit over. Summit of Grays at 12:01pm.


At this point, I was pretty exhausted, but felt that I still had 6 hours left in the day; the weather was great; the winds weren't too bad, etc. I found a nice wind shelter on the east side of the summit and relaxed for about 40 minutes, feeling some strength and energy come back into my legs. Looking down into Steven's Gulch was so tempting, but I felt I could press on.

I departed Grays summit at 12:40 feeling pretty good. The first drop down the ridge was good trail and very easy walking. Once you pass by the turnoff to rejoin the Grays trail, the way got a bit harder and more tiring. There are a few downs and ups between Grays and Edwards.

Looking back up to Grays, mostly easy trail from there to here.


And ahead as some of the rougher ridgeline.


Again, the right play along here should have been to stick as close to the ridge as you can, but it was very often too tempting to make a descending or ascending traverse to shortcut. A few places along the way you would need to drop climbers right, but for the most part the ridge proper had the best trail. By this point the wind was picking up and having my sleeping pad on my pack acted like an unwanted sail.

By now I was tired. It seemed that not too far after the Gray's cutoff the reality of what I had left set in. I was not being efficient across this stretch, so I was getting pretty tired. As I looked over to Argentine and Square Top, I was thinking more and more of bailing out on the 2 day effort, skipping Square Top and descending into the basin and coming out at the winter trailhead for Bierstadt.

A long ways to go, still. By this point, I was dreading the views.


Most days in the mountains, the previous disparaging statement (or ones similar) are not entirely true. I was enjoying the new terrain, and was surprisingly enjoying some of the mild scrambling with a heavy pack. (maybe that was my dehydrated, delusional mind?) There are some pretty nice sections of the ridge through here.

Skirting this to the right was actually pretty fun.

I made it to the top of Edwards at 2:50pm. Seems like Grays shouldn't be 2 hours behind me.


By this point I was pretty exhausted. I still had 1 liter (or maybe a bit more) of water, but 3 liters in 9 hours was taking the toll on me. Looking ahead, I still had quite a ways to go.


A few things were going through my head:

- Square Top was going to be brutal.
- Not sure how the descent down to the South Park Trail (and water) would be
- I had hiked up Wilcox to Argentine, so knew that basin reasonably well (and knew there was water)
- I have cell service so I can text my wife to pick me up

Probably the most deceiving thing about the previous photo is you don't see the saddle between Argentine and Square Top. I don't recall the gain, but it seems to be about the second largest gain after Grizzly - Torreys. What you can see in the photo is that there is a long ways to go from the summit of Square top back to the east to Guanella Pass.

At least the walk between Edwards and Argentine was mellow. This is really not a bad ridge walk, unless you are tired and a bit dehydrated, then everything seems a struggle. Also, the wind was whipping by this point.

Up on Argentine, I texted my wife that I would in fact come out at the winter road closure and not to pick me up at the top of Guanella Pass, looked down into the basin to scout my retreat. It seemed easiest to walk down to the saddle between Argentine and Square Top, and then pick my way between the lakes. Coming off Argentine was a bit steep (only because I was tired), but the rest of the way down was very mild.

By this time, I had access to water, came across the Silver Dollar Lake Trail between the lake and Murry Reservoir, so was feeling pretty good. The only thing I had to (mildly) worry about was darkness. I had my headlamp but figured that my wife would start to get nervous after dark.

Racing the sunset. Silver Dollar Lake with the east ridge of Square Top in the background.


It was nice to be back on a trail, but it was still a long ways back to the road. I estimate probably around 2 miles from the saddle to the road. I made it to the road (winter closure lot) right at 7:00pm with plenty of twilight and was happy to see my ride. A bit surprising, but even with the bailout the last stretch took me about 4 hours. A good bit of this was my tiredness, but it was still a long way across the ridge from Edwards to Argentine, and then back down to the road.

In the end I am glad I made the hike, although it was certainly more than I was expecting. The way I was feeling toward the end I wouldn't have wanted to go up and over Square Top, so I was glad to be familiar with some bail out points, have my map, and have cell phone reception. It would have been a much more fun day if I would have planned it as a day hike and gone light and fast. Still a good end to summer hiking. Now to plan some fall adventures.

Overall time summary:

6:10 Departure from Loveland Pass
6:44 Ridgeline
8:08 Grizzly Peak
10:35 Torreys Peak
10:51 Depart Torreys
12:01 Arrive Grays
12:40 Depart Grays
2:50 Arrive Edwards
7:00 Traillhead

Edit #1


Bored at lunch I quickly threw together this map showing the mileage. I didn't really appreciate that Edwards is approximately the halfway point; I felt as though Grays was. With this (rough) map, I also determined my approximate pace. Roughly:

1.4 mph to Grizzly
0.65 mph to Torreys
0.65 mph to Grays (surprised a bit at this one, but I chatted with a few folks and had to let some folks pass on the trail)
0.60 mph to Edwards
1.5 mph Edwards to Trailhead (once I was on the trail by Murry is was moving pretty well)

Overall 0.99 mph, but 6hrs and 42 minutes between Grizzly and Edwards including rest breaks (about 3.6 miles)

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16

Comments or Questions

Big Day!
09/12/2016 13:21
That's a big day, and a lot of time to spend above 13k feet. I would like to try something similar to see how I would do. It does look like quite a trip from Grays to Edwards, as does the stretch from Grizzly to Torreys!


Great ambition, yet reasoning
09/12/2016 21:40
It's a bummer to see something not go as planned, but I credit your ability to realize you weren't going to make it. Maybe next time you can go with a lighter setup, which would surely speed things up.


Nice Report!
11/08/2016 08:35
A couple years ago I did the route from loveland pass to summit lake on Evans in two days. This past summer I decided to leave the bivy gear behind and did the whole thing in a day but got picked up on the Evans summit. I learned a lot the first time I did it and when I tried it the second time it was much more enjoyable. Give it another go next year and I bet you will surprise yourself.

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