Peak(s):  Torreys Peak  -  14,267 feet
Grays Peak  -  14,270 feet
Date Posted:  07/29/2020
Date Climbed:   07/28/2020
Author:  jordanthebuff
 Grays and Torreys via Kelso Ridge   

Having done plenty of class 1 and 2 14ers, I decided it was finally time to step it up to a class 3. I had done Longs as my first 14er about a decade ago, but had a terrible time and didn't know what I was doing back then. I wanted to do a class 3 climb and decided on the Kelso ridge for a few reasons: 1) proximity to Denver (where I live) and 2) I had never actually done Grays and Torreys. I try to avoid the front range because of crowds and the standard routes are all fairly short. I took this opportunity to check off a couple "easier" mountains but in a more challenging manner. I'm writing this report so hopefully other people who are wanting to do class 3s have some more information.

I left my home in Denver just before 3 AM and arrived at the trailhead right around 4 with the parking area mostly empty. The road was significantly more difficult than I anticipated, but definitely manageable in my mini SUV. With it still dark out, I geared up to go and set off on the trail. The bottom of the trail is incredibly well maintained...probably the most well maintained trail on a 14er that I've seen. I passed a few hikers and chatted with another person who was planning on doing the ridge. While hiking along this lower portion of the trail, I heard some howling which sounded like it was coming from near the base of Edwards possibly. Wolves? Coyotes? I'm not sure what creature would be at 12,000 ft that howls, but it was pretty loud and made me a bit more aware of my surroundings in the dark.

After just under an hour of hiking, I knew I was close to the cutoff. At this point, I could see the outline of Kelso ridge and saddle where that portion of the climb begins. Even with my headlamp on high and constantly looking right for the trail, I missed the cutoff. I hiked up to around 12,500 ft before doubling back. On my way back down, I once again passed the guy I had chatted with earlier that was also doing the ridge. He had missed the trail also! Now hiking together, we tried to find the trail and we still couldn't locate it. We could see where were supposed to go (next to the mine shaft) and we knew the trail was on a mini ridge that connected over to there, so we eventually decided to just head that way off trail, which I hate doing but felt I had no other choice if I was going to the ridge. After maybe (i'll be generous) 50 steps, we thankfully ran into the trail. We investigated to see what the trail junction looked like and it seemed to be obvious, but at least we finally made it onto the trail.

At the saddle, I continued on and he paused for a bit. With photos and route description on my phone in hand, I set off up the ridge. The first section of class 3 rock (photo 9 in the route description) was the first real challenge. With not much experience on class 3s this seemed daunting, but the climb up the rock was really not bad. I took it slow and just made sure of every step and hand hold. The rock along the whole ridge was really solid.


20451_06
Sunrise from Kelso Ridge

The next challenge was the white rock wall. Again, fairly easy to ascend if taken slow. At the top of the wall, there appeared to be a trail on the left side of the ridge. DON'T TAKE THIS ROUTE (unless you want class 4 climbing). I took that route, and ended up having to climb a brief but challenging class 4 wall to regain the ridge. Turn right after the white rock wall. Just do it.

Basically from there until the knife edge is nothing too extreme. The one section of loose scree takes some care but isn't too challenging. Coming up to the knife edge was a little confusing. You approach it from the left side, but the have to regain the ridge just before it and even stay a little on the right. The knife edge is short, like maybe 20 feet, and its really not difficult. It takes care and focus, but isn't hard. The exposure is REAL though, so if you are fearful of heights, maybe consider a different route. I found staying farther right felt safer, but closer to the edge itself had better holds. It's really all personal preference for how you want to cross it though.

20451_0720451_08
On the knife edge.

After the knife edge, it was short class 2 scree climb to the top. At some point on the ridge the other guy and I re met up and continued the rest of the day together. We had the top of Torreys to ourselves, which was pretty cool.

20451_0120451_10
On the summit of Torreys.

We took a 10 minute break and had a snack. It was about a 35 minute walk over to Grays where we spent another 20 minutes on top of that summit.

20451_03

Clouds were rolling in and out the whole day but we were never rained on and never heard any thunder. We took our obligatory pictures and headed down. Still lots of people on the mountain, even for a Tuesday. We could see other climbers up on the ridge on our way down. I made sure to take time to marvel at the ridge I had just climbed. I felt accomplished. On the way down, we still couldn't find the cut off for the trail to the ridge. We made it back to the parking lot at 9:30 on the dot. The lot was full, but only a few cars were parked on the road down. We said our goodbyes and I made it home in time to shower before lunch!20451_0420451_05

Summary:
- This route was a ton of fun
- Some of the class 3 parts were challenging, but doable with care and focus, while other areas were easier, but still needed care and focus!
- Very busy mountain. Go at 4 AM if you're going on a weekend.
- The trial to Kelso ridge is easy to miss, especially in dark!
- Follow the route directions!!!!




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


Comments or Questions
JtheChemE

Sunrise from Kelso
07/30/2020 10:55
I've seen it plenty of times, but that view of sunrise from Kelso ridge just never gets old. Congratulations on your first class 3!


RyanPB
Well done
08/02/2020 17:15
I always get the heeby-jeebies when looking at the photos of climbers on the knife edge. I've done Quandary's West Ridge and Long's Keyhole so I suppose I've experienced something close but still ...

Well done!


cherinyc
Doing this tomorrow
08/03/2020 16:09
Thank you for your report. I will be armed with the AllTrails App and hope that it helps me stay on trail without getting lost.

Great job!


RhodoRose

Does Not Disappoint
08/05/2020 02:25
I did the ridge the day before you. I'd done G&T std route a couple of times prior, but wanted to experience the ridge. It didn't disappoint! Great photos, thanks for sharing.



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