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Grays Peak and Torreys Peak - First 14ers
August 21, 2010
Continental Divide, Colorado

Don't miss the bonus panoramic shots and the panoramic video below
Despite living in Colorado for nearly seven years and doing just about everything else -- we had yet to climb a 14er. So in celebration of Sheila's birthday earlier in the week we decided to climb two. Grays Peak and Torreys Peak are two "beginner" 14ers on the Continental Divide just off I-70 making them a popular weekend hiking destination and a good choice for one's first 14ers. Although the term "beginner" is relative as any physical activity at 13,000 and 14,000 feet above sea level is difficult for all but the most fit. One reason they are considered "beginner" is that at Class 1 and Class 2 they do not require any technical climbing or gear.
So on August 21st we awoke at 4:30am and headed to the mountains with three liters of water each, some cold weather gear (hats/gloves/layers), snacks, sandwiches, sunscreen and a few first aid items.
This picture shows the standard Grays Peak and Torreys Peak combination route as seen from McCellan Mountain. The green represents a Class 1 route while the blue denotes a more difficult Class 2 route. An optional Class 3 route can also be done which comes up Kelso Ridge on the north side of Torreys Peak. (Image courtesy of
Sheila at the bridge that represents the start of the route just past the parking lot. The trail starts at 11,200 feet and is only a few miles up a dirt road off the Bakerville exit of I-70 just past Georgetown as I-70 climbs towards the Eisenhower Tunnel and the Continental Divide. Official start time was 7:35am and it was only 45 degrees at this time (even though back at our house it would be 90 degrees on this day).
The air is already thin at 11,200 feet as the trail climbs gradually through Stevens Gulch. This is higher than most of the highest runs at most ski resorts and is more than twice the altitude of where we live on the Front Range. Slow and steady is the best strategy.
Grays Peak in the distance directly over Alan's head.

Looking back at Stevens Gulch.

The morning sun reflects onto Stevens Gulch, though the rarefied air was still pretty chilly at this point.

One of many boulder fields as we start to enter the Alpine Tundra zone where life's foothold begins to slip due to the intense altitude.
At this point the trail begins to get steeper and rockier as we move closer to Grays Peak. Mild altitude effects are starting to manifest - such as slight dizziness and headaches. A few Tylenol help to abate the symptoms.

A pika watches the hikers go by. We also saw a large marmot at a distance, but alas no mountain goats this time.
Looking back on Stevens Gulch it is evident that we are gaining altitude rapidly.

Taking a snack break and resting up before the final assault.
At around 13,000 feet we have gained a lot vertical relatively quickly. You can see the trail we started on in the distance. Also note the two young and daring teenagers making their way to the top of the rock formation.
The two daring teenagers atop the rock formation.
Looking back at how far we have come. The start of the trail is not visible as it wraps around the smaller peak to the left of Stevens Gulch.
Nearing the summit. The last few miles to the summit consist of rocky and steep switch backs. The altitude is near 14,000 feet and oxygen is very hard to come by. All but the most uber-fit must stop every hundred feet to rest as it feels your heart may actually explode out of your chest. We repeatedly pass and get passed by the same groups as we alternate walking and resting.

Touchdown! We have reached the summit at around 11:30am - some 4 hours after we started. Not exactly record time, but pretty average from what we observed other groups doing.
See a panoramic version of this image
See a panoramic version of this image

Grays Peak summit - 14,270 feet. The tallest mountain on the Continental Divide.

See a panoramic version of this image

See a panoramic version of this image
We spent about 20 minutes on the summit, taking in the views, signing the roster and celebrating with our fellow climbers.
Starting down the ridge towards the saddle between Grays and Torreys. This part of the climb is Class 2 as it is steep and rocky. At times the trail is very undefined and you have to focus on every footstep to find a stable rock. The ridge is also fairly narrow in places.
At the base of thee saddle looking up at Torreys Peak. You can see how small the people are for scale. At this point a very brisk wind kicked up necessitating head gear and gloves for part of the duration (meanwhile back at our house at 5400 feet it was 90 degrees).
Almost to the top of Torreys. The second ascent of a 14er in less than hour and it really takes a toll. Again we have to stop frequently to allow our bodies to gather in enough oxygen.

Touchdown again!

Again we spend about 20 minutes on the summit. This time more resting and less talking and celebrating than before. The summit of Torreys is smaller and more defined enhancing the feeling of standing on top of the world.
Click Play to see a panoramic video at the summit of both peaks


Starting our descent. While the climb up was a major cardiovascular challenge, the descent down was a psychological study in pain endurance. The steep and rocky descent quickly makes your knees and ankles protest in pain. The last two thirds of the trail - though not as steep did not offer much relief and by the time we made it to the parking lot our joints were in agony - particularly our two respective knees that had undergone previous surgeries.

Looking back at the trail head parking lot on our way back to the car. We had to park about 1/2 mile from the trail head and that extra 1/2 mile seemed longer now at the end of the day. Our total round trip time was nearly 7 1/2 hours. We lost some time on the way back due to a variety of issues.

Our car dutifully awaits us for the drive back home.
Click Here for Some Bonus Panoramic Images