Torrey Peak via Kelso Ridge
With a trip to the Himalayas to climb Island peak on the horizon, I figured I needed to get some mountain miles under my leg. Colorado has some great training grounds for climbers and so I set our sights on a few peaks that could prove a challenge and yet be great training. This was going to go one of two ways, either we climbed a bunch of easy routes or a few technical routes. Given the time constraints we settled for Grays and Torreys Via Kelso ridge and we would then figure out what we would do next after we completed the two peaks.
After a long day at the office I finish packing all my gear, loaded everything into my wife’s SUV and headed over to pick up Carlos and Yen. We arrive to the airport on time to get a quick bite before boarding our 9pm flight to Denver Colorado. Considering id been up since 6am I should have been tired enough to sleep but the excitement to climb coupled with the lack of reclining seats kept me up the entire flight.
Upon arrival we were greeted with a dry chilly breeze. Coming from Miami where we have 90-degree weather and 80% humidity, this was quite refreshing. We took the airport shuttle to the Car rental facility, picked up our ride and made our way to the nearest Denny’s (Only thing open at 1am to fill us up before beginning the climb). The idea was to eat as much as we possible since we needed all the energy we can get in order to climb Torrey’s and Grays with no sleep in the last 24 hours. We pigged out to say the least. After we where done we wobbled on to the car and prepared for our drive to the mountains.
It took about 2 hours to arrive to the Grays & Torreys winter Trail head parking lot. Being we where in a mini van and a recent snow fall covered the road up to the main trail head, we where forced to start our hike right from the parking lot up too the main trail head. It was a 3-mile hike in the dark freezing cold and boy was it cold!
It was now 4am and we are slogging our way up the long road up when out of no where comes this big Jeep Wrangler on monster off-roading wheels and bright HID lights making its way up the hill with ease! As soon as he gets to us, the gentleman inside lowers his window and offers us a ride to the trail head and without hesitation we jumped into the warm cozy jeep. We make conversation and find out he’s heading to the same peaks as us and so we offer for him to join us and climb in our group which he happily agrees to. At this point spirits where high since we didn’t have to slog up the road for 3 hours and we where pumped about finally getting on the mountains. Needless to say that didn’t last long.
About an hour into the hike, sleep deprivation began working its magic on us. It was still pitch black, blistering cold and as I lead our group through the trail my eyes begin to feel heavier with each passing minute. After a while I realize I’m basically sleep walking, at some point I was even dreaming while I was walking. The sweet combination of Working 14 hours the day before, hopping on a plane that same night, a five-hour flight and a 2-hour drive was taking its toll and we where all feeling it. By this point I began to realize this wasn’t a good idea to keep going, by the time we’d get to the base of the mountain we wouldn’t be able to stand up straight. Yet I kept my mouth shut and pushed on for a bit longer.
To our relief the sun was finally coming over the ridge line and hit us with some much needed warmth. This gave us a small spurt of energy, just enough to get us to the base of Grays. By this time, we where moving slow and the sleep deprivation crept on us again. I finally took a stand and vocalized my concerns about continuing under our current conditions. Since we where planning on taking Kelso ridge to Torreys I figured it would be incredibly stupid to keep going. We where in no shape to scramble the exposed sections of the route and I wasn’t willing on taking any risk. So we quickly put it up to a vote and unanimously decided we should turn back. Although I was disappointed (especially because of our limited time in Colorado) I was also very relieved and felt very good about going back down.
A couple hours later we where back at the car, hungry and tired. We drove to Breckenridge to get a bite and then headed to a supermarket where we can buy some food for our next days of camping and climbing. Before even getting out of the car, we all succumbed to fatigue and fell asleep in the parking lot for 4 hours. It was the best damn sleep I’ve had in a long time! We woke up feeling much better, looked for a place to spend the night and got some rest before setting out back to Grays and Torreys the next day.
We woke up feeling brand new and ready to tackle the peaks! We decided on taking a slower approach and enjoy our time out there a bit more. Instead of rushing to summit a few peaks we agreed to hiking up the winter trail head to the main then finding I nice spot to pop up our tent and spend the night before setting out for Kelso ridge the next morning. We took our time enjoyed the beautiful views and awesome weather, we found a perfect spot to set up camp and before you knew it we where tucked into our sleeping bags, playing hangman as we waited to get tired enough to fall asleep.
The morning was perfect with not a cloud in the sky, the winds did pick up a bit more than the days before but other than that we could not complain. Ice axe on hand and micro spikes on our feet we left camp and headed towards Torreys. After an hour hike on the main trail head we made it to the fork where you can go left for Grays or right to the Kelso ridge. We started breaking trail on the fresh snow and got up to the ridge. After a short break we where right on schedule and ready to go. I took the lead as we began scrambling our way through some tricky sections. Let me tell you, this route is a ton of fun, the views are incredible and the climbing is amazing. It is a bit exposed at times and contrary to what you read online I would suggest you rope up since some of the sections are class 4 and when the ridge is covered in snow it makes finding proper holds a lot more challenging. Unlike on other climbs where you slog for hours on end up a steep incline of knee deep know or glacier, this is exciting every single moment of the climb. Navigating your way through the rocks and snow, figuring out where the snow is consolidated enough to where you can step on it and where you can’t while on a totally exposed section made for a thrilling time. Yen and Carlos didn’t seem to be having nearly a good time as I was since they are more risk averse than I am but all in all they where kicking ass and we where making our way up the ridge at a good pace.
At one point during a break we caught a glimpse of these majestic mountain goats that some how made they’re way up this incredibly steep rock wall. It was an amazing sight to witness.
Eventually we made it to the famous Knife Edge, we found it easiest to straddle over it and work our way across. If you are a male, you do have to use proper technique or you run the risk of becoming infertile. All jokes aside, the knife edge is sharp and one wrong move between the legs will hurt a lot! After successfully crossing over we made it to what I consider to be the most exposed section of the climb, the white rocks. Due to much of the rocks being covered in snow I made the mistake of going around the white rocks instead of up and over like most people would of done. This put us in a exposed and tricky traverse to the other side. We took our time and one by one made it across. After that it was a straight shot to the top. The snow was knee deep at this point so we took our time and before we knew it we where at the summit of Torreys! It was now about 2pm. We took some summit pics, enjoyed the views and had a quick bite before beginning our down hill descent. Since we still had to break down camp and make it all the way down to the winter trail head where the car was we decided to skip Grays in order to make it before sundown.
That night we drove to Breckenridge for an amazing dinner at BriarRose Steak house and spent the night before heading to Denver the next day for our flight back to Miami. All in all Kelso ridge instantly became a favorite for me and I look forward to the next time I can go back and climb it again, maybe in the summer next time with drier conditions. It was as fun of a climb as I’ve had!
Any trip to the outdoors with good company is always worth doing. I thank Yen and Carlos for another memorable trip and look forward to many more. Being that I live in a city and work non stop on the phone and in meetings, there is nothing better than being able to shut off your phone for a couple of days and submerging your self into the wilderness with a singular focus and connection to what nature has to offer. I always come back feeling refreshed from these kinds of trips and as soon as I sit down again on my office chair, I’m already thinking of what our next adventure will be!