Welcome! The intent of Anecdotes from the Trail is to share my experiences while trail running or racing (occasionally on the road too.) And to feature other trail runners and their accomplishments. You may see the occasional gear review or even contest. Please visit from time to time. Happy trails!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Hitting the 14'ers: Mt. Grays and Mt. Torreys 8.10.13

Mike and I taking break on the way up to Mt. Grays' summit.
I arrived in Denver on Friday night a little after 7pm. I was excited to be back in Colorado and eager to meet up with my friend, Mike. Next Tuesday, we're both taking part in the TransRockies Run stage race, but before that we wanted to take advantage of our time in Colorado and get in a couple of 14'ers. Since we were short on time, we picked two of them that were very accessible, Mt. Grays (14,270 ft.) and Mt. Torreys (14,268 ft.). We drove to Georgetown, CO and spent the night in a modest mountain village inn only about 10 miles from the trailhead with the plan to get up early for climb.

Mike shortly after leaving trailhead.
The 5am alarm clock went off and we got our things together. We'd stopped the night before to get some breakfast items and some food for the hike. Driving off the interstate, we immediately got on a dirt road that made its way 3 miles up to the trailhead. Luckily, we rented an all wheel drive and we navigated the rutted out road just fine. It was pretty steep in places too. As we neared the trailhead, we quickly realized that we were definitely not going to be alone on the way up. There were a ton of people there all gathering to go. We parked the car and by 6:15 or so we were on the trail.

The sun was already up but it was rather chilly, probably in the upper 30's or lower 40's. We were well layered and I had my fleece buff, fleece hat and some gloves. I also had a light wind resistant poncho in my pack which I'm glad I did as it came in handy later at the top. The first mile or so was very gradual. We met another hiker and her dog. At first, it wasn't our intention to pick up another hiker but after a while Julie and her dog, Toby, would accompany us the whole way. It was Julie's original plan to hike with a friend, but her friend had bailed on her that morning and she came out on her own. She was glad for the company and we enjoyed hers and Toby's.

We made our way through the valley until we clearly had the profile of both summits well in view coming up what is the east face of both. There were a ton of people out and we could make them out on the zig zag switchbacks all the way up to the top of Grays. We could also see people already on the summit of Torreys. While we would have preferred a more solitary climb, we were just happy to be on the trail and enjoying some beautiful Colorado scenery.

We took the left fork that was the trail up to Grays. It was rocky and some what technical in sections but not too bad. Some where around 12,500 ft. the trail turned right and headed up at steeper grade. We stopped here to snack and to turn and look at the view at the valley below. Looking eastward across the valley, we had a ridge on our left crowned by Torreys and another ridge on our right that bent northward on the other side of where our car was parked at the trailhead. We all commented on the weather and how lucky we were to have clear, blue skies. It was a bit warmer at this point and we put away our fleece cap and gloves. After the snack, we started up the steeper trail.
Summit of Mt. Grays at 14,270 ft.
Through out the hike, it was fun to see Toby, Julie's dog, going up the trail ahead of us and then circling back. I admired the dog's ability to make the climb seem effortless even above 12,000 ft. He also seemed to handle the rocks and scree with no problem. The dog must have some well conditioned paws. Julie did say that she runs and hikes with Toby quite a bit.

We hit the switchbacks on the final approach to the summit. Most living things were not growing at this elevation. It's August, so there were very small patches of snow, but none in significant amounts. During the rest of the year, I'm sure there is plenty of it especially at this altitude. We reached the top and there must have been 30 to 40 people on the summit. Mike and I searched for the USGS marker, but we couldn't find it. We did however pick up a cardboard sign on which some one had hand-written in marker, "Grays Peak 14,270 ft." We took the mandatory summit photos with the sign and then looked across to Torreys Peak, our next goal.

On the saddle with Torreys behind me.
We left Grays summit on the north end to get on the saddle trail between the two peaks, a less than a mile journey. It was a decently sharp descent for a couple hundred yards until gradually leveling off. I was ahead of Mike and Julie while Toby stayed with me. Another hiker passed us on the steep portion hopping from rock to rock like a frog. Obviously, he was a regular on these trails. The trail leveled off as we neared the trail fork with the trail that made its way back down. We passed it and before we really started climbing, we stopped to marvel at the scenery around us. Grays summit seemed less intimidating than Torreys from this view point. We took pictures for a few minutes before continuing the climb. The last few hundred yards to the top of Torreys was definitely steeper. Plus there were even more people descending this summit than there were coming down Grays earlier. I reached the top first and after once again not being able to find the USGS marker, I took a seat on the pile of rocks that seemed to be the highest point. Mike, Julie and Toby soon made the summit as well.

Sitting on top of Torreys.
I sat there and was amused by the fact that I had just reached the top of my fourth 14'er with another 30 or so individuals. Still, it was a feeling of accomplishment. I was feeling the altitude but other than a very light pressure in my head, it wasn't too bad. We pulled snacks from our packs and sat on the summit for a while. Julie shared a peanut butter sandwich with Toby that he eagerly ate up. While we refueled, we debated about taking an alternate trail off the mountain that followed a northeast ridge, but decided against. We were to descend down the trail from the saddle and join up with the original approach trail. After a couple photos, we left the summit.
The descent was mostly uneventful. Clouds had moved in and few of them did not look friendly. Seeing them made us glad that we were on our way down. When we reached the approach trail, there were several hikers that were just making there way up.
Mike, Julie, Toby and me at the end of our hike.
We reached the trailhead after a while and high fived each other. After all, no climb is a success until you make it back safely to the bottom. The whole hike had taken us about five and a half hours with rest breaks. That's not a bad pace considering the 4,000+ feet of elevation gain, maybe more. We said our goodbyes to Julie and Toby before getting in our rental car and leaving the trailhead. We gave a ride to a pair of young hikers that had left their car down at the bottom of the forest road. Good karma for us since we had been given a ride years earlier after descending Mt. Elbert.

Grays and Torreys were 14'ers number three and four for me and I hope not the last. The climb was probably not the best idea given that we were about to take part in a six day stage race covering 120 miles with its share of climbing. However, we don't get too many opportunities to be in Colorado and couldn't resist the urge to knock off a couple of summits. I hope to do it again soon.
Mike and I on summit of Torreys.


  1. Javi,
    You described the whole day and hike very well! I enjoyed reading this and will bookmark it so I can always remember what a fun time it was to hike with two people I had never met. I hope the first day of your adventure race is going just as well.
    Julie and Tobie :)

  2. javi,
    good luck/my 2 nephews chris burk and rudy brida are with you out there
    #007 ab are bib numbers
    tom burk