Friday, May 21, 2010

Friday, 05/21/10 Grays/Torreys/Grays

13.4 miles
5,000 vertical
4:51 RT
Sierra and I

After running a PR on SuperFlag yesterday and a near PR on Green Monday, my primary intent for this trip was simply to enjoy the day with Sierra and get in a little acclimatizing before the Mt. Evans race on June 19th, as it has been over 2 months since my last foray to 14k.

I was up at 3am and anxious to go, but it was way too early to do anything. Not sure if I went back to sleep or not, but I was up for sure at 4:19am and took my time futzing around the house getting ready. Out the door by 5:15am, I took my time, stopping for food along the way and made it to Bakerville by ~6:30. I was not sure what to expect, but knew from recent reports that the normally too rough for my car road to Stevens Gulch had been graded and much of the snow along the way had melted, so I figured I would see how far I could drive and spare myself some boring road slogging.

I made it exactly 1.3 miles up the now very smooth road before my efforts were thwarted by a significant snow bank just beyond the Grizzly Gulch junction. There were some deep ruts, but also lots of sticks, branches and rocks, indicating previous toil, so I opted to call it good enough and park.

Sierra and I started up the road at exactly 7am and once past the initial short (frozen) piles of snow, the road was pretty much dry for the next mile or so. Eventually, the road became primarily snowpacked (still rock solid ice early in the morning), with deep ruts, more sticks, rocks, logs and the occasional car part. At the creek crossing just prior to the private cabins just before the summer TH, there were several SUVs parked on the side, a red VW Jetta with Missouri plates stuck in the creek, and a hopped up Jeep with chains also stuck in the creek next to the Jetta (tried and failed to get around).

I chatted with the Jeep guys for a few as they shoveled and strategized and we made mention of the nerve of the people in the Jetta (more to come on that). I made it to the TH in ~27 minutes and took a 3 minute break before continuing onward. The bridge that crosses the creek here is typically ~10 feet above the water, but is now acting as a dam, as the snow and ice has really piled up here over the Winter/Spring.

Within 5 or 10 minutes above the bridge, I was now in full sunlight and though it was still before 8am, the snow was quickly starting to soften. I did not posthole through the valley, but it was softening enough that I would break through the crust an inch or two and was a bit inefficient.

Above the Kelso cutoff at 12,300, the snowpack quickly transitioned into Winter like conditions which became increasingly slow and tedious. There were several people far ahead that I was gaining on and at times I was thankful that they had broken trail, but it soon became a choice between stepping in their knee to thigh deep postholes, or creating my own.

For the most part, I opted to step in their footprints to take the guesswork out of it and occasionally ventured off to see if I could stay on top. Sometimes this worked, as I am lighter than the guys ahead today, but either way, very slow going. Perhaps the snowiest I have ever experienced on these peaks in any season on the high slopes.

As I neared the summit of Grays, I spotted 2 college aged guys in gym shorts starting down (though it was windy and cold on the ridge). I was immediately sure that they were the owners of the red Jetta and expressed how impressed I was that he made it up the road as far as they did, but sympathized (I actually thought it was very funny) with the fact that they were now going to need to be towed out for a few hundred dollars as a consequence for their youthful bravado. They also admitted to hitting something in the road losing all their coolant and overheating just prior to getting stuck. Oops.

I made the summit in a casual 2:10 from the car (avg. HR 136/max 156) and took an 11 minute break, just as a guy on a snowboard dropped off the summit. The trip over to Torreys was a bit slower than normal due to the punchy/variable snow and I was really careful to not drop a leg in too deep. Once I neared the saddle, snow conditions improved marginally and I deliberately stayed well away from the monster cornices to my right. I spent a few minutes on Torreys chatting with the snowboarder who arrived there just after I and then made quick work of the descent back to the saddle. I debated what would be the best way out, ultimately opting for the longer, but safer re-ascent of Grays, as the descent from the saddle showed no signs of recent travel (I had an axe and Microspikes, but erred on the side of caution).

The re-ascent of Grays was a bit of a slog, but not as bad as I had envisioned. The wind died down and it quickly got warm a few hundred feet off the summit, forcing me to stop and shed some layers. The blazing sun reflecting off the snow was oven like and the snow was quickly beginning to soften, but Sierra and I made the most of it, as we played and chased one another, whooping, barking and having a great time in the fluffy snow. The lower we went though, postholing became increasingly frequent, typically only shin deep, but with the occasional trap door that would stop me in my tracks and require me to extricate myself. I debated if I would have been any better off had I opted to bring my snowshoes, but I am convinced they would have been troublesome in the wet snow. Such are the joys of Spring.

Back at the summer TH, my thoughts returned to the guys with the Jetta and started to feel a bit bad for the hours of mental entertainment their misfortune had bestowed upon me. Sure enough, the car was still there and I remembered that we all make stupid mistakes from time to time. I took pity and offered a ride into town, but one had already hitched a ride and there was nothing I could do. Oh well, my intentions were good (eventually).

All in all a great day. I was quite content going casual and was very happy to get up high after a long absence. Sierra and I had such a blast together; it was, as always so much fun to see her romping in the snow with a huge grin. It will be a while before this route is truly “runnable”, but I hope to check it out a few more times before the Mt. Evans race.


Start 7:00am
Summer TH: 7:27-7:30
Grays: 9:10-9:21
(HR 133/max 154 Grays to Torreys)
Torreys: 9:49-9:52
(HR 134/max 151 Torreys to Grays)
Grays: 10:18-10:21
Summer TH: 11:22-11:25
(HR 116/max 135 Grays to car)
Finish: 11:51am


  1. Ouch on the Jetta. Funny how you knew it was those guys.

  2. I say leave 'em out there. The wolves need something to eat too.

    Imagine how deep of snow the trough has in it right now! I can't stop staring at that peak every time I look west.

  3. Very nice guy you are! I hope to get up to Grays/Torreys with you at some point. I remember going up there last year about this same time and punching through because of the soft snow. I vowed to never do that again and wait for the snow to melt.