Saturday, July 11, 2009

Kelso Ridge

Today we summited Torreys Peak via the Kelso Ridge -- a class three climb that gains 2,000 feet. Our friend Tim from the WTS class was looking for hiking partners as he is training for a Mount Rainier summit bid at the end of the month. We were very eager to join him on the Kelso Ridge because it caught our eye last fall when we were in the area climbing Grays Peak.

The day started at 2:45am -- that's right, 2:45. The alarm went off, we got dressed, had a little breakfast and headed out the door. We met Tim in Morrison at 4am and then proceeded to the trailhead. When we started hiking the sun was just beginning to rise behind us. We hiked the main Grays/Torreys trail for about 2 miles and then headed off the trail to the base of the ridge 200 yards to the north. This small saddle is also the home of an old gated-up mine entrance and shelter which are cool to explore.

The first part of the ridge included some hiking, scrambling, and loose, sandy rock. In fact, most of the ridge was just like that. We gradually made our way up as several other teams passed us. We had the biggest, and undoubtedly heaviest, packs of anyone we saw. We had our ten essentials (and then some)! There were two somewhat sketchy parts on the ridge. The first was a 30-40 foot fourth class scramble up a nice block. Apparently, there was a way around it, but we couldn't find it. The second spot was the 30-foot knife edge traverse and subsequent granite block. The knife edge had enough foot and hand holds, but it also had a great deal of exposure. We summited Torreys at about 10:20 -- 5 hours after the start -- and joined about 40 people up there.

After the requisite pictures, snacks, water, register-signing, and gear re-shuffling, we headed down the standard route to the saddle between the two mountains. We were amazed by the number of people on the trails (many of them ill-suited for the mountains). As we headed towards the summit of Grays, the clouds were getting larger and a bit threatening. We decided to bail and traversed a snowfield to pick up the Grays Peak trail. We got back to the car at 1:15 -- 8 hours after the start. It was a long, but really fun day!

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