Seven mountains in seven days… time to take a break! Last weekend Tom Vervaeke and I did Tabguache and Shavano, we did Lincoln, Democrat, and Bross on Thursday and we just got off Grays and Torreys. This type of action will surely get you in shape!
Denise joined us for the last two and we got the usual early start from Colorado Springs arriving at the trailhead at 7:00am. It was a glorious morning with rather warm temperatures at 11,300’ and lots of sun. The approach is gentle and was a welcome change from immediately heading straight up like on other mountains. After about 45 mins of easy hiking you reach a bowl at the base of Grays and Torreys. We looked at the couloirs but had decided on the standard easy route to the southeast ridge. There were about 5 skiers ahead of us plodding up the slope. We started up and spied some mountain goats so Denise and Tom headed over closer to the ridge to see how close they could get to them for viewing. I decided to kick step straight up the slope. Ouch! After 600’ of step kicking I reached the summit which is marked with a circle of rocks. A guy coming down in shorts and a T-shirt said it was a bit cold up there for him on the summit … really, geez, I would not have guessed! Tom and Denise came up about 10 minutes later and we enjoyed a beautiful but windy view from the top while we ate a quick snack within the protection offered by the rocks. Then we headed down to the saddle and started up Torreys which we reached in about 35 minutes or so. It was a bit windier on top with steady 35 mph winds at least. Still hardly a cloud in the sky! After a few minutes of picture taking for another couple we quickly retreated to the saddle and the east face of Grays where we accessed glissade possibilities. There were numerous avalanche run outs from the other couloirs so we wanted to check conditions of the snow before we let loose.
I went down first and self-arrested after about 100’….the snow was just soft enough to be perfect. I let loose after signaling Tom and Denise and continued with wild abandon the remaining 1500’ or so really picking up speed at the bottom. Tom and Denise had races and Tom took the passing lane from Denise and flew down the mountain. What a way to lose altitude quickly… boy were our knees thankful! At the bottom we were lucky that we were able to get to hard ground without post holing and took our lunch break in the bowl at the base where we had started. Tom spotted two mountain goats about 100 yards away and went over and got within 4’ of them. They followed him back to our lunch site and hung around about 12 ‘away. What magnificent animals was the consensus of the group.
As we started to hike back down the trail to the truck, we heard a loud crack of thunder and spun around (as the sky was deep blue) to discover a portion of the cornice had broken away at the top of Torreys, setting off a snow and rock avalanche that was streaming down the face. Two climbers in a couloir to the left must have been a bit shaken, seeing it so up close and personal. Nature sure is exciting! We walked down the trail (read gently flowing stream from the runoff) and made it back to the cars at 1:00pm.
Due to the fantastic weather and good friends, probably one of my best days in the mountains in Colorado since arriving last August. The snow conditions are good now; frozen in the am, more bare ground appearing every day. After 7 summits in 7 days, I think I will take a break… a least for a few more days!