Last week, a coworker of mine asked if I’d be interested in running Grays and Torreys to celebrate her birthday. Having a soft spot for 14ers, and birthdays, I quickly agreed. Yes, please.
I met Laurel, and her friend Maggie, at 6:30 this morning, to make our way into the mountains for a double header. As far as 14ers go, Grays and Torreys are some of the easiest to traverse. However, most don’t start traversing any 14ers this early in the season. Lucky, or unlucky, for Colorado, the snow was lousy and the weather’s been warm. It means early fire danger in the high country (of which we’ve already had several outbreaks). It means early water restrictions in town. It means that it’s really green now, but will likely be brown in July. But it also means, getting a head start on 14ers.
I climbed Grays and Torreys back in 2009 with Erika. But I was looking forward to a new 14er experience: running them. I’ll be honest, “running” is kind of a stretch. Yes, you can run the trails until about 12,500 or 13,000 feet, depending on the mountain. Then, the ascent is either too steep, you run into snow, or the terrain is not safe for running. Oh yeah, and you may have trouble breathing.
The three of us started right at 8am. The sky was blue, the sun was bright, and the trail was clear.
We started an easy jog, slowly picking away at our 8 mile route. When you start out at 11,280, you can’t do much more than an easy jog. I probably don’t have to tell you that the higher we got, the more difficult it was. Duh. We were able to consistently run until about 12,500. From here to 13,000, the incline was such that it was faster to hike it. At the Y, we went right to summit Torreys first.
Around 13,000, we hit the snow. Or, what was left of it. We’ve had such a light snowpack this season that we didn’t even need gaiters. With the bright sun, it was mostly slushy at this point. We hiked through it. Literally. I fell in, up to my knees, two different times! I’ve got some minor scratches to prove it. We pushed up the crags to make our first summit for the day.
After a few pictures and a few energy blocks, we made our way down Torreys, and back across the snowy, slushy saddle to summit Grays.
We much preferred the ascent to Torreys over Grays. Being on the windward side of the peak was rough. It was really kicking up, and my hands were getting so cold. Grays ended up being a more difficult climb (Torreys is typically) due to the wind and more snowpack. Laurel lent me an extra pair of microspikes and we slipped them on before making our final ascent and summit for the day.
Needless to say, we quickly made our way down. Probably not remaining at the top but for a few minutes. Brrr…
On the way down, we were able to move at a pretty quick pace over the snow. Once we’d made it to drier ground, we took off the microspikes and were finally able to run again. My legs were so tired from the double ascent, but I kept them moving. I was stumbling over baby heads and rolled my ankle a few times. Not to the point of stopping, but it will probably be sore tomorrow!
Grays and Torreys
3h 28m of run time
3h 57m total time