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Colorado: Handies, Grays and Torreys

I arrived in Denver and stayed with a POC Alum Grant Davis for a night before heading off to the San Juan mountains in the southwest side of Colorado. The drive went great until I almost got to the American Basin for the trailhead to Handies peak. After I left the Lake City, CO area the road turned into what was described as an "Easy 4WD road". After making a bad judgement call on the road conditions, I ended up with my Subaru in the mud and couldn't get out. After repeated attempts at backing up and trying to get out, I ended up waiting until three guys approached with ~9mm rope. Doubled up, the rope was attached to my trailer hitch (I'm glad I had that installed) and they were able to move me about 1 foot backward to where my tires were able to gain traction and I was about to get out. Those guys were awesome! I drove on to the trailhead, crossed a river and was blocked by snow. I figured this was as good a place as any to car camp and start the trail in the early morning.

I then noticed something… no sleeping bag! I left it at Grant's in Denver (5 hours away!) To make the best of my situation, I grabbed all the clothes I had, and attempted to cover myself to keep warm. I was able to sleep, at least until the 30˚F outside temperature seeped into my car and I woke up an 2 hours later shivering. I warmed up the car, turned it off and went back to sleep when 2 more hours later I woke up again. I gave up and noticed parked next to me were same 3 guys who helped me get my car out of the mud the day before. I started the trail with them at about 5:00 AM. They were planning a day of hiking and skiing and I was able to hike with them up until we had to fork off to different sides of the basin.

The trail wasn't defined much at all and I found myself looking at a map and pictures to determine where it was. I was able to follow the cairns for the trail and I noticed that I was following the summer trail, which in winter and spring was covered by snow and ice. The trail was cutting across a mountain side and seemed very dangerous knowing that one false step would result in a fall and slide down into some rocks. Thank God I had crampons on!! and my new ice axe Looking back at this I should have ignored the trail and made my own path through the valley, which was a bit safer.

Making my way up the summit was getting difficult and harder to breath. I expected this coming from Indiana. A couple hiked past me at a fast rate. I later found out they were from Colorado Springs and were used to higher elevation. I was very slow at it, but I did make it to the top!

As for the way down, I decided that instead of hiking down through the snow that I would glissade down. I did this in two sections of the mountain and I think I knocked over 1000 feet off my decent. As I was walking back I noticed an iPod Shuffle in the snow with earbuds. I picked it up and took it with me. (it still works!) As I got closer to the trailhead I was starting to posthole to at least 3-4 feet and I wash't moving too fast at all. At this point it was 1 PM and the sun had been melting and turing the snow into a slush. I had snowshoes so I put them on and was able to get back to the trailhead. One of my trekking poles was starting to fail and would not lock, I had to manually adjust it several times, but it made it back

I was exhausted, almost beaten and every muscle in my body was sore. Both my knees held up pretty well considering both had some degree of injury in the past year. I was planning on camping farther up the road next to the Redcloud and Sunshine peak trailheads, but I didn't have a sleeping bag and my trekking poles failed, so I wasn't prepared to summit those peaks. I had to go back to Denver to correct these problems. I got my sleeping bag from Grant and I was able to return the trekking poles to REI where I got a brand new pair. I bought the trekking poles from REI in 2010. REI is awesome!

Grays and Torreys Peak

I took a couple days off and visited another POC Alum, Rebecca Clark (Bean) in Johnstown, CO near Loveland, CO. On Monday night I headed for the trailhead to Greys Peak which was only an hour and a half away. I was too lazy to drive all the way back to the San Juan mountains, so Greys and Torreys peak was compromise.

I had my sleeping bag and I slept for 8 hours before waking up and starting up the trail at about 7:30. I felt so much better hiking this trail. The snow was at a minimum the trail was pretty clear no matter where I went. I was joined by a group of 3 who were planning to hike up Kelso Ridge. Kelso is a Class 3 and I decided to stick with the South slopes class 2. Although I'm not sure what the rating was of the route I took was since there as snow packed trails as I approached the summit. I'm guessing the snow added a grade or two to my route. The Crampons helped out alot but since there was so much foot traffic, I probably could have summited w/o them, but I'm still glad I brought them.

I summited Grays peaks and chilled there for a little while and then decided to head down the saddle and up Torreys where I met up with the guys who summited Torreys via Kelso ridge who were on their way up to Grays.

The trip up Torreys seems a little easier than Grays and the view was fabulous!! I stayed up there for about 20 minutes, I then trailed down Torreys and to the South slopes of Grays where I glissaded all the way down the valley cutting at least 800 feet off my decent.

Decent Trip, I definitely like the Spring Summits better than Summer ones. More challenging and more fun.

See Pictures from this trip


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