I’ve been really excited lately.
I feel for the first time in a long time, I’m starting to get my mountain jive back. While I didn’t get to knock off my winter objectives (A winter ascent of Kelso Ridge being at the forefront, and more snowy climbs) I had a pretty spectacular ski season, and coming into the spring, I started to get more comfortable with climbing again, both on rock and mountaineering.
Before the summer, I’d set myself to a strict training regimen involving steady time at the gym, training hikes, and feeling comfortable with altitude and exposure again. I’d taken up running, which admittedly I’ve been doing more than I ever have before, and I started coming up with a plan of what I wanted to accomplish this summer. Just to get out, have fun, climb as much as I could and refuse to take anything seriously.
My friend, Jeff of SoCal Hiker had posted on Facebook that he was headed out to Colorado as part of his Six Pack of Peaks Challenge, and I couldn’t be more excited to get out with him. We’ve been friends for numerous years online and he’s always been a big part of our blogger crew, so I immediately accepted when he asked if I’d like to join him on Grays Peak, the last of the challenge.
We set the date and connected on the phone the night before heading out. I had just come back from a run in the Indian Peaks, so my plan was to get approximately two hours of sleep before driving out to the trailhead. Jeff was initially taken aback by the early (3 AM) start but went along with it. My plan was to try and avoid the big crowds and afternoon storms, especially on a holiday weekend. Both paid off in the end.
It was 38 degrees but with a warm breeze when we left the car in the dark. By 3:30 we had already spotted lights high on Grays, and steadily hiked upwards with a good pace. Jeff had just come back from numerous peaks over the last few days, including a harrowing experience on Guyot Peak, and I was still sore from my run, so we went at a calm and relaxed pace.
The trail meanders through a flat basin surrounded by Grays, Torreys, and Kelso Mountain, with a number of subsidiary peaks across the valley. As we hiked in the dark, a small mountain goat watched us and then scurried into the cliffs.
As the trail began to rise through the ridge, we began a series of switchbacks as the sky behind us exploded in various hues of pink and orange. Even in July sections were still slightly icy, and small snowfields dotted the face. As we quickly started to run out of trail, we began making our way up the scree and icy sun-cupped snow as the sunrise shattered the mountain skyline behind us.
Boots crunching on the snow and poles for balance, we had a little bit of snowy mountaineering thrown into our hike. As we got closer to the summit, the last party was just hiking off, so when we pulled to the rock stack at the top, we had the entire summit to ourselves.
From the summit we could see as far as Longs, Pikes, the Gore Range, and the many summits that dot Clear Creek County. I was thrilled to be up there with Jeff.
The capstone of Grays was first, getting to climb with a blogger friend who I’d known for a long time by word but never by face, the opportunity to knock off another 14er, and that indescribable ecstatic feeling of being back in the mountains. It was a little bit of altitude prep before heading out to Washington later this month and getting comfortable with the long uphill.