Grays and Torreys from the Grays Peak trailhead
8.3 miles round trip
3,643ft of elevation gain
Hike time: 3hrs 8min
On a chilly Wednesday morning Jon and I woke up dark and early with the mission to summit both Grays and Torreys. Two lovely 14ers that are right outside our door. Grays reaches 14,270ft and Torreys reaches 14,267ft. They are the 9th and 11th tallest mountains in the state and have a lovely saddle that connects them- making it the perfect hike to knock out two glorious mountains.
Most of this trail is exposed and above treeline. The beginning starts in sparse trees and quickly transitions into a stroll through willows and brush. After a bit of that, you’re on tundra. My favorite thing!
By the time we reached the tundra, the sunrise was beginning and the alpenglow was as well. It was a very slow sunrise, of vivid pinks and reds. That casted upon the world we were hiking in and the alpenglow coated everything in red. It was the most perfect and intense alpenglow I’ve ever witnessed. It also made the grasses in the tundra as bright yellow as the mountains were red. It was truly incredible. We began to hear pikas waking up and chatting. We also saw a team on Kelso Ridge- a more technical route to summit Torreys -something Jon and I plan to do soon... but realistically next year, when snow isn’t teasing us at every moment way up in the mountains. It was awesome to see people doing it though! I always feel pretty inspired by watching others do what I plan to do. It shows that with a lot of work and practice, it is in fact, very doable.
The trail began to climb shortly after that. The skies were very cloudy and you could smell snow in the air. Behind us, the sunrise was settling into a bright yellow, and above it was a heavy rain. Miles and miles and miles away. But with the clouds above us and the rain behind us, we put on a bit of speed. Whenever the skies aren’t perfect, I find myself quite dazzled. Things look different. Even when you’ve researched a place to death, the photos you’ve seen typically are not of the dark and colored skies. They’re of the bluebird days and sun-filled skies. While those days are very lovely, the cloudy ones are too. You just have to mind the weather and be prepared to turn around in case a storm comes. Spoiler: a storm didn’t come.
Because of the cloud coverage, it was a very cold day. And as we gained elevation the temperatures dropped quite a bit. When we reached 14,000ft, I could feel myself starting to get really super cold. My fingers were numbing up and my toes and nose were as well. I have something called Raynaud’s Disease. It’s something I’ve mentioned before, as it has a big impact on many things I do, especially winter camping. Basically, my blood vessels begin to spasm when exposed to cold temperatures or...drumroll please... stress. And let me be honest with you. Life is magnificent and dreamy and rad. But I’ve got some stress. And was actually quite stressed out during this week. So at any rate, my body starting to react poorly to the cold. Luckily, there was a shit ton of beautiful grass that was turning red, orange and bright yellow for autumn. It took my mind off of the cold. And really made my heart soar. The beauty that fall brings with it is so special. Especially in the mountains. So standing at 14,000ft with my husband, looking down over where we’d come from a couple hours earlier, in a world of unreal colors and shapes. Whoa. Pretty perfect. We hiked up a bit more and summited Grays Peak. It had a large and rocky summit with just a couple other people on it. Which is the sickest when you need a kind stranger (new friend!) to snap a photo! And it might be one of my favorite photos of me and husband ever. Because it’s so simple what makes us happy and I think this photo shows that; being together in nature. That’s it. That’s the key to our happiness.
We spent a little time up there, soaking in the views and eating a bar or two. The longer we hung out, however, the colder I was becoming. So I had to start moving. On to Torreys!
I do believe this next segment is why Grays and Torreys is considered a class two route. Because prior to this, it’s definitely class one. You hike down the saddle that Grays makes when it connects with Torreys, and then go up a very steep Torreys Peak. It’s a segment of trail that is maybe 3/4 of a mile, but you drop down a lot and then have to make it all up to Summit Torreys. There isn’t much exposure at all here, but there is some loose rock and like I said, it is pretty steep. Maybe losing and gaining about 1,000ft in under a mile. It’s really not bad, but if you aren’t used to mountains, it would suck a lot. Trekking poles are handy-dandy here. And important for stability when descending Torreys.
When we got to the second summit, I had warmed up! Yay! I added a down jacket and a hard shell to my attire and felt great. The same friends we’d met on Grays joined us and took our photo. This summit was very small and with the clouds building, we didn’t want to stay up there long. We caught some views and started the trek down.
Once we were back at the base of Torreys, for a very brief moment, the sky opened up. It was very pretty. The hike back was a pleasant descent; not too steep. We were back on grassy tundra in no time.
And this was the first time we saw the beautiful and colorful tundra! When we hiked in, it was still very dark out. We saw the colors from the higher points on the mountains, but that didn’t do justice to how breathtaking the colors truly were. It is the beginning of autumn on these tundras, and holy shit is it a sight to see. From bright greens and yellows to deep reds and oranges. Purple, pink and yellow wildflowers still cover portions of the landscape and that blue sky connects all of it.
I think we’ll return to these mountains frequently. They are impossibly close to our home and too stunning to resist.