Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Grays & Torreys Peaks - Altitude

Time:  2:15
Distance: 8.04 miles
Effort: Moderate
Body: Good
Weather: Sunny and Clear

With the Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon just six weeks or so away, I figured it was about time to start trying to work some altitude training into my weekly routine. So, the plan was to get up early and hit Grays and Torreys before work.

The alarm went off at 4:50 a.m. and I was greeted by a damp, misty morning, as I looked out our living room window. Should I bag it for today?  How bad will it be at 11,000-14,000 feet? Too wet? Too cold? Ultimately, I decided that since I already was up and had my gear laid out, I'd suck it up and head to the high country. 

Smart decision.

The Northwest-type weather we experienced today along the Front Range was confined to the Front Range. Up above Georgetown, it was beautiful.

From the house to Grays Peak trailhead is just 45 minutes, so I was parked and ready to run by  6 a.m. The sun was just beginning to hit the tops of the peaks on the north and west sides of the valley that leads up to the cirque below Grays and Torreys. It was a bit chilly as I started the watch and set off running across the bridge at the trail's beginning.  

The bridge at the begging of the Grays Peak National Recreation Trail

Looking back up the valley, post-run, at Grays (center) and Torreys (right) Peaks.

When I Ieft the parking lot, there were three or four cars in the lot. I caught all the people from those cars in the first 1.5 miles. After that, I had the peaks to myself. I ran most of the way up to the first big hill after you cross the creek at the base of the peaks, powerhiking now and then on the steeper sections.

I kept a steady powerhiking pace up through the talus to the saddle between the peaks - just under an hour to this spot. The only snow on the trail was a short section just before the saddle. It was frozen solid and I had not problem navigating the well-worn path through it.

A short section of snow greets hikers just below the saddle between the peaks.

After a very brief pause at the saddle to take in the views to the east and west, I headed up Grays and made the 14,270-foot summit 11 minutes later. I spent about five minutes gazing down at the cloud-shrouded Front Range far below and to the east and the clear, blue-sky views to the west. 

The obligatory summit pic. Note the dense cloud cover blanketing the Eastern Plains.

Looking north over to Torreys Peak

After my short break atop Grays, I returned to the the saddle and made the 13 minute climb to the 14,267-foot summit of Torreys. 

Looking back over at Grays from the summit of Torreys - three feet below the height of Grays

From there, it was back down to the saddle, then a very fun descent as I retraced my steps back to the car. The best part was the looks of surprise from the 20+ hikers I cruised by as they were headed up. I got a lot of encouraging words and a few "you're my hero"-type comments. I appreciate those sorts of comments, but can't help but think about the runners I know that would simply crush my middling pace up and down these big mountains. Still, it's satisfying to know one can do things so many people, including most of those hikers, can't even imagine doing.

The run down from the saddle took about 32 minutes, putting me back at my car at around 8:15 a.m. And, after a quick drive back (and back into the dreary Front Range weather), I was at my desk at work -- ready to save the world -- by 9 a.m. 

One hell of a great way to start the day!  Only in Colorado...


  1. Curious as to the condition of the dirt road - passable in a passenger car or not? I am planning to hike Grays and Torreys on Friday and am wondering if I need a high-clearance vehicle?

  2. Dirt road is completely passable in a passenger car. Get there early so that you can park in the parking lot at the summer trailhead and not have to park down the road.