Colorado 14’ers: Grays and Torreys via Kelso Ridge Attempt


I strolled into my apartment just after midnight after a long day of shooting, filming, and hiking with Reptar and Red Moon. We had finished the night with some much deserved beers after we drove through one hell of a thunderstorm out of Boulder. I had previously been pretty set on changing my original plan of doing Grays and Torrey’s to attempting the Keyhole Route on Longs Peak. I set my alarm for 3:30 and went to bed just after midnight when I got home.  

I awoke without my alarm at 6:15. Needless to say I was tired and had no chance in hell to get up that early for such a long and time consuming route, so I once again altered my plans and checked the weather for the peaks. Gray's and Torrey's looked decent enough for a go, so I got up, grabbed my already packed bag, and headed out. I got a message from a buddy from the AT mentioning that he was also going to be doing Grays and Torrey's on Sunday, so I waited at the Winter Trailhead Parking lot for him. Since my little Nissan Versa can't really handle any bad roads, I needed a ride up to the actual trailhead, and as it always is, the trail provides and minutes later, Achilles showed up with his Dad. Achilles just moved to Denver on Saturday, and he was ready for some peak bagging. He's an insane ultra runner and hiker, so I was curious to see how I kept up with him. I wasn't sure if he even wanted to try Kelso Ridge, but at least we could hang out for a bit on the hike/run up to where the two trails split.

He pulled up in his Nissan truck and we hugged it out as it's been over two years since I've seen him. The last time I saw him he was strolling past me on a road walk somewhere in New York along the Appalachian Trail. I had been keeping up with him last year on the PCT, as well as this year as he trained his ass off for this race season. 

According to 14'

Torrey's via Kelso Ridge

Difficulty: Class 3

Exposure: 4/6

Miles RT: 6.75mi

High Point: 14,267'

Elevation Gain: 3,100'

Although this is the mileage just to Torrey's, I wasn't too concerned with the mileage after that. Most of it would be a descent off of Gray's, and the connection between Torrey's and Gray's is super short. 

I had my UD Fastpack loaded with layers, water, and some snacks. Nothing too crazy, as I was planning on doing the traverse as quick as possible, but I was prepared nonetheless. I even brought a beanie as I remembered it would be near freezing for the high on the peaks. Achilles and I pushed the first 1.75 miles to the junction fairly quickly, and just as I was about to break off, he stopped and pondered whether he wanted to join me on the attempt. After a couple of minutes of debating, he was up for it. We bounced right off of the main trail and headed towards the ridge line and the mining shaft, the first waypoint on the route. The smooth, gentle trail quickly turned to a steep, scree field ascent. Each step was as if my foot was placed in a pile of sand only to slip backwards each time I went to move. The earth beneath our feet wasn't solid. The scree scares me much more than any other type of terrain, as you know if you read my last report. 

Kelso Ridge Attempt w- Grant.jpg

We got to the main ridge line and as soon as we crested the rocks, the wind whipped and smacked us in the face like a brick wall. There was a real chill in the air, and with the wind persisting over 35mph, I was already a bit hesitant.

The temperature was just above freezing, and although my core temperature was just where it needed to be, both Achilles and I forgot one piece of gear almost required for this type of traverse in theses conditions; gloves. Both of us immediately knew that we made a mistake, but we had plenty of time so we kept pushing up the ridge to keep the attempt going. The scree eventually turned to large boulders that continued to make staircases out out of the trail. Up and down, we traversed over the talus and scree. We eventually arrived to the section of the ridge where the Class 3 begins. Teetering boulders lay precariously amongst others, waiting for one wrong move to alter its position. Decent hand holds accompany solid footing for the first few moves up to the approach of the Knifes Edge. I slowly made my way up the spire with a few meticulous moves and solid foot placement. The wind continued to pour over the top of the rocks and down onto my hands, making each hold that much more difficult. I checked back on Achilles and I could tell he was enjoying pushing his limits at altitude and with some harder terrain. I pushed up the last few moves and got to the next bit of ridge line where we would ascend a few more Class 3 moves to get to the 'White Rocks' section.

Kelso Ridge Attempt w- Grant-6.jpg

As we traversed around, down, and up the scree and talus fields, we both began talking about making the judgement call within the next few minutes. Our hands, which at the moment were our primary form of moving through the terrain, were beginning to freeze up and slow down. It was extremely difficult to justify continuing on the route in the conditions we were in, with the gear we had. 

Kelso Ridge Attempt w- Grant-2.jpg

We called it just before the White Rocks section. Achilles and I turned around in search for a wind block, even if it was just for a moment. The scree and talus fields that were steep on the ascent now gave us the challenge of descending. Combine that with downclimbing the Class 3 sections and you’re in for a real treat; I promise. 


 We eventually made our way back to the Mining Shack and took cover for a few minutes to get ready for the rest of the descent back to the junction where we would head up to Gray’s. 

The dirt trail returned, but only for a minute. We hit the main junction and began to power hike up the mountain. We made our way through the switchbacks, stopping every once in awhile to catch our breath. The wind was still whipping and my hands weren’t getting any warmer so we wanted to tag the summit and bomb the descent as quick as possible. Eventually, Achilles powered up from me and took off, and by the time I reached the last switchback, he was already carefully cruising down the loose rock. We bumped fists and that was that.  

I pushed to the top, snapped a few photos and started running down. I stopped twice before I got to the bottom, completely bombing the descent with carefully placed feet. I averaged about an 11 minute mile for the descent and once I got to the bottom, decided to hang out for a bit. It seemed Achilles bounced out; his dad wasn’t feeling well from the lack of Oxygen, so they got out quick. 

Kelso Ridge Attempt w- Grant-9.jpg

I started walking down the road to the parking lot, and eventually a car rolled down their window to ask if I needed a ride down to my car. I happily obliged. On the ride down, we told stories of our trips, and eventually the tires came to a halt and we went our separate ways.


Kelso Ridge Attempt w- Grant-10.jpg

 Although I didn’t accomplish my original goal of doing Kelso to Torreys to Grays, I did attempt the route, which is something. The scrambling is solid on the route up to the White Rocks. The foot and hand holds are more than stable. The wind and cold is what really drove Achilles and I off of the ridge, not the terrain. We were moving fairly quickly up the Rocks and towards the Knifes Edge, even with the wind. My hands couldn’t take it without gloves though. It was a fun route and a lot of it was runnable aside from the scrambling. I enjoyed it.

Had the weather been any nicer, I would have bagged Torreys along with Grays, but I was spent as far as energy was concerned from the attempt on Kelso. It was a challenging yet rewarding hike, especially when pushing miles. The round trip yielded about 8.5 miles and with nearly 4k of elevation gain. I did it in just under 3 and a half hours. Not so bad. 

I can’t wait to give it another go! I'm a week behind on the blog posts. This route was attempted on 8/19. I did Quandry this past weekend. Stay tuned!

Colorado 14'ers: Bierstadt, Sawtooth, Evans Combo


In the world of climbing, peak bagging, and hiking, Colorado has some of the most accessible routes in the country, let alone the world. Throughout the entire state, there are *58 mountains that are 14,000' or higher. Some of these peaks are easier than others, attracting large crowds on weekends; and I mean it. With the likes of Grays and Torreys, as well as Bierstadt and Evans all within an hour and a half or so of Denver, some are more popular than others. When I arrived in Colorado last year, within 24 hours I had done Bierstadt. 

Before I even moved to Colorado just a week ago, I told myself that I would do at least one 14'er every weekend until I can't anymore, so what a better way to start my 14'er conquest than to do Bierstadt again, but this time do the Sawtooth Traverse and Evans all in one go.


Exposure: 3/6

Class 3 Scramble

Gain: 3,900ft

Length: 10.2 miles

Start: 11,669'

Evans Summit: 14,264'

A few days before I planned on an attempt at the Combo Route, I messaged Reptar on Instagram to see if he was interested in possibly tagging along on the supposed 10.25 mile route that would tag two 14'ers along the way. At first, he seemed to be a bit hesitant when I mentioned that it included a class 3 scramble, but after some consideration, he eventually agreed and we planned to drive together. We hadn't talked about logistics until the Thursday night, and soon enough we had agreed to camp the night before so we could get a good start on the day. 

I left work on Friday at around 3 P.M and headed to REI first. I needed a new pair of shoes since my Timps are pretty much shot at this point and were beginning to give me some foot problems the last few days on trail. I snagged a pair of Tops Athletic MT2's and headed towards Reptar's place to pick him up and head for the mountains. 

Reptar and I had never actually hung out, but when I got to his place, we immediately started talking about trail and it was like I had just met him on a thru hike. The traffic started when we got on the highway and what would normally be just over an hour drive for us turned into nearly a two hour drive. After snaking up and around the switchbacks leading up to Guanella Pass, we finally arrived at the parking lot that would lead us to Bierstadt. We got out as the sun was beginning to set and packed our bags. We would go find a flat spot to sleep at, take some photos of the night sky, or at least we hoped, then crash. Turns out, the Meteor Shower was beginning to kick up and within moments the Milky Way was shining bright as meteors fell from the sky, creating a striking beam of light across the night sky each time. 

My headlight goes dim and I fall asleep.

Our 4:30 alarm sounded right on time, and as life would have it, when we woke, everything was covered in a thick layer of frost. My down quilt; completely soaked and frozen to the feather. My backpack that lay next to me; frozen. Shoes; frozen. We decided to pack up and go get warm in the car before we even thought about starting to hike. Turns out, we were both pretty exhausted and fell back asleep in the car for another hour and a half. I woke up as the sun was beginning to make its way behind the Sawtooth Ridge. I looked in my rear view mirror and I noticed a line of people outside of the toilet. Cars everywhere. People everywhere. Seems about right.

We hurried and got our bags packed again and started the Alpine Meadow walk up towards Bierstadt.

Our start time: 7:00 AM. 

The first mile or so of the hike includes some extremely mellow boardwalks. The switchbacks begin within a half mile, but don't begin to get steep for a little while. The trail is very well maintained, and as I mentioned above, there were people everywhere. We would pass a group while they were breaking, then we would leap frog as Reptar and I stopped to eat and catch our breath. Although I just got off the PCT, I haven't been at 12,000'+ for a few months. Reptar just summited Grays and Torrey's a couple of weeks ago, but he doesn't spend much time at elevation either as he is working quite a bit. Our packs held not much more than a half days worth of food, two liters of water each, and some extra layers in case the weather rolled in. The forecast was calling for sunny blue skies essentially all day, so I wasn't worried too much about the weather. 

14'ers - Bierstadt - Sawtooth - Evans-5.jpg

Switchback after switchback eventually led us to a plateau where we had some of the most surreal lighting on the Sawtooth. We stopped for a bit once again to take photos, and enjoy the hike up. We needed to pace ourselves so we had energy for the ridge and Evans. One more push to the base of the rock scramble would get us in striking distance. We slogged up and eventually passed nearly 75 people as we made our way to the base. Low and behold; another 25 at the base of the summit. Maybe more. At this point, Reptar and I were both pretty perplexed. I did Bierstadt last year on a Saturday and I don't recall this many people being on the mountain, but hey, its just as much theirs as it is mine. 

A sea of people awaited us at the top, and within a few minutes of getting to the top, we were on our way down with a new friend we had just met, Polar. His real name is Mark, but he was in the military and he mentioned that people used to call him that, so thats what I'll refer to him as. He asked if we were doing the Sawtooth and he questioned, "Mind if I tag along with you guys?". "Not at all!", we replied. Another set of eyes is always good to have while route finding, especially on a route you've never been on.

We began the descent towards the Sawtooth from the summit of Mt. Bierstadt at around 11 AM or so, give or take. The first thing we all noticed was the lack of any real trail. Exactly what I expected, but daunting nonetheless. We found our way down the talus field and eventually began to traverse boulders more comfortably with each step. Scree lay below most of the talus, so I stuck to the hopping and continued up, down and around until we got to the first outcropping. All three of us felt very confident up to this point. There isn't any real exposure on the descent towards the saddle, but a lot of the talus is quite unstable. Footing is very important here. We meandered slowly up and down, painstakingly making our way towards the west ridge where the class 3 begins. Polar was leading the route for a bit, but before we all knew it, I was in front and stayed in front for the remainder of the hike. I prefer to jump from boulder to boulder, so I left most of the scree routes up to them. I would rather traverse a few class 3 moves than go down a scree field, so catch me on the boulders. 

Sawtooth from Bierstadt

Sawtooth from Bierstadt

Now mind you, I had the route and the photos saved onto my phone so I could access them even in airplane mode, so I frequently was checking them to make sure we were on route. Each time I rounded a corner, or hopped onto a loose rock, I would relay the outcome back to Reptar and Polar. 

We finally reached the las outcropping. We had two options for a route to get around it and to the West Ridge. Either up and over, which is shorter, or around, which is the longer way. We opted for around just to be sure of the terrain and keep the risk to a minimum. Although it did take longer, it was worth it to know that there wasn't a huge risk of getting cliffed out on the other side of the outcropping. We each successfully navigated the last outcropping and got to the notch where we would begin the Class 3 section of the traverse. Although Reptar is apparently afraid of heights, I didn't see anything that would to elude to the fact up until we got to the West Ridge where the catwalk and scrambles were. Once we finally arrived at the true traverse and the crux, I could see that Reptar was beginning to let the fear get to him. He had been talking about how nervous he was all morning, but to be honest, he was much less afraid of the descent off Bierstadt than I was. Loose talus and scree worry me more than a few class 3 moves, but to each their own. 

Third and Final Outcropping

Third and Final Outcropping

Reptar ascending the talus and scree field

Reptar ascending the talus and scree field

14'ers - Bierstadt - Sawtooth - Evans-9.jpg

I continued to lead the class 3 route. Reptar was behind me, and Polar behind him. The West Side of the Ridge includes a few traverses, some extremely narrow catwalks, and a few actual class 3 moves. From a distance, the Sawtooth looks much more menacing and fear inducing, but when you actually arrive to the ledges, it's fairly stable. I avoided the scree at all costs, causing me and the rest of the group to take the high route on the last traverse. One can either hike under the overhang and up a steep slope of scree, or hike up and above the boulders, and traverse a few ledges which eventually turn to solid ground with plenty of space to feel secure. 

For me, the Class 3 moves were no problem, and since I don't generally have a fear of heights, the traverse wasn't that bad. For Reptar, who is afraid of heights, it was a different story. He powered through each and every obstacle, but I'd be lying if I said he did it with ease. I could tell the exposure was getting to him, especially as he crawled on all fours under rocks and over rocks to avoid going near the ledge. After each catwalk, we would take a break for everyone to catch their bearings. I would constantly yell back to the group with reports on the boulders and sections ahead. We were constantly communicating our moves, which is essential in these types of adventures that include some dangerous terrain. With the possibility of a rockfall, a slide, or any number of other issues going wrong at any point, it was nice to have constant updates, especially when a member of the group is not so keen on exposure. 

Class 3 Scrambling on the Sawtooth

Class 3 Scrambling on the Sawtooth

At last, we reached the notch where we would start our ascent towards Mt. Evans. The route at this point goes from a Class 3, immediately to Class 2 hiking as the ascent begins. It's a fairly steep grade, and with no real trail for a few tenths of a mile, the route throws some more navigating at you. Giant pieces of granite lay across the plateau and in the distance Mt. Evans is waiting. In between the crest of the ridge to the actual summit lay a couple of miles of boulder hopping, rock scrambling, and cairn following. Eventually, you pop over a bump on the ascent and begin to climb slowly towards the top on the outskirts of the mountain.

We began the ascent towards Mt. Evans at around 1:30 P.M from the end of the Sawtooth. We had taken much longer on the Sawtooth than we expected, and at this point, we were behind schedule by quite a bit. We didn't really have anywhere to be, so as long as the weather held up, it could take us all day and we wouldn't really have cared.

The slog up Mt. Evans began and at first we enjoyed the slow ascent towards the actual ridge line, but soon enough, as it always does, the trail got steeper, rockier, and more technical. Although it's only Class 2, the talus makes for some fairly unstable footing. We took a break roughly every quarter mile at this point. Reptar and Polar were feeling the altitude, lack of water and food much more than I was, but I wanted to stick together as a group. We only packed out two liters of water and some snacks, and we were starting to run a bit low on everything. The breaks were beginning to stack up, and by the time we got within striking distance of Mt. Evans, it was getting close to 4 o'clock. We were expecting to be down at the car no later than 5. We summited around 3:30 after getting some water from a couple at the parking lot. 

Looking back towards the ridge line from Mt. Evans.

Looking back towards the ridge line from Mt. Evans.

We enjoyed the summit of Mt. Evans for awhile. After all, it took us a hell of a lot of time to get there. Although there were more tourists on Evans than Bierstadt possibly, it is a helluva view. The ridge descending Evans back towards the plateau is fairly prominent, and with a few extra steps you can get some awesome views from nearly every direction. Reptar and I had packed out a beer each to enjoy on the summit, so we cracked them and cheersed. Although we were done with the ascent of both mountains, the descent was apparently just as tricky and possibly even more dangerous than the ascent. How great!

We ended up pounding our beers and all three of us headed down the ridge and descended Mt. Evans at around 4:00 P.M.

Mountain Goats!

Mountain Goats!

Another one!

Another one!

14' says that after descending the ridge off of Evans back towards the notch, you head NW into the open area towards a Gulley. We did just that. I eventually ran off down the mountain and made sure that the Gulley I was looking at matched up with the photos on the app. It sure did, but it is MUCH steeper than the photos make it look. I was surmised we had to hike down the gulley in front of me, but before I knew it I was off and the others were right behind me. After all the time I spent avoiding the scree on the Sawtooth, I was rewarded with nothing but it on the descent! Rocks slid, moved, and crumbled beneath me as I made haste of the first section of the descent. It seemed to be about a 1,300' descent in far less than a mile. I could feel the pain in each of my knees as I put more and more pressure on them as the terrain became less stable and even steeper. The trail eventually began to disappear and in place of it was more scree. The gulley just kept going. Boulder after boulder. Loose rock, with more loose rock in front of it. Eventually, we started to make out the parking lot off in the distance. The gulley would spit us out at the opposite side of the meadow as the Bierstadt Trail. This means that once we got to the end of the Gulley, we would have to navigate our way through roughly one mile of thick willow trees. It just so happens that these willow's are right next to a river, which creates plenty of mud pits, or a bog if you will. 

We waded through the willows for what seemed like much longer than a mile.

Reptar and I pushed on ahead and ended up waiting every 10 minutes or so for Polar and our new friend Jacob to catch up. Jacob caught up to us as we were getting ready to enter the Gully, and he had no idea of the route he was taking down. He said he was all too stoked to find other people on the way down, otherwise he was planning on taking the wrong ridge he said. 

The minutes kept ticking, and soon enough, the sun was beginning to set on the horizon. What we thought would be a six to eight hour hike, was turning into a 12 hour day. We weren't expecting the Sawtooth to take so long. We took the entire hike fairly leisurely until we really had to when it came to the Class 3 moves. 

The willows ended and we found ourselves back at the car just around 7:00 P.M, nearly 12 hours after we left the car earlier that morning.


Although 14' said that the route was only 10.2 miles, both my GPS tracker and Polar's said it was closer to 13.5-14.0 miles. It definitely was longer than 10.2, I'll tell you that much. I would plan for a long day if you're not acclimated to the altitude or to the terrain. The route is fairly difficult in some sections, but a lot of the Sawtooth is much more daunting from the car than it is when you actually get on it. 

I really enjoyed the route, especially the scrambling and the Sawtooth. Polar and Reptar weren't too big of fans of the route until we actually got done with it, but it was different. The route kept throwing us curveballs from the start to the finish. We had an exorbitant amount of people to wade through on top of Bierstadt. The initial freight of looking down at the Sawtooth. Dealing with the unreal amount of scree and talus on the descent. The Class 3 scramble. The West Ridge and it's exposure. The nonstop, relentless boulders that kept coming on the ascent to Mt. Evans. Mountain goats. The wildly steep descent down the gulley to the willows. This route had everything and I would most certainly do it again. I thought the route was well put together. It thinned out drastically once we descended from Bierstadt, so it was nice to have a more relaxed change of pace rather than the sea of people up top. 

Overall, it was a challenging, but very rewarding hike with some exposure that I felt comfortable with, which made for an epic day. Thanks to Reptar for joining me on the route!

Next up: Gray's and Torreys via Kelso Ridge / Keep an eye out.