25 August 2009

Grays Peak

2 September 2002

I may have to climb this mountain again just to get a better trip report. I can’t believe I wrote only a couple of paragraphs!

The first known person to ascend Grays Peak, botanist Charles C. Parry, named the peak for his botanist colleague Asa Gray. Asa actually did not see the peak until 1872, 11 years later.

The summit of Grays Peak is the highest point of the Continental Divide. Typically it is climbed from Stevens Gulch and in conjunction with nearby Torreys Peak.

I didn’t try to climb Grays from the standard approach. The stream of people going up the standard approach on Bierstadt had left me yearning for the path not taken, the road not followed.

I went to Peru Creek, on the other side of the mountain, and climbed the wrong peak. Turns out the mountain I did climb, Argentine Peak, is the 131st tallest peak in Colorado, and it’s one of 600 13ers. I climbed my first 13er by accident!

I knew before I reached the summit I wasn’t on the right mountain. I could see both Grays and Torreys across the valley. But I was enjoying the climb, so I kept going.

A woman behind me was following the same trail, but she seemed to have little or no interest in the mountain. She was collecting mountain goat hair from shrubbery along the way and carding it as she walked. I wish I could see what she did with the yarn she likely spun from the colossal amount of fiber she gathered that day.

On my second attempt, I encountered an enormous male mountain goat with a perfectly groomed summer coat, and he was so photogenic and cooperative, I lost all interest in the peak. I used up I don’t know how many rolls of film on him. Then clouds moved in, and I had to beat feet back down to the car.

On my third try, I finally reached the summit of Grays, but clouds were moving in too quickly for me to attempt Torreys. Plus, I was hoping I might run into that mountain goat again.

Alas, my photographic dreams were shattered. He was nowhere to be found. The first high altitude snowfall of the season occurred the following week, and my quest for Torreys and more mountain goats would have to wait until the following summer.

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