03 September 2009

Torreys Peak

4 July 2003

I climbed my first 14er of the year this morning – Torreys! I darn near bagged Grays again, too, chasing mountain goats. (as usual)

I camped at the standard Grays trailhead Thursday night. I had forgotten the topo map I keep in my car does not include pages 38 and 39, thanks to my son, who commandeered them for a school project and "forgot" to tell me. Much less ask! So I went to sleep with my fingers crossed. Lack of preparation.

I hit the trailhead at about 5:30 a.m. Friday, July 4, getting my first full glimpse of Torreys just as the rising sun painted it with orange beams of light a little more than half an hour later. I stopped to take photos of the peak’s reflection in a pond and got passed by seven hikers.

For the next hour or so, while making my way upward and admiring the bright-colored miniature flowers dotting the tundra, I studied the trail zigzagging across the face of Grays and the snowfield scars where hikers bypassed Grays and ascended the Grays/Torreys saddle directly, exactly what I planned to do. The route looked good. About half an hour later, however, I noticed six mountain goats on the ridge east of Grays.

So much for Torreys in three hours or less…

I gained the ridge while circling and shooting the mangy-looking mountain goats. I couldn’t get close to the one baby I could see, a disappointment, but not enough to discourage my summit attempt. I taught a couple of pairs of hikers how to get close to wildlife without harassing them. That alone made my off-route adventure worth it.

I likely could have summited Grays in less than half an hour, then descended the saddle and climbed Torreys as planned, but I worried the brief detour might make me late for a prescheduled afternoon holiday gathering with friends. So I backtracked down the slopes of Grays across some very loose talus and some very cold snow to get back on route.

About half an hour later, I was heading up Torreys, now being passed by scores of hikers, some with dogs. I had to stop frequently, not only to breathe, but also to shoot the abundant wildflowers, a marmot and incredible views of Kelso Ridge. Several hikers asked if I knew which mountain was which. It was fun to play park ranger again, a calling in life I have sorely missed in the last few months.

Atop Torreys, the views were outstanding, the summit was surprisingly small, the register was almost inaccessible, like the neighboring Grays there was no geological survey team pin, the weather was absolutely perfect, and posing on snowfields on July 4 felt magical! The four graduates from my impromptu Wildlife 101 photography class, who had all summited Grays, also reached the top of Torreys. After a bunch of photos and exchange of e-mail addresses, I began the descent.

On the way up, I had decided I would go off route on the way back down to shoot a waterfall because the falls were still in morning shadows during the ascent. Now they were bathed in midday sunlight, and the sky behind Grays and Torreys was deep, mesmerizing blue. I bushwhacked across a squishy, damp meadow to the thundering falls, then jumped across the stream at the narrowest point I could find to get just the right angle. My feet got wet, and that made my whole body feel like smiling.

I passed a couple carrying up perhaps the strangest thing I've ever seen toted up a mountain: bird cages with colorful singing birds, apparently very much in their element.

It feels awkward to say I’m back in the saddle, since I wasn’t actually IN the saddle today, but I felt like I had returned to me. Four rolls of film in less than six hours. I love my bike, and I wouldn’t trade my Ride the Rockies vacation for the world, but I have really missed hiking. I’m looking forward to the next four months!

1 comment :

  1. Your pictures are breath taking!! My daughter loves photography! I will tell her about yours!


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