Torreys Peak: Colorado fourteener of the week No. 48

By Josh Friesema Special to The Gazette - Published: November 14, 2013 | 12:00 am 0

Conveniently located only a few miles off Interstate 70, Torreys Peak is a very popular fourteener.

On a nice summer weekend, expect to be hiking with a few hundred friends. Try to arrive early or the parking area might be full, requiring an extra mile or more of walking on the dirt road.

Accessibility isn't the lone reason behind Torreys' popularity as the mountain has plenty to offer. At an elevation of 12,200 feet, the main trail diverges into three choices for finishing.

The first is the standard route to the left. Shared with neighbor Grays Peak, this path remains mostly class 1 and 2 and is ideal for the hiker who simply desires to reach the summit and enjoy the scenery without too much excitement from the trail. It can be quite busy during summer weekends, but fortunately the trail is fairly wide and passing hikers headed in the opposite direction doesn't cause much delay.

The middle option is the least-used, mostly because it is a snow climb and conditions are only right a few months of the year. This route is known as the Dead Dog Couloir and offers the most direct access to the summit thanks to a 40-degree angle most of the way. While relatively popular for a couloir climb, it's unlikely to come across more than 20 or 30 other people due to the gear, technical skill and physical fitness required. Many who opt to ascend this route also opt to ski down it. It's a lot of effort for one run, but you won't find a resort run that comes close.

The third route is Kelso Ridge, which offers a class 3 alternative that is a fun proving ground. Hikers looking to attempt more difficult peaks often come to this ridge to get a feel for scrambling up rock at altitude. The route also offers some real exposure, which becomes more dramatic toward the summit, culminating in a knife-edge ridge at an elevation of 14,000 feet. Don't confuse this with the knife edge of Capitol Peak, which is even airier. Fortunately, the climbing involved in this short stretch isn't very difficult, though many feel most secure by putting a leg on either side and scooting across. Crossing the knife edge is more of a mental challenge than physical, and some do turn back even though they've already conquered more difficult climbing on the route. After reaching the summit, it's best to descend via the standard route so as not to cause traffic jams on Kelso Ridge.

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Friesema is a Colorado native who has scaled each of the state's 14,000-foot peaks. He has been a member of Teller County Search and Rescue since 2003. Read about his high-country adventures at hikingintherockies.com.

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