This is another of my famous honest blogs about hiking-like my Mt. Elbert blog. This one is all about the agony (and ecstasy) of hiking Grays and Torreys Peak. This is a necessary blog because all I ever read is people talking about how after they hike whatever 14er and describe it with words like “amazing”, “fun”, “awesome” and my favorite, “easy”. Now, hiking Grays and Torreys, like any 14er, is amazing and awesome in it’s extreme nature, in the beauty that surrounds and in accomplishment. But it’s equally grueling and psychologically HARD.
It doesn’t help anyone when we sugar coat the truth. Regardless of whatever 14er you hike, it is going to be tough, it is going to test your limits. It’s funny though, the fact that it’s as hard as it is…that is what hooks you. The feeling of accomplishment after completing something that physically challenging is addicting. And, hiking Grays and Torrey’s (check out my mom’s blog) was no different.
Table of Contents
The Reality of Hiking 14ers
I don’t know if the word awesome or fun really hits the mark when describing hiking Grays and Torreys, or any other Colorado 14er, really. It’s not a fun thing, not for me or my family at least. It’s not fun to have your lungs burn, or your legs shaking. The reason for hiking any 14er is strictly for the views at the top (unimaginable) and the feeling of accomplishing something so incredibly difficult. For me, the opportunity to witness the beauty of God’s creation from such heights is of equal draw.
You have to do the work to get the payoff. Hiking Grays and Torreys, like most Colorado 14ers isn’t accessible by car or any other motorized vehicle. You can’t achieve the feeling of accomplishment, you can’t see what you want to see from the trailhead, or from bed at home, you have to work hard all the way to the top of the mountain in order to reap the benefits. Which is exactly why it feels so good when you reach the summit. You wouldn’t have even a fraction of the joy if you had driven to the top.
The people you meet along the way also enrich the experience. We met so many people on this hike, had so many conversations and words of encouragement, it was cool. One guy we met at the top of Gray’s peak, asked, “is this a big family hiking day? And if so, who’s the one who came up with the whole idea and faces the penalty of being killed later?” He laughed. We laughed. But we were at the top, joyful, relieved, grateful for the strength and the health to do it. We all laughed and Mom answered “it was a mutual decision.”
To answer the man’s question, Father Daniel. Though, we’d never attack him, we love him and we are so thankful he has introduced us to such a redeeming activity. We all were “excited” to hike Grays and Torreys, but Fr Daniel was definitely the catalyst.
Now, did you notice I said he asked us this question “on top of Gray’s peak”? A little hint indicating that yes, we actually made it to the top, of Grays Peak, after I repeated dozens of times that we were “gonna die on this hike.” Side note… I am no hiker, although, I repeat to myself repeatedly that I am a hiker and that I like it. But when I actually hike, reality hits and I once again remember, “ohhh, yeah, I hate this.” I’d rather ride an escalator to the top, or a ski lift, snap a picture of the views and ride the ride back down. But that would be easy. And, I guess easy doesn’t have as good a reward at the end. I remind myself of that saying my mom always says, “Nothing worthwhile is ever easy.”
This is my third and fourth 14er. Mt. Elbert was not easy. Mt. Princeton was not easy. Neither was Grays nor Torreys.
I specified Grays Peak above, because there was another peak still to go and that was Torrey’s. No way were we hiking to Gray’s and not grabbing Torrey’s as well. We killed two birds with one stone with this specific hike. Now we can say we’ve hiked three 14’ers as a family.
Hiking Grays and Torrey’s reminded me of hiking Mt. Princeton.
Two reasons it reminded me of Princeton: It was rocky, and very, very steep near the end. We read something where it said, and this was one of the only truthful things written, “you will have to crawl near the end of Torrey’s.” Torrey’s is classified as a Class II hike, I guess meaning the trail isn’t as obvious and there are some scramble spots. When I was hiking to Torrey’s from Grays, I remember thinking I was about to crawl, not because of rocks, but out of sheer exhaustion. This 600′ from Gray’s was the hardest part of the entire hike.
Location of Grays and Torreys
For those interested, we chose to hike Grays and Torrey’s because of its close proximity to Glenwood Springs and Denver, and because it’s one of the shorter 14’ers. We planned to camp at the upper trailhead in order to ensure a parking spot up there as if you fail too, you add an additional 6 miles to your hike because you are forced to park in the lower lot. Unacceptable to us. lol.
We left Glenwood after mass on Sunday, around noon. We needed to make runs to stores before we left, because, of ‘course, we needed gear. Taking the escalade and the boys’ truck. We went to Costco and filled up on snacks, “gotta have those thousands of fruitsnacks” said nobody but Kenny. And of course Rice Crispy Treats, other unmentionables and lunch. My mom had already packed the supplements she swears by, TruBrain and LMNT electrolytes. We left Costco, and you know how my Dad drives-oh, you don’t? Well he drives slow. We then stopped in Silverthorne to hit up a Walmart to fill water jugs and then it City Market for food.
After leaving Silverthorne, heading to Bakersville, the weather dropped ten degrees, not even joking. I watched the numbers drop.
And finally, after what felt like forever, we made it to the Bakersville exit-does anyone even live here?-and pulled off, literally off the highway, into a parking lot. That lower parking lot, that adds 6 miles round trip to the hike. Luckily it was about 3:30, so we were in great shape.
We passed through this lot and up the really really terrible road. And as of this Summer-2021-there is a fine if you park on this road, $81 per car. Our Escalade made it up this just fine, despite it being bumpy and rutted out. Eddy, our hiking mini-Goldendoodle, sat on Emmy’s lap and stuck his head out the window, making Rowdy in the boys’ truck behind us yell “hi, Eddy.” As we drove the road, we saw this huge peak, that we assumed was Gray’s or Torrey’s peak. “I was upbeat for this ‘till I saw that,” Dad informed us in the car. We all confirmed that sentiment, but with determination. When we decide to do something we do it.
Finally we made it to the trailhead. There were two parking lots. One below and one above with one disgusting outhouse, in between. A little bit of woods and a steep cliff. We parked and hiked around looking for a good campsite. We found the best one at the end of the upper parking lot. It was beautiful and private and perfect. We hung hammocks and set up tents, then we sat on top of the hoods of the cars and waited. Waited for Father Daniel.
While we waited, a group of older men pulled up and set up camp in the woods on the other side of the parking lot.
Finally, when six PM came around, two hours after we got there, the boys’ jumped in their truck and went down the road again to get service in case Father Daniel messaged them saying he couldn’t make it. “Would we still do it?” we all asked Mom in hopes that we wouldn’t. “Yes,” Mom informed us. Dang it!
But they came back saying Father Daniel left later than he planned and was on his way, going through traffic. We ate dinner, then he arrived and the party started. We hung out for a bit, then started a fire. Not sure if we were allowed to but oh well. We then went to bed, and Father Daniel and the boys stayed up talking. Next thing I knew I heard…
“Wake up, it’s time to hike.” Mom sang outside our tent.
I shook Emmy and Brody awake and I crawled outside of the tent and Emmy met me in the Escalade as we got dressed in the dark. It was cold, but totally worth it to camp right at the trailhead.
By the time we all were dressed, it was about six AM. Somebody pulled out muffins, and Sunny-D’s, I was too blurred from my sleep to eat or drink anything.
We filled the bladders in our camelbak’s the night prior and also filled snacks into the pockets. Dad was smart, he informed us, “it’s going to be cold. You will need fleece.” So I brought fluffy fleece and it helped tremendously. Mom thought she’d be warm from hiking, but she nearly froze at the top.
Moral: Be prepared.
We started the hike. Brody went to the bathroom but we left him and stepped onto the trailhead. The mountain we saw on the drive was neither of the peaks. We walked around that mountain towards the peaks. But from the parking lot, Cardy pointed out a peak far in the distance, “I think that’s one of them.”
As we began the descent, I slipped my headphones over my ears and pressed play on my phone. Listening to Dateline NBC along with my Mom. It distracts us, so our brains don’t have the opportunity to psyche us out.
The trail started out on a bridge, then steps for a while with wildflowers on either side. Then we hit switchbacks, then the trail flattened out, this was the best part. It’s also where Brody caught up to us, out of breath after he ran maybe one mile to catch up.
We took a short break at a sign, with views of the peaks way in front. Looking massive, looking impossible, looking intimidating and beautiful. We ate some snacks and a hiker asked about Eddy. “Is he a puppy?” So many people asked this because he’s a mini. We answered, “no, he’s nine years old.” We talked a few minutes about dogs, specifically how Eddy defies all the odds and is an amazing trail blazer.
We stood up and continued the hike. Unpausing the crime story going on in my headphones. The flat trail was a blessing. My favorite part of the hike was that length where the trail was completely flat. But then it steepened bit by bit as we got closer.
Two miles in and we plopped down on grass. Dad snuck down a hill and stored the emergency water bottles somewhere. He came back, we sat for a bit longer.
The peaks in front of us looked huge. But I was feeling good after the flat stretch and the story going on was making me feel guilty about complaining.
This girl, Blaire had lost both her parents. The story was crazy. Her mother, Kathleen shot Blaire’s Father, Carl, then called her mother, Blaire’s grandmother and said, “Mom, Pete is here, he killed Carl and he’s going to kill me next.” She hung up and then Kathleen shot herself dead. Why? So the police would think Pete, who is not a family member but the son of Allen, an old man whom Kathleen laundered money from, killed both Kathleen and Carl. Kathleen wanted Pete in jail because he was going to bring Kathleen to court. “Why would I kill them if I needed them alive in court?” Pete asked. Pete then went to prison for eighteen years after being convicted of killing Kathleen but not Carl. The police really failed in this true story. But then he was released when the truth was discovered. Kathleen was a psychopath who was a thief and was selfish and also a murderer. It was a murder-suicide. Anyway-
So how could I complain about this hike while Pete’s kids lost their father for eighteen years for absolutely nothing, and Blaire lost both her parents to save Kathleen from going to prison?
Anyway, I couldn’t complain.
This is when the hike got steep. Mom and I decided to walk ahead, and leave everyone behind in order to give ourselves the ability to stop and rest as often and for as long as we needed without holding everyone up. Turns out we are much faster hikers than we give ourselves credit for. The hike started getting rocky. Immediately, Mom and I got tired. We stopped for a break.
In front of us, the trail went around this hill–thing, then straightened, straight up. We noticed the switch backs clear all the way up the mountain. Dread filled me.
We stood and started walking. We stopped for quick breaks numerous times. But then my phone died from the cold. No more distractions. My mind was free to wreak havoc.
After doing hiit workouts, our bodies are trained to recover in less than ten seconds. So that’s the length of all our breaks as we climbed up this mountain. Every time we stopped, the views got prettier and prettier. But every time we started up again, the hike got harder and harder.
I told my sister, Emmy, the night before we hiked, as we sat in our tent, huddled underneath sleeping bags, “okay, I’m not looking forward to this hike, but we’re doing it, so I’m looking forward to getting to the top. And the drive home.”
But, now I was looking forward to those muffins. It was almost nine AM when we finished that straight part and started the cruel switchbacks. Dally caught up to us and there was a mountain goat in our trail. We stopped and snapped a few pictures of him. Then Dally and I slowly inched toward him, afraid he’d charge at us and send us off the cliff behind us.
Finally, he ran down the cliff like spider man, and we continued up the trail. We left Dally behind, and Mom and I kept going up. It got so steep, so tiring. Our legs were shaking, our lungs burned. The views were spectacular, though. And the mountain goat? Amazing.
“You’re so close,” people told us as they made their way down. I wished I were those people descending the hike.
“Let’s get up there and be those people then,” Mom suggested. I admired her motivation even while she struggled.
I assume those people only said we were so close just to be nice, because we weren’t “so close”.
We continued the switchbacks, with a view of Gray’s Peak. At least I prayed that was the peak. I offered up the pain in my legs and my breath being labored for souls in purgatory.
Finally, Mom and I made it to Gray’s peak. We really were pushing our limits. We felt so out of shape, to be completely honest. This is what five months of living out of an RV does to you.
We fell onto the rocks and eventually our heartrates slowed. We’d reached our first goal. From here we could see the steep stretch up to Torrey’s peak.. A mere 600′. But 600 extremely hard feet.
After about 15 minutes the boys all made it up. Then my Dad, Emmy and Coby. Followed by Father Daniel, Brody and Elly. Brody said when Elly saw the peak, she took off in a fast sprint.
We all relaxed for a bit. It was ice cold. Snowing. I put my hat on and huddled in my fleece. Then Father Daniel set up for mass. Teeth chattering, we celebrated mass. It was beautiful, doing mass at fourteen thousand, two hundred and seventy feet up high. Incredible way to praise God.
After mass, we took photos, and then ate some more snacks, and talked to a bunch of people. One couple up there was from Kentucky. The wife was charging the climb when we passed them, the husband, surviving it. We wished everyone a safe and fun remainder of their hike, and started heading down Grays toward the saddle to Torrey’s peak. “Was that the coldest mass you’ve ever celebrated?” Mom asked Father Daniel as we walked. “Yes,” Father Daniel answered, “but you don’t become a priest for comfort.”
After pushing our limits up Gray’s peak, Torrey’s was much harder. Mom and I lost our pace. The boy’s raced in front of us, I followed. Dad layed down on the rocks and it took him a good five minutes to get back up. Before reaching the saddle between Gray’s and Torrey’s, a woman told us, “Okay, the trail up to Torrey’s is hard, steep but it’s not as long as it looks.”
It sure was steep. A few times, mom said “I don’t have much left.” But she made it up, I knew she would. We finally made it up, literally nearly crawling. And every break I took, I fought for breath. Finally, I made it to the top. I fell next to the boys’ and breathed heavily until I was breathing normally again. My gosh, that was hard.
The views were amazing. We could see the highway and the cars looked smaller than ants. The elevation was three feet shorter than Gray’s peak. Mom and Emmy made it up, then Dad and Father Daniel. At last, we all made it. We did it.
We ate snacks, took photos. Relaxed. Overall hiking time, it took us 4.5 hours to reach both peaks. With all the breaks we took, with mass and stuff, we were on the trail just longer than six hours and 10 minutes. Not bad, I reckon.
It was amazing being that high up, we spoked with others, compared notes, took photos and laughed. But a storm cloud seemed to be encroaching, even though our Open Summit App said no rain, we knew it was time to leave at nearly eleven. We headed down the steep Torrey’s peak. It got sketchy with the cliffs, but going down is way easier. We hiked up towards the main trail again, took a two minute break to let everyone catch up.
Elly pointed out the rain cloud numerous times with wide eyes.
When everyone met us at the main trail, we started down. The boys’ were speeding down, literally running. Dad and Father Daniel were taking their time. Mom, Emmy and I were in the middle, going fast, but not running. It took us way less time to get down, maybe and hour, 1.5 hours?
We stopped where we stashed the water bottles, it was much warmer. We took off layers and took a long break. Dad and Father Daniel came down. Dad got a really bad cramp, then sat, shirt off, shoes off, one sock off. We all laughed at him.
At last, we stood and were a bit wobbly after the long break.
But the boys’ started running again. Mom hung back and walked with Fr Daniel, Dad, Elly, Emmy and Coby. We reached the flat point and walked fast. I was in between the boys’ and Mom and them.
Tired, my feet hurt. When I turned back to look, the peaks behind me were incredible. I couldn’t believe I was just on top of both of them. Finally, I reached the steps indicating the end was near. I rushed down, across the bridge, I made my way up the parking lot, to our campsite, I dropped my bag and peeled my boots off. We all packed up camp while everyone else finished the hike.
I finally had that muffin and Sunny D. It was so good, haha.
We left after saying our goodbye’s to Father Daniel. Eddy plopped down in the escalade and fell fast asleep. Tired little boy. He fell off the seat and still stayed asleep. Everyone fell asleep. We drank so much water. We were done. I was happy to say we were done.
It circles back to the same question I brought up after Mt. Elbert:
Was it worth it?
YES! It was hard. Hard, indeed. I can’t quite decide whether it was harder or easier than Mt. Elbert. I’d say the same, maybe. Mt. Elbert was longer and never had a flat stretch. Mt Elbert also had two fake summits. So I don’t know.
Either way, I hated all the hikes. Princeton, Elbert, Grays, and Torreys. They all are on the list of things I’ll never do again.
But I will, we will, do another 14’er. Eventually. Because it is so worth it!
So, that concludes this honest blog about Grays and Torreys peaks.
If you’re gonna do Grays or Torrey’s peak, good stinking luck. You’ll need it.
Cool fact: Every dead body on Mt. Everest was once a very motivated person.
Yes, I’m morbid. ha ha