Today I am going to delve into our first (two) experiences with 14ers in Colorado. An endeavor I won’t likely quickly forget! For those of you wondering a “14er” or “fourteener” is a mountain peak that exceeds 14,000 feet. Colorado is home to 58 of these amazing and beautiful mountains! During prime climbing times locals (and visitors!) flock to these mountains for an opportunity to explore their natural beauty. Kervin and I had been living in Colorado for 9 months before undertaking the Grays and Torreys Peak Combo this past August.
Being the planner that I am, I started researching which of the 14ers would be best to start with based on route difficulty and weather/temps. Routes are classified from level 1 (easiest) to level 4 (most difficult). I referred to this site most often. One thing I have yet to get used to is how warm and sunny Denver can be, and just a few hours away the mountains are cool and snowy! So after much debating and searching we decided to tackle both Grays and Torreys as they are one of the few where it is possible to summit both in one day. We had a “go big, or go home” mentality. And WOW, were we in for a surprise!
We (including Banner, our pup) were up at 4am in order to leave the house by 4:30am, as everything I had read said we should be in the parking lot before sunrise to ensure we would get a parking spot before all the spaces were full. We turned off the highway onto a dirt road barely wide enough for cars two cars to pass, that lead to the parking lot, now I had read that the road was in rough shape which made it difficult for low clearance vehicles, but I didn’t think it would be THAT bad. We hadn’t even made it a mile before the road was covered in potholes, not just little ones either, they were HUGE. We began to pass cars parked on the side of the road with hikers gathering their gear using headlamps and flashlights. After a few too many frighteningly close calls and having to reverse due to a pothole that crossed the entirety of the dirt road, we decided to park along the side and start from there. It was probably close to 6am by the time the three of us headed up toward Grays trail. We were well prepared with layers, water, snacks, and our hiking shoe chains, which we were thankful for as it became snowy and slippery quickly as we preceded up Grays trail. Banner was having an absolute blast rolling in the snow and waiting on us as we slowly trekked up the mountain. It felt like we were being passed by everyone, and there was even a woman jogging up the trail! But we finally made it to the top of Grays Peak and the views were amazing!
This is the top of Grays Peak at 14,270 feet.
After stopping for a quick snack and catching our breath, we headed down the North Ridge of Grays towards Torreys. It is a 575 foot descent on the trail the connects to Torreys. It is possible to head back to the main trail and parking lots at this point, or continue on toward the peak of Torreys. It is a steep and rocky descent, but a fairly quick ascent to the summit of Torreys. It was snowing, windy, and cold on Torreys Peak, which made visibility more difficult.
From here we started the long climb down the trail towards our car.
Full disclosure here: This is when the exhaustion set in. My legs felt like jello and my feet and calves were on fire! The hike down was the most difficult part by far, with the repeated pounding on snow, rocks, and uneven ground. There was a point when we were walking back (past the parking lot we weren’t able to park in) on the dirt road hoping the car would be around the next turn that I looked at Kervin and said “My legs hurt so bad, I think I’m going to cry.” He then proceeded to distract me with ridiculous jokes for the final few miles until we reached the car. This was by far one of the most difficult physical things I have ever done!
Grays and Torreys
Grays: 14,270 feet
Torreys: 14,267 feet
Elevation Gain: 3,600 feet
Miles Roundtrip from Parking lot: 8.5
Have you completed a fourteener? Which one is your favorite? Any tips for us if we ever decide we’re up for another one? Let me know in the comments!