|Time||9 hr 4 min|
|Summit Elevation||14,270 feet|
|Elevation Gain||4,746 feet|
It is a known fact that I have boycotted climbing in the winter. Too much complexity. It involves cold weather. Snow is harder to walk in. Yep, yep — ok, mainly I am a baby. I just want to check the peaks off. Never repeat. So why not do them when they are easiest to do? Well, as it turns out, there aren’t that many days I can get away in the summer so I need to expand my range. Plus, no thunderstorms in the winter!
So when JV asked me if I wanted to hit Grays with a group known as the Winter Warriors, I said, “Sure!”. Moments after sending that email, I realized I had just broken all my rules. Oh well. They were bullshit anyway. It isn’t about the checklist. That is just a byproduct. I was excited to get some new gear and get out and up! The last time I was on Grays (which was the first time I was on Grays) was in 2006. It was peak #2 in my career. I have fond memories.
Small wrinkle: The kids went to a last minute slumber party so I found myself with my wife on Friday night with no kids. Date night! So we ate out and hit Underworld 3 because I am in love with Kate Beckinsale from the first 2 in the series. However, she wasn’t it in this one (it is a prequel) but the thought of Selene had me fired up. Something about hot chicks in black leather. Did I tell you I was way into Catwoman as a boy? Anyway, the point is I wasn’t in bed until 12:30 AM or so. Oops, that won’t feel good when the alarm goes off at 5 AM. But I got up and out and I pulled into the parking lot at Bakerville at 7:15 AM. Everyone was suiting up and ready to roll. I popped out of the truck with bed head (for me that is totally spiked up) and one guy goes, “You look like a rock star.” To which I responded, “That was what I was going for.” There were 8 of us in total. All very nice and positive people. It was awesome to drop right into a functioning group that quickly. As we started up the trail, the packs kept changing around as people were constantly adding or removing layers during the warm-up. Gave everyone a chance to introduce themselves — to me, I guess. I was the new guy. At about 3 miles in, we hit the Stevens Gulch trailhead. This is where you park your truck in the summer when you hike this. Cuts off a good bit of distance on the day.
As you round the corner and start up into the valley, I am always amazed at the beauty tucked away back here. I-70 runs just to the north of this but they can’t see inside. You have to come up and in for the view.
At that point, it was time for a gear change. The snow was significantly deeper so it was time to go for the snowshoes. I was a rookie. I bought my shoes the day before at REI just for the trip. While the snowshoes were top of the line, they didn’t prevent me from falling a few dozen times as I got used to them. I was crossing my feet a lot or something and then down I went. I was behind the group out of sight at this point but I didn’t mind. Nobody needed to see this.
Ya know who doesn’t need snowshoes? Dogs! We had 2 along with us. I met Sierra, seen here, a few weeks back when JV brought her to Bear Peak to run with us. Again, she was way in her element. Diving in to the snow. Running everywhere. It was fun to watch given the contrast from my 2 pudgy puppies.
Thankfully, the deep snow relaxed and we took the snowshoes off and went back to hiking mode.
But it was soon back to more snow. But this snow was either not too deep or it was frozen solid. I had my new microspikes on and they made me feel invincible. I could walk right up (or down) just about anything with no slippage.
However, that didn’t really help my lungs. For the first time out in 2009, they weren’t cooperating on the way up. Legs were good but I was feeling the reduced oxygen. I just kept chanting in my head – CFM CFM – constant forward motion. It was slow. But I kept moving up and up. There is one false summit. That about sucked but I kept plodding along. I figured if the group got tired of me then they would come back down and collect me on their way down. Luckily, the elevation kept ticking away and I summited at about 12:45. Last little stretch to the top!
I was greeted by the others and Sierra, who kicked everybody’s butt to the top. She had the look like … What’s the big deal? Let’s do another! Got to talk with Allison, JV’s wife, at the top and on the way down as well. It was great meeting her. Knew her virtually from following all JV’s adventures.
I sat for a bit and was ready for a drink. But my hose was frozen! I had forgotten to blow it back in before the last push. So I dethawed my water hose by taking it out and wrapping it around my chest under my shirt. Thanks for the idea, Bear. Then it was time for some photos before heading down.
Oh yeah, forgot the summit self-portrait!
Shot some video with my Mino HD as well. A lot of the time it sounds REALLY windy but it wasn’t. That is just how the mic picks up any wind at all. My footage is choppy and nonsensical but I thought some HD video might give a better feel for what this is all about. I need to get better at my directing ability and holding the camera still but you get what you get and you will like it. I uploaded it to YouTube but the lack of HD embedding angers me. So I bought the upgrade from Vimeo so I can do HD embeds now. Very cool. Enjoy the scenery!
The way down was pretty uneventful. Just kept moving and had the breath to talk more. JV caught up to us near the fork in the trail. He had pealed off at the Grays/Torreys fork and hit Torreys first then came and tagged Grays. I had some dream of doing both too but I quickly realized that wasn’t necessary. Been on Torreys before. My rules still apply! I don’t need the double. I figured I would try and get one photo with him. So taking inspiration from his cool reverse goggle shot, I tried this one. Not as good.
We got back to the snowfield and had to put the shoes back on. Everyone moved ahead of me nicely as I continued to be slow and make rookie mistakes. But it allowed me to have some good alone time on the trail and reflect on being out in the wild on a random winter day. Not something I had done before, but probably haven’t seen the last of.
We hit the end of the trail around 4:45 and said our goodbyes. The ski traffic was going to be piled up and I needed to get back home after leaving the pregnant wife with two kids that just got back from a slumber party then hit a birthday party. I could only imagine how the entire house was in turmoil. But I thank Kim for letting me slip away for the day to go have some fun and meet some new people with similar interests. I am starting a new chapter in 2009 for climbs. New rules, new outlook, and most of all — new people. Should be a fun year!
Up, up and away. Not a surprising elevation graph.
Here is a slideshow of all the photos from the day.