Peak(s):  Kelso Mtn  -  13,164 feet
Date Posted:  01/15/2012
Date Climbed:   01/08/2012
Author:  vonmackle
 Kelso in January   

I've been wanting to get up and take some winter photos of Torreys Peak for quite some time and finally had the opportunity. I decided to throw in a hike up Kelso since the winter has been so mild. There have been several excellent photos of Torreys from Kelso posted by other 14ers members, and I really wanted to experience this view in person. Saturday's weather forecast was calling for lots of snow and the near 100% cloud cover predictions on the NOAA site had me wondering if I'd be able to see the peaks at all. Would I have to postpone this trip once again? I woke up at 3:30am and checked the NOAA forecast one more time. Now it called for around 60% cloud cover. Perfect for photography! I gobbled down my breakfast, threw my gear in the car and headed out. I reached the Bakerville exit at around a quarter to six and stopped to take some photos of Torreys lit by the full moon. As I got out of the car I noticed that the NOAA forecast was off by 59%. There were only a couple small clouds hanging around. Oh well, it will be a beautiful day for hiking. I put my camera on the tripod and took a few photos.

Torreys by Moonlight

I put my camera away and moved my car to the south side of I-70. The road was snowpacked and in perfect condition for microspikes. I strapped my snowshoes onto my pack along with my ice axe and tripod and started up the road. My next goal was to get to the Grizzly Gulch cut-off to get some pre-sunrise shots of Torreys. About four inches of snow had fallen the previous day, but now the sky was completely clear. The pre-dawn light on the freshly fallen snow was stunning. Someone had driven up the road the day before, making for easy walking up toward the summer trailhead. I reached the cut-off just before the balance of light was lost between the mountain and the sky.

Torreys from the Grizzly Gulch fork

I soon realized I had dropped my headlamp somewhere down the road and had a short jog back to find it. I swear I spend more time searching for that damn headlamp than I actually use it. I made my way up to the summer trailhead, taking extreme joy at the ice slowly accumulating on my beard.

Summer Trailhead


The trail beyond the bridge was well packed and showed only one set of returning tracks from the day before in the new snow. I wondered if these were possibly the tracks of Jason Maki, who had posted an excellent photo of a stormy Torreys on the 14ers facebook page on Saturday evening. Eventually Grays and Torreys came into view.

Which of these is Greg SanTorrez Peak?

About a couple miles in from the summer trailhead I reached another sign for Grays and Torreys. The slope up Kelso from here is gentle, and this would be my starting point for the summit. First I needed to refuel, throw on some sunscreen, and take some more photos.



I stashed my snowshoes by the sign and headed up Kelso. The slope was gradual, about 25 degrees at its steepest. Vegetation still poked through the new snow. Grassy slopes. Minimal snow. No hidden talus. This has to be about as easy as a winter hike can get. Well, I admit it would have been easier if I hadn't let myself go and packed on all those extra holiday pounds. Do they really need all of these gluttonous holidays in the winter when I tend to be less active?


I finally made it up Kelso after what should have been an easy summit push. I took a couple of quick photos before the wind got the best of me and sent me back down the mountain.

Grays and Torreys from Kelso

Torreys and Grizzly


Gentle Slope up Kelso




It was an amazing day of solitude. I only saw one other person and evidence of a handful of others on the entire hike. This was in sharp contrast to the ski traffic that awaited me just down the road on I-70...

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15

Comments or Questions
Holy crap
01/15/2012 23:14
Did you carry up all that snow with you and spread it out???

Very nice pics

Ridge runner
01/16/2012 03:35
There's a lot more up there than I thought. Amazing pictures!!!

A day makes a huge difference!
01/16/2012 03:40
I was up there on Saturday morning slightly before the storm and it looked nothing like that! Here's a link to my photo album for comparison.

Great shots btw!

01/18/2012 04:26
Amazing shots, really.
I'm considering Kelso for this weekend. Was the road not open or passable by AWD?
Thanks for the report.

Thanks, everyone
01/18/2012 13:08
Ceastar- the road was open, and a 4x4 truck made it close to the summer trailhead. You might want chains and/or someone to help if you get stuck. There were some pretty slick spots. Have fun, and good luck!

Jason- Nice shots. Glad you avoided the avy terrain. I saw evidence of several small slides when I was up there.

02/02/2012 05:12
Your photos are incredible! I love the first one showing all the stars. Beautiful! Great job and thanks for sharing

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