Peak(s):  Grays Peak  -  14,275 feet
Torreys Peak  -  14,272 feet
Mt. Evans  -  14,268 feet
Mt. of the Holy Cross  -  14,007 feet
Date Posted:  07/13/2020
Modified:  07/19/2020
Date Climbed:   08/11/2018
Author:  jvirene
 Late Summer Peaks   

Late Summer Fun


Front Range Peaks (Climbed 8/11/2018)


Mileage: 12.50 Miles

Elevation gain: 5250'

Time: Grays and Torreys: 5:00 Hours

Evans: 3:00 Hours

Difficulty: 6/10

Preface: This was just one of those summer days I was just bored, I decided that to fill the time, I'd go out and try some new routes on peaks that I've already done. Originally, I wanted to do Pyramid, but Philip was not with my on this, and I felt that driving out to Aspen by myself would just not be fun, so I settled for Grays, Torreys and Evans. I had done Grays and Torreys via the standard route when I was young, so this time I wanted to try Kelso Ridge, and I hadn't done Evans yet so that would be another one to check off.

Planning: I did not think that this trip would require any planning so I punched Grays peak into google maps, and let google take me there. This was a critical mistake because for Kelso Ridge, you're supposed to go to the standard route trailhead, and this took me to the Argentine Pass trailhead. (Laugh if you want, it was early and I wasn't thinking straight) This was actually a crucial point for me because I learned more about preparation before going out to the mountains. This mistake was one that I would never wake up again.

The Drive: I drove up at around 4:00 AM and I got to the top of the Argentine Pass TH at around 5:00. And here comes my second critical mistake of the day. The 4WD trail was gated, so I tried to turn around, and ended up backing my car into a 5' ditch below. I was a bit irritated with my mistake, but knew that this was easily fixable. I put my trailblazer into 4LO, and then picked my line back up onto the road. It took about 30 minutes because this ditch had some large rocks and I kept loosing traction. I was really stoked when I got the car back up and I could finally resume my trip. I parked at the lower lot, and talked with a couple guys who had also pulled up to the trailhead.

The Hike: By the time I started hiking, it was already light outside, so I could see the majority of the beautiful basin below these mountains. The route I ended up taking is called the south ridge. I really liked this route, the trail runs alongside a beautiful mountain stream with some of the clearest water I've ever seen in the front range. There are also a ton of other mountains around such as Argentine Peak and Cooper Mountain. Furthermore, when I started hiking, I was the first one on the trail so I didn't see anyone aside from the two guys from the trailhead until the summit of Grays. This route basically works its way through the basin with mild elevation gain until you're on the ridge, then it gets a bit steeper and more strenuous. Overall, there is nothing too tricky, the route is easy to follow and it's just a fun hike with a lot less of a crowd. The trail is very easy to follow.


The stream that I passed by, its so clear!

Grays summit: I reached the summit of Grays at around 8:30 and although there were a few other people, it was not too crowded. I took a couple pictures but since I had already been up here, it wasn't worth me staying for very long.


Summit views

Torreys summit: I made the easy traverse between Grays and Torreys in under 30 minutes, doing a little trail running up Torreys to cut back some time, I still planned on hiking Evans as well. Once at the top of Torreys, I turned around pretty quickly so that I could re-summit Grays and work my way back down the trail to the car. Torreys peak was a lot more crowded from people doing Kelso ridge, and this being the first stop that many people make doing the standard route before going over to Grays.

The hike back to the car: There were actually a lot more people doing the South Ridge by the time that I was returning to my car. These peaks are very popular and I guess other people have the idea of avoiding the crowds by not taking the standard route.

Evans: I drove from the Argentine Pass trailhead to the Summit Lake trailhead on Evans, from here it is an easy two mile hike to the summit of Evans.

The hike: Hiking up Evans was perfect, the mountain is very pretty from Summit Lake, and despite it being crowded, the trail is very well built and again, its a very short hike. The summit was really crowded, mostly due to people that drove up to the summit and hiked the very last bit. I enjoyed the hike except for the crowds and was glad that I decided to extend the day by adding another peak

A view down the ridge line of Evans


Review (Grays and Torreys): The south ridge on Grays Peak was a really cool route, it offers a less crowded alternative up a pretty cool mountain. That stream with blue water was one of my favorite parts and the scenery in general was beautiful. The trail is well established and easy to follow and having less of a crowd was definitely a plus. The traverse over to Torreys is easy if you're in good shape and the gain really isn't bad.

Review (Evans): Hiking Evans via summit lake is a really fun day, its a short hike and I highly recommend this for someone who is just getting into fourteeners. The route is really short, has virtually no risk factors if the whether is good, and it only has 2000' of gain so your legs won't be dead. I will say that once you've gained most of the elevation, there is a bit of the trail where you're traversing across the slope and wondering where the summit is, and it seems to just go on for a while. Again though, I found this route fun and was not strained despite already having done Grays and Torreys.

Review of the route as a whole: I think that doing a combo with Grays, Torreys and Evans is a great way to link up more peaks at once, it saves you a trip up 1-70, and it makes your day a bit more busy and challenging than it would otherwise would be.

Mount of the Holy Cross


Mileage: 12.00 Miles

Elevation gain: 5600'

Time: 14 hours

Difficulty: 5/10

Preface: I did Holy Cross with my mom and brother, neither of whom are very athletic or experienced hikers in the way that I am. We wanted to spend a few days together, so we all decided that this would be a great activity that we would all enjoy. Holy Cross seemed like a good choice because even though it is a bit long, there is nothing technical. We drove out past Vail, and set up our camp at the Halfmoon (Tigiwon) Trailhead. I was curious to see how they would do on this hike, my brother is only a couple years younger than me, so I figured he'd be fine but again, he does not do much hiking or physical activity in general so I really wasn't sure. My mom also, gave me the disclaimer that she was going to be slow, which I believed as, she rarely does hikes longer than 5-6 miles. I knew that this would be interesting but I was still excited for the mountain.

Overnight: I was very warm in my tent overnight, and actually got a decent sleep, which usually never happens to me while camping. I am alway too excited for the day ahead and I end up not sleeping because I'm just thinking about the hike. This night however, I was able to fall right asleep and ended up being a lot more well rested than I usually am for hikes.

The hike: We woke up at 4:00 AM, and I was the only one that was excited to be awake and ready to hike. My mom and brother were a lot less excited, and were very slow to get up and moving. Once we started hiking however, we had a good pace and were well on our way towards the mountain


The Holy Cross Trailhead

The approach to the base of Holy Cross is very beautiful, but we did not see much of it on our hike up the mountain because it was still very dark and we were hiking with headlamps. We did get to enjoy the beautiful landscape on our way back to the car. The elevation gain is not very significant until after you pass the dispersed camping sites.

We reached the west side of Half-Moon pass at around 5:30, and daylight was starting to overtake the landscape. Once we began dropping down towards the creek and the campsites down there, my mom and brother were irritated with the elevation drop, which meant we would have to regain all this on the ridge up to the summit. We reached the campsites by the creek, and I couldn't help but think about how awesome it would be to camp out there. These campsites look really pretty and they were not crowded at all when we passed by. If you're looking to do Holy Cross in two days and have the gear, definitely hike out to the sites, its totally worth it. Once we passed the campsites, we started to regain elevation and got up to the dense forest with switchbacks up the mountain. At the beginning of this part, there were religious folk wearing their robes hiking up the mountain. They passed us quickly, then we continued up.

This portion was very hard on both my mom and brother, and I could feel our pace slow as we worked our way up the steep trail in the trees.

The trail up this mountain is well defined all the way up to the ridge at 13000' afterwards its just a class 2 rock slope up the mountain. At the ridge, my mom and brother called it quits. I told them it was another 1000' to the summit and the two of them decided that this hike was already too much, so they stayed on the ridge. Conversely, I was feeling great, and wanted to reach the summit so we parted ways and I continued working my way up to the top. Without them, I reached the top in under 30 minutes, because the remainder of the hike was very easy. You get a cool view of the Cross couloir from the ridge.


A view of Holy Cross from the ridge at 13000'


You can see where Cross Couloir shoots out towards the bottom

I felt bad that they were not able to summit with me, because the views at the top were truly beautiful and I would have loved to experience this with them however, I knew that this hike was taking an incredible toll on their bodies, and because they are not used to the high elevation, it may not have been good for them to summit anyways.

On the summit, the religious people in their robes were praying some prayers. I believe that they were some denomination of Christian.


Summit views


This is where the "Holy Cross" is. You can't make it out right now but when there is snow, the cross forms.

The return: I quickly made my way back to my mom and brother and we all started working our way back down the mountain. The two of them were complaining about pretty much everything at this point, but I understood their pain, as this was how I was before I got into better mountain shape. The hardest part of this return for them was regaining the elevation to get back on the east side of the pass beyond the dispersed camping. They hated this part and we did it very slowly.

Listening to their audible struggle, and all the swearing and heavy breathing reminded me of how I was at the beginning of the summer before I really got into good mountain shape. The thing is, it really isn't hard to get into good shape for hiking in the mountains. It takes some dedication and a little bit of suffering, a tired and sore body and heavy breathing, but anyone can do it. The hard part of getting into shape is that you have to hike a lot and commit to getting in better shape, but if you put in the effort you will see the results.

Finally, we got back to the car and both my mom and brother were exhausted. I was a bit tired myself, but nowhere near the level that they were. We were all very happy with ourselves and the hike that we just did. So we packed up our stuff from camp and drove home.

Review: Doing this hike with my mom and brother gave me a reminder of the relativity of difficulty of hikes in the mountains. I would say this hike was easy-moderate, but I'm sure both of them would rate it as difficult. Objectively, I will say that this hike has higher elevation gain than a lot of other mountains, and it is 12 miles, which is long for some people. The drop in gain to the campsites is significant and should be a factor in your decision to do this mountain. I didn't think it was too bad, but my mom and brother found it unpleasant. This is a very beautiful hike and there were not all that many people. I would recommend this mountain for someone that is looking to start doing longer days of hiking and has some experience with 9-10 mile days with good elevation gain. In retrospect, maybe I should have suggested an easier mountain to do with my family but I'm proud of both of them because they were troopers and made it a good majority of the way up the mountain. The beauty of this mountain is definitely worth checking out!

Review of all of these mountains: I did all of these hikes towards the end of the summer, and I enjoyed all of them. They were a nice break from the harder class three peaks that I did at the beginning of the summer. These peaks were not as challenging, but nevertheless, I enjoyed the solitude and beauty that they offered.

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