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| |-+  May 2012 Backcountry Trip Reports
| | |-+  May 19, 2012, Grays Peak (14,270'), NE Bowl
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Author Topic: May 19, 2012, Grays Peak (14,270'), NE Bowl  (Read 1510 times)

Posts: 509

May 19, 2012, Grays Peak (14,270'), NE Bowl
« on: 05/21/12, 08:59 PM »

Day 47
Grays Peak (14,270')
May 19, 2012
NE Face

The first two I came across were scooting along on their butts, sitting on the frozen traverse, their sneaker-ed feet barely registering purchase while moving from frozen boot steep to frozen boot step.  Neither had a backpack, they looked like they just walked up to the grocery store to pick up a packet of skittels.  Good thing they brought jackets.

They couldn't have been more than 12, but I'm getting so old that's getting hard to tell, and it appeared they had every stitch of clothing they owned plastered to any exposed skin so it was even harder to see they were even human. Human indeed.  Scared, tired and beat up at that.  Of Asian descent perhaps, at least the one red face I could see, and not looking like they were having any fun at all.  No, no fun indeed.

It was a little before 6 in the morning, at 12,500' or so, and the low clouds were preventing any spectacular alpine glow morning, only shading a building northwest wind with the onset of a front.  The blustery breeze meant the 29 degrees felt way colder and a brief return to winter was at hand.  Sonny Rollins' St Thomas roared through my earbuds and into my brain, and this was a very strange dream to wake to in the dawning light.

"Hi!", I said, pulling up below them, smile on my face.  I leaned on my ice axe, scanning down the 45 degree slope below us, the one they were trying not to crash down at frightening speed.  There were a couple rocks and unpleasant boulders on the way down, otherwise the run out ended reasonably on the smooth valley floor.  They were not in danger of a life ending event should they slip, but it was a long way down and steep.  I'm sure in their scared minds this was the Southeast Ridge of Everest, and this icy traverse the Hillary Step.

They looked at me with grim smiles, "Hi." 

I plodded on, pulled by Rollins and Company echoing around my brain. 

I looked back down after a few minutes and saw the two slowly scooting along on their butts again, intent on completing their miserable traverse. 


I had seen a rather large group above the Lost Rat couloir well before dawn as I had rounded the curve on the access trail down in the valley below when you get your first view of Grays.  Thankfully, I had seen a ribbon of snow to the summit before the clouds set in.  I also saw a big group down near the cliff bands above the Lost Rat. I guessed at the time that they were moving up the mountain.  Apparently not.

The second group, a long, long way behind the adventurous duo I already met, was the pelliton, including what appeared to be the group leaders.  All smiles.  I couldn't believe what I was seeing.  An epic just ready to happen.  Must have been a dozen of them.  I'm not sure I saw a pack on any of them.  Big cliffs, cold, darkness, ice, sneakers, kids...big epic.

Blue 7 rode me through the throng of underdressed, red faced survivors. 



It started snowing near the summit, and the clouds settled in for good soon after reaching the Torrey's / Gray's col.

I reached the summit about 8:45 and watched as clouds moved over and around the peaks around me.  There would be no warm corn anytime soon this day.

I skied right from the summit, zig-zagging in the drifts down the walk-up trail, finally reaching the big wave snowfield that connects the summit and the NE bowl after some easy traversing.  Along the edge of the snowfield I found drifts of new snow, frozen corn and rather smooth skiing.  All-in-all pretty OK skiing.  Then the headwall, where I chose a nice line between exposed ridges, where the skiing steepened, became almost icy.  Not like the Whites in winter hard, but not the chalky hardpack of mid winter, either.  One could get gripped if one wanted.  I didn't want to, so I didn't fall, and skied out into the smooth bowl below, carving big s-turns down to the scree line well down the valley.


I did not read about a church group benighted on Grays Peak on Monday morning.

But I'm sure there will be chilling recounts of derry-do in houses all around Denver in the years to come because of one cold night up on Grays.
« Last Edit: 05/21/12, 09:10 PM by MW88888888 » Logged

Posts: 227

Re: May 19, 2012, Grays Peak (14,270'), NE Bowl
« Reply #1 on: 05/22/12, 11:50 AM »

Hi Mike-  Nice report, nice ski.... in WA on an abbreviated ski vacation....   there's still at least one un-skied peak here.  Sally and I were on Grays last Sunday and got the shock of our lives...  litterally.  Lots to learn about Colorado mountains compared to the Cascades.

mountains will add years to your life, and life to your years
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