Total trip miles: 1146.5
I woke up way too early, with 18 or 28 miles to the next above treeline section I had decided to take it easy. The trail goes to the summit of Gray's peak today, over 14000 ft and officially the highest point on the divide. Torrey's is a very short side trip and another 14er. With that in mind close to 30 miles sounds miserable. I tried to sleep but still started packing early. I was seeing little bits of sky but clouds too, I was afraid to even be hopeful.
I started climbing first thing, but it was an obvious trail and really not too bad. I spent my time equally divided between looking for the pikas chirping all around me and constantly looking at the clouds. Obviously this makes no difference to the weather but I couldn't help constantly checking. Needless to say I wasn't moving quickly.
About 2 hours in I allowed myself to hope, I still had blue sky! Although the constant looking back did have its benefits, I saw a mountain goat staring me down from behind. So slow distracted pace equals mountain goat, I can live with that.
I make it up to the divide and after a short stint going the wrong direction (down seemed way to east) it's back to no trail and following cairns. Goodness it is so ridiculously easy when you can actually see your surroundings. It's gorgeous but freezing, the wind is whipping around like mad but that's okay because it's blowing all the clouds past me. It's a rolling climb on the divide. I almost take a nasty fall, turns out a bunch of the rocks are icy. Good thing my telexes have improved these last 1000+ miles, I look like a fool but stay upright.
Gray's to the left, Torrey's to the right
Up and over Mt Edwards, Gray's and Torrey's are looking so very close but I'm not there yet. I reach the divide and realize my day just got harder. It's a narrow spine of rock wending its way in front of me. I feel like the rock climbing/scrambling on this trail is vastly underplayed. There are a few bumps up ahead and after a bit I have to take a break. My hands are icy, I need a snack and it's stressful perched on these rocks in the wind. Thankfully there are only a few icy spots that are easily dodged. Seriously the CT was a nice break, I had forgotten that this trail seems to vaguely want to kill you on a daily basis, or at least scare the living daylight savings out of you.
As I huddle to eat a snack Sam's voice startles me. "Well this sucks" well yes that pretty much sums it up. It's too cold to hang around long and he heads of. It's surprisingly nice seeing someone else scrambling and doing fine.
The small black dot to the left is Sam
I slowly start up, now armed with mittens it's actually not as bad as I thought. Still scrambling but occasionally something that looks like trail. One section is pretty sketchy and as I stop and catch my breath I look back and see another goat. I like this day, and constantly looking behind is totally paying off.
I continue my scramble and after some cursing and huffing and puffing make it to Gray's. I could cut over to the official trail which looks very nicely graded or spend 0.6 miles very steeply ascending the summit on the CDT. I'm to lazy to traverse do I slowly head up. The summit has some people but it's not too crowded and while it is enveloped in a cloud I get moments of clearing. It's gorgeous of course. I don't see Sam, he must have blazed up and is already gone. I chat with folks and even get a banana and some cherries, so delicious to have fresh things.
I'm debating Torrey's, it's after ten and thunderheads are starting to build but I think I can make it. It's in a wispy cloud but hopefully that will blow over.
I book it down, stash my pack in the saddle and continue up. I pass a few people but get the peak to myself. Well okay, there is a marmot but that just makes me happier. I like this peaks views better, have I mentioned I love today?
Looking back at Gray's
Back down I go, I get stuck behind some folks but after the one snow patch we end up chatting. I spend the entire time down to the parking lot talking with them. They are a married couple from Pennsylvania out here for the weeks. They're heading to the Winds after climbing Longs peak this weekend. Our chatter is interrupted by mountain goats.
Okay I get it, they're accustomed to people but come on, baby mountain goat!
We get to the parking lot and somehow hours pass. I'm sitting in the sun near a bathroom with amazing folks just enjoying life, what a difference a day and a little weather makes.
I refuse a ride and head down the road. It's miles of dirt and then a paved bike path but I'm in a great mood. (Can you tell by this silly long rambling post?). Even the thunderstorms hold out until I'm down low. Of course it pours but only for a few hours, not all day.
The trail crosses under the highway, what a switch from just a few hours ago and heads to the Herman Gulch Trailhead. This next bit of trail is so nicely built. It's pouring but there are fields of wildflowers and its a nice gradual climb. I stop around treeline, thunder is rumbling and it seems like the wiser choice.
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