Moon-lit, Midnight Hike of Torreys and Grays

Lauren and I were planning on adding to our (admittedly short, at this point – 6/58 at the time of this writing) list of 14ers that we’ve done together this morning with a hike of Grays and Torreys. I’ve done this a few times before (4 summits of each, 3 times doing them as a combo), and they’re generally packed, easy, and uneventful in the summer and fall. The plan changed last night at about 9:45, when I was thinking about starting to prepare to get ready for bed; I knew I had to if we were going hiking early in the morning, but I really just wanted to stay up and have some coffee. Then it dawned on me – full moon, clear skies, and gentle winds were in the forecast. Why not go NOW?

Fortunately I had already prepared our packs, so I put on a pot of coffee and we were off in about half an hour. When we hit the Bakerville exit of I-70, we could see that the summits had been hit with a decent dusting of snow in the past day; Lauren was briefly concerned but I was happy to have extra reflection for the moonlight. The road to the trailhead is greatly improved since the last time I drove it a few years ago, and we were off and moving just before midnight. It was beautiful up there. Forgive the quality of the photos, they are long-exposures using a crappy tripod.

We started to run in to snow around 12,000′, and it gradually deepened as we got higher. The trails were still easy to follow, and the snow added a little interest to the hike; Scout was particularly thrilled with it, and spent some time running up and down the trail in the deepest snow she could find (still only a few inches) as soon as she was let off her leash.

I decided that the hike would be easier if we went to Torreys first, as the trail from Grays to the saddle is fairly steep and rocky, and I much preferred to climb it than to descend it; doing this also allowed us to descend the super-low angle switchbacks on the main Grays trail rather than descent the occasionally rocky trail from the saddle down. A bit after 3am we found ourselves on the summit of Torreys, with amazing views.

Grays was particularly well-lit by the moon, thanks in part to the snow.

Lauren was tired, but persevered as always.

We threw down a few calories and moved on, as it wasn’t particularly warm. An hour later we summited Grays, and again didn’t stay very long.

We were both happy to have the easier descent route ahead of us, and leisurely made our way back to the car. Headlamps were only required for about 15 minutes once the moon dipped behind Torreys, and we didn’t see anyone until halfway down, when a near-constant stream of people showed up. I was a little surprised at how many people were up there on a Friday, and can only imagine what it will be like tomorrow. Lauren was pretty tired, and was out as soon as we hit the highway.

I’m seeing a trend, that it’s maybe not a great idea to push yourself too hard in the mountains on no sleep. Interesting.

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