Sunday was a long day; it wasn’t supposed to be. The plan was simple enough – a quick jaunt up Grays to get some exercise, but with plenty of time to get back to Denver for a CX team photo. We left from the highway at 5:45am (the road is drivable with 4WD, we did so for the extra miles) and were at the summer trailhead by 7.
We were able to skin about two miles past the summer TH until we took the skis off. We carried them from there, mostly for the flexibility with descent routes, but also for training weight and a bit for the hope that they would be useful at some point.
A couple hours later we topped out on Grays. We’d discussed the option of hitting Torreys too, but our feet weren’t too happy after walking on dirt for a couple miles in our ski boots and we decided to skip the second peak.
It was incredibly warm up top (for January). Very light winds, and pretty warm temperatures. After 20 minutes on top, we started the long walk back down.
It was so warm that within half an hour from leaving the summit, I had my pant vents wide open, and was going without hat, jacket, or gloves.
We had to wait quite a while to put our skis back on, as what’s skinnable isn’t always skiable without risking severe base damage. Even when we got to a skiable point, it was still unpleasant. The trail was so rocky for a stretch that we decided to cut down through some willows to the (frozen) stream and make our way down along its banks.
Bushwhacking is one of my less-favorite activities, particularly through willows. It could’ve been worse, though.
After over two hours of descending, we finally made it back to the summer TH, exhausted but with a fairly easy three-mile ski down the road.
Despite the long, painful day, I’m glad I made the trek up to Stevens Gulch yet again. It was exactly what I needed after a long, lazy holiday season.