Kelso Mountain trip report


Back to Colorado! It turned out that I wasn't quite ready to go back, but this was the timing I had planned quite a while ago, so I decided to stick with it. I'm trying to figure out if I can manage to do relatively short hikes every day as opposed to longer ones every other day. That has the advantage of being more secure with respect to afternoon thunderstorms without having to get up at oh-god-thirty while staying in a motel.

I was expecting this hike to be about 1.6 miles and 340 vertical feet longer because the last time I tried to drive to the Grays Peak trailhead in the same Saturn sedan, I wasn't comfortable crossing a small washout. This time, that area was passable, seemingly because it had washed out enough to make it wide with shallow enough slopes to avoid hanging up my undercarriage. However, just a quarter-mile up the 3-mile road, there was a very significant washout which would have ended my attempt on Kelso. However, when I got out of the car to take a look, I could see that I could stay far left and get past that spot and I did. In any case, this is a piss-poor excuse for a road to such a popular trailhead. It was barely navigable in my car due to just about every bad thing a road can have; steep, loose surface, rocks, potholes, and narrow sections where you couldn't avoid the other problems. However, at least on this day, there was a route that I smithed together to get me to the trailhead parking area after 25 minutes of attentive navigating. I'm sure that the 4 new tires I bought right before the trip helped and of course my experience on these types of roads. Of the twenty or so vehicles that were nearly filling the parking lot, one other person had braved the road in their Kia sedan; rock on, brother!

I had to hurry out of the trailhead at 0835, forgetting my voice recorder (not really important on this hike), and not having a chance to decide to use my trekking poles (which I might have if I had been given a couple more minutes to think about it), due to the onslaught of a 20-person hiking group. The last thing I wanted to do was to have to pass that many people at the beginning of the hike. So, I put the hammer down and quickly left them behind. I guess it's good that a group like this and however many SUVs they needed were out there on a weekday, but count me as someone who thinks it's pretty unnecessary to gangbang a mountain with such a large group. And while I'm at it, you kids get off my lawn!!

The trail quickly climbs via switchbacks to get up to a long flatish area as fast as possible, because it's really important not to provide any sort of uniform gradient on a hike like this. On my Mount Edwards speed hike, I had taken advantage of this part to do some (slightly) uphill running. This time, I was wearing my larger pack and wasn't in as much of a hurry. Wildflowers were plentiful along the trail, but I waited until the descent to take a bunch of pictures.

Grays and Torreys and flowers from the lower trail

I passed a couple of small groups on the way up to where the trail approaches the saddle between Torreys Peak and Kelso Mountain. To the left is the famous Kelso Ridge route up 14er Torreys, which I did way back in 1994 before shoes were invented. To the right is the much less popular south ridge of Kelso Mountain, which only requires about 800 feet of gain from that point. So, I crossed the creek on rocks and headed up the steepening tundra. The best bet is to head up a route you have little chance of finding on the ascent to reach a lower-angle bench which then takes you on a traverse below the ridgecrest. Then, stick closer to the ridge the higher you get. What I actually did was to hike up some very steep tundra to get to the ridge and then stuck too far below the crest on a sidehill just steep enough to be annoying.

Kelso Ridge to Torreys summit Part of ridge to Kelso's summit

I reached the summit at 0948, just 75 minutes after starting. Amazingly, I hadn't lost much acclimatization in the 11 days between Colorado trips and felt pretty good, just sleep-deprivation tired. I took plenty of pictures at the summit, but on such a short hike there wasn't much point in hanging around. With the perspective of altitude, I took a better route down, hitting about the same point on the trail just 20 minutes after leaving. Even with flower photo breaks, I finished in just another 30 minutes at 1045.

Flowers Flowers

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File last modified: 28 July 2007

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