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Grays & Torreys01/06/2012

Wednesday morning I couldn’t ignore the absolutely stellar mid-winter weather window and bolted for the high country.  With only an hour’s drive to the trailhead at Bakerville on I-70, Grays & Torreys were the obvious choice for getting above 14,000′; I was running up the road to the summer trailhead by 7:30am. Three miles, 1500′ vert and :38 later and I was crossing the footbridge to the trail proper.

Upon hitting the singletrack, I was pleasantly surprised to find more excellent footing–wind- and boot-packed, stryofoam-like snow; perfect for Microspikes–and as such was able to maintain a running cadence until the trail kicks up appreciably at the giant cairn at the base of Grays.  Wind was a non-issue until the final 100′ or so of vertical to Grays’ summit (where there seemed to be a steady 30mph+ or so breeze), which I reached in 1:47 from Bakerville.  I negotiated the 600′ drop and subsequent ascent to the top of Torreys in :18, on whose windless summit I shed my shell before making the descent back to the car in 50min flat, dispatching of the final three downhill road miles in a snappy sub-18min for a total of 2:55 car-to-car.

The one time I’ve hit this loop in summer it took me 2:41, so I think it is safe to say that conditions up there right now are about as perfect as they could possibly be for this time of year.  With sufficient acclimation I think Wednesday’s conditions were capable of being even faster than a typical summer trip.  All in all, this outing was certainly a gift considering the throngs of crowds that these peaks are known for in the summer (I briefly saw only two other parties yesterday)–not to mention the fact that I spent the vast balance of my summer in 2011 sitting on my duff with a broken leg and have plenty of catching up to do when it comes to high country summits.  

Euro-style accessories all around.
The morning’s objectives: Grays, left and Torreys, right.
Torreys, from the summit of Grays.
Grays Peak from Torreys summit.
Torreys summit.

42 responses to “Grays & Torreys”

  1. cb says:

    Sweet run! I had to do a double-take on those photos. Incredible lack of snow. January?? Far cry from some of the summer ascents I’ve done.

    I love how just the right amount of snow and the B&W treatment highlights the line of the switchbacks in your shot of Grays.

  2. Tory says:

    So now I have to ask…in terms of tackling the HR100, are you leaning towards using more of the Chorier/Euro philosophy of carrying a pack and poles, several layers of clothing, etc.? Or do you think using the Skaggs method would be more effective? Or, are you combining the two as you see fit, and if so could you elaborate a bit on your reasons why?

    Regardless, great story and photos! I think you’re disproving a lot of the traditional ideas about climbing 14ers in the winter. Keep on keeping on, Tony!

  3. Anton says:

    Tory – Valid question. I plan on running HR the way I do any alpine running in the summer: shorts pockets full of gels, bottle and lightweight shell tucked in the waistband. Winter conditions on 14ers are typically so much harsher than summer–frigid temps, epic winds, very few people–that it’s a serious matter of safety to not be packing a few extra layers. The poles are for extra stability, traction and power on snow and ice. I’ve been pleasantly surprised at their utility this winter but can’t justify their weight and general awkwardness in dry conditions; I much prefer the hunched over, hands-on-knees method of going up steep vert.

    Brandon – PFD all the way. Surprisingly comfortable but I can’t imagine wearing one in the summer…too hot!

  4. Joe Grant says:

    So good…the mountains, the pics, the outfit..

  5. adventurerun says:

    Great idea, and surely a winter FKT by a margin!

  6. Jame says:

    Killer time Anton! I opted out of those two last summer (for the first time since I moved to CO) to avoid the throngs after being yelled at for running by a particularly grouchy hiker last time. Looks like this winter might be the time to tackle them.

  7. Tuck says:

    Funny to see the comment by Joe Grant. I was going to ask if you’ve been hanging out with him: the pics (especially the B&W, very artsy!) remind me of the great posts Joe does.

    I share them under the heading “Trail-running Porn”. :)

  8. David says:

    Wow, stunning scenery!

    BTW, I’m glad that stick didn’t catch your face another 1/2 inch higher – nasty!

  9. Alex Beecher says:

    Totally thought this post was going to be about old timey British politics when I read the title, and wondered how on Earth that would read. This is not that, but probably more interesting anyway. I always enjoy the updates from the mountains, Kansan that I am.

  10. Anton says:

    adventurerun – Just to be clear, my actual car-to-car time on wednesday was 3:09…so, almost 15min worth of stops of pictures, clothing adjustments, etc. On any run where I’m not going for a focused time trial or FKT-style effort I typically just put my “moving time” in the log so that I have a more true sense of what kind of splits I would be shooting for in a focused effort.

    Tuck – Ah, Joe is just getting tired of the gloom of the PNW and couldn’t hold in his stoke for the high country :-) His photos are way better than my point-n-shoots. But, I think we both have the same goal of just trying to translate the felt experience of running in the mountains to a shareable medium like pictures and text.

    David – Yeah, super psyched to not lose an eye on that tree branch last week!

  11. JeffO says:

    Geez! My best time was 3:45 from the Bakerville chimney – in summer! Hard to believe it’s still runnable, but I’ve camped up there lots of winters and there always seems to be a windy hole in the weather in that valley. Snow-twisters dance through. In blizzards, the clouds often break open over Stephen’s Gulch. In the worst blizzards, you can get winks of stars at night. For so close to Denver, it’s a convenient place to work out.

  12. Shane says:

    Great pics, Tony. I agree with your usage and feelings about the gear. Also, an errant branch stab in my face is why I wear glasses on most of my runs.

  13. goldentrails says:

    Winter FKT and taking the time to take some running pictures with the self-timer? Well done!

  14. Charlie says:

    This is Tony running in expedition mode as opposed to alpine mode. He left out the pictures of base camp and the bottles of supplemental oxygen. Post-run his needs were tended to by his crew of sherpas as he uploaded this report via his Macbook Pro and satellite connection.

    Tony failed to post new tunage, so we are now subjected to a dose of Billy Squier.

    I expect to see Mr. Krupicka naked when he kicks ass at Hardrock. A thong made from empty gel packs would be sweet.

  15. Amazing View!! But this country is very cold to me!!!!


  16. vince' says:

    Looks like you are training hard those days Anton! Hope to see you in races, why not in Europe for le Grand Raid de la Reunion in October…

  17. Kemp. says:

    According to the 14’ers website, “some insane dude” was running the peaks Wednesday. Nice!

  18. jujutrail says:

    Don’t laught at european style !

  19. pjboulder says:

    awesome run! I need to get up there again. Nice times on your Green Mt runs. I need to work up to that run by practicing on Sanitas. Happy trails ~

  20. 32 degrees says:

    every time i look at the big bulky heavy poles you use i can’t help but wonder why you don’t try something lighter? I am big into xc skiing in the winter and often use poles while running in the fall to prep for skiing – have you looked into Swix ski poles? Excel? One Way? ULTRAULTRALIGHT, very very strong. They also have a strap system that fits over your hand and you don’t have to “hold” the pole, it becomes an extension of your hand, transferring 100% of the power to movement. at 160 grams it will also save you valuable energy in carrying less weight. The last thing is “swing weight” – takes very little energy to swing the pole forward because the tips are ULTRAlight too. check it out at any nordic ski online retailer – here is an example http://xcskishop.com/poles/nordic-ski-poles/swix-ct1-star.html

  21. Anton says:

    32 degrees – Mostly, I don’t give a shit. There are very, very few people who are going to suddenly be able to hang with me in the mountains just because they’re carrying a lighter pair of poles than me.

    I use these things quite rarely. I picked up mine used for $12. They work well for my uses (more mountaineering than anything), telescope down to a short length, and DON’T BREAK. Last winter Scott took me nordic skiing and Dusty let us demo some crazy light poles of which you speak. I snapped one in half literally within 5min. Ouch. No way you’re gonna see me drop three bills for a pair of sticks that I use MAYBE a couple dozen times a year and that I’ll prob break the first time out anyways.

    Now, if I was racing and these things were going to be a permanent fixture in my mountain running gear list, it’d be a different story.

  22. 32 degrees says:

    New = pricey. Ski swap = cheap. You can find WAY lighter, more functional poles if you look. $$ talks I understand that. But, if you don’t give a shit, then …

  23. Anton says:

    Ha ha, sorry, def didn’t mean any animosity in that last comment. I guess what I was trying to say was that I can be really paradoxica/selective in my geekiness. It’s mostly limited to footwear, but that will probably change as I explore new activities in the mountains.

    Lighter is almost always better for my purposes (going fast, covering lots of ground), but I sometimes get frustrated by people (def not saying this is you) who obsessively shave grams here and there with increasingly spendy gear when they might be better served by just getting out more, contributing to their experience-base. Sick gear is nothing more than the icing on a cake that should be comprised of lots of hours/years of actually doing. I feel comfortable geeking out on running shoes because I’m no longer a novice at that activity and think certain changes in the gear will actually make a difference. My proficiency at wielding sticks is so low that it would just be silly for me to have some crazy high-end poles, deal or not. Thanks for the tip, though, def something to keep in mind for the future!

  24. 32 degrees says:

    Anton, this is exactly one of the reason I’m getting out of high end xc skiing and just running more. Skiing requires equipment, waxing, skis (multiple pairs waxed perfect, my stock used to rotate around about 6 pairs for different conditions) and time driving to ski trails and races. In the last 5 years running has come back more and more into my situation because of the simplicity and low cost. Shoes on, out the door, experience begins. I guess since I have a background in XC skiing the pole situation seems much more clear to me as easy and cheap, simply because I already have the equipment. There is no way to really break the pole while running unless you get angry and snap it over your knee!! When you are at the elite high end of the game like you I simply thought you would be into shaving seconds here and there and might have connections where you could get some free poles? But, like you said – you don’t really use poles in races, only in training so it doesnt really matter to you. In the end its not about the race or the poles or the shoes or the gear, it is simply about the experience of covering ground, seeing nature, and experiencing our outdoors – i’m in total agreement.

  25. Zach says:

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  26. Zach says:

    Awesome run and sweet pictures, keep up the good work. By the way I love the t-shirt turned hat you are wearing, I live in Grand Rapids, MI and recognize my favorite running store, Gazelle Sports, shirt that you used… excellent choice!

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