I set out from my house in Aurora at 7:00 a.m. and arrived at the Stevens Gulch Trailhead right around 9:00. Roach describes the road up to the trailhead from I-70 as "passable for most passenger cars" - I would strongly question this statement. My little Mazda Protege was hating life, and I scraped bottom more than once, doing approx. 5 miles an hour. In any case, I did finally make it to the trailhead and started out under a beautiful, clear sky.
The first part of the trip along the base of Kelso Mountain on the Grays Peak/Stevens Gulch trail was pretty uneventful (except for the numerous pesky flies which I swatted away with my trusty red bandana). Roach says to look for a bench about 2 miles up the trail which marks the turn off for the Kelso Ridge. I never did find the bench (even on the way back), and realized about half a mile past the turnoff that I had missed it. So, I picked my own trail across the rock-strewn turf and made my way towards the saddle between Kelso and Torreys. The best way to recognize this area, other than the presence of the saddle itself, is an abadoned mining "hut" next to a closed up mine shaft.
Once I hit the saddle, this is where the fun started. Roach describes this route as a "climb, not a hike," and I would have to agree. Most of the stuff was what I would call "class 3," with a little "class 4" thrown in along the way. There were even some "class 5" areas (at least it seemed so to me) that could either be skirted, or climbed - being the intrepid adventurer that I am and not too bright at times, I decided to climb the majority of these. Towards the summitt, there is a substantial tower that must be navigated (30 to 40 feet of class 4), followed by a fairly exposed knife edge. This is considered the route's "crux" and is possibly the most exciting part of the climb. From here, it's a hop, skip and a jump (literally) to the top.
After spending 10 or 15 minutes hanging out with the throng of people on the summit, I headed down towards the Grays Peak trail to begin my trip back. I debated climbing Grays as well, which was well within reach, but decided to save that one for a later trip with my wife and two dogs. After about an hour and a half of downhill hiking, I was back at my car.
One more comment about the Kelso Ridge: Besides being an exciting way to climb Torreys, it is also a great way to avoid the crowds. I didn't see another sole going up the same route, and only a few people coming down. I would highly recommend this climb!
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