Grays Winter Ski Descent

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Peak:  Grays Peak, Front Range
Date Climbed:  February 28, 2009
Partners: Stuart Clark, Ryan Scollard
Ascent Route:  North Slopes
Stats: ~ 12 Miles, 4,550 Feet, 9 Hours
Ski Route:  Northeast Face

With Stu down to 10 peaks left, Grays was next on the list.  We decided to hit it on Saturday the 28th and it turned out to be another stellar day in the mountains.  Ryan decided to join us, his first climb since getting HAPE on Aconcagua and stabbed in Mendoza, it was great to have him along and in good health.  On top of that I decided to try and get a ski descent despite some avy concerns, I felt if I could stick to windblown strips and safety zones it might be feasible.

The three of us met at the Stevens Gulch TH off of I-70 at 4am and hit the trail 30 minutes later, me on skis, Stu and Ryan on shoes.  We blazed it to the summer TH and spied Grays from a distance in the morning light, it looked like a summit ski could be in the cards for me.

Another early morning in Stevens Gulch, and a cold one too.

We took a wide line around the south side of Kelso, trying to stick to the middle of the valley as much as possible.  Within 45 minutes we were across the flats and gaining altitude towards the top of Grays.

We contoured through the bowl below Grays‘ north slope and ended up ascending a small rock band to gain the ridge near the summer trail.  My skis went on my back for this section but I was able to throw them on my feet again a little higher up.

On the ridge with Kelso Mountain/Ridge behind.

We crossed a few suspect slopes one at a time and noted no signs of instability, a few pole probe observations yielded a surprisingly consolidated pack.  We gained the saddle between Grays and Torreys a bit above the low point and began the final push to the summit.

The guys getting higher.

Once on the ridge I was able to skin all the way to the summit, we topped out around 11am and enjoyed low winds and fairly warm temps.

Skin track to the summit of Grays with Torreys behind.

Lounging on Grays summit, 11:05am.

After a decent break, the guys started down.  I took off the skins and clicked in for my first official ski descent of a 14er, good stuff.

Skiing below the summit on Grays’ predominantly wind-swept Northeast Face.

The snow was difficult to ski but pleasant and copious otherwise, I skied a few hundred vertical on the west side of the face, then cut across to the east side to milder terrain closer to the ridge we ascended.  I was fine with seeking out the smallest snow patches at the lowest angles I could find, I was in it for the ski descent but I wasn‘t keen on hitting big pillows with big runouts towards the bottom of the bowl, it was still February after all.

Straightlining it through the basin past the base of South Paw and Dead Dog.

Unfortunately I don‘t have 47 action ski shots to unveil, my camera squad is still working out the kinks.  I pointed em straight and shot out through the bottom of the valley towards the base of the Dead Dog, Stu and Ryan traversed around the summer trail to meet me.

A conservative ski route. Ascent Route: Red, Descent: Blue.

I ran out of skiable terrain for only about a hundred yards near the Kelso/Torreys saddle.  Once I put the skis back on I was able to ski all the way back to the car parked at Bakersville, I didn‘t really envy Stu and Ryan who showed up an hour and a half later after hiking down the snow packed road.  After a good nap waiting on them, we headed in for beer and pizza at Beau Joe‘s in Idaho Springs.  Overall a very satisfying day.  Thanks for reading.

3 thoughts on “Grays Winter Ski Descent

  1. Casey

    Ben-
     
    Like the Blog- Curious to see how you guys are doing with Staurts tick list? Didn’t see Shavano on the ski list-
     
    This is Casey from Shavano-

    Reply
  2. benners Post author

    Hey Casey! Looks like Stu isn’t gonna complete the list, his plan as of now is to come back for a week or so next summer and finish em off. What have you been up to lately?

    Ben

    Reply
  3. dlange

    Hey, didn’t you dudes climb Aconcagua this past winter? You should link that climb and story to this website!!!!
     
    WOW! What a life you guys lead!

    Reply

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