Sun kissed Grays (left) and Torreys (right) peaks
I had gotten a bit of a head start on my group, knowing that with my cameras I would be a bit slower once I started taking pictures. As a result I had these couple of views all to myself, a rare treat because later in the day there are literally hundreds of hikers lining these trails like ants.
Looking back past the shoulder of Torreys - beautiful country
Soon the views began to be paid for in vertical feet. The first half of the hike, up to my location for the first two shots was a relatively gentle climb up a glacial valley. From here though it was switchbacks right on up to the summit.
A view back towards the trailhead, including Kelso Mountain (center) and Stevens Gulch (bending behind it from the right) trailhead sits just back out of view behind Kelso Mountain
I climbed Grays back in 2002 or 2003, and it was painful. My boots didn't fit well, I was wearing jeans with no belt, and as a twenty something I raced up, suffered down, and when it was over and the blisters and soreness had passed I realized I really hadn't savored much while I had worked hard to get up there.
This year was different. Once I got up high I took my time, I tried to memorize the views, and capture the moments, not to mention I had targets on my hike. The first were Rocky Mountain Goats. I have seen this species while driving up Mt. Evans years ago, but not since I had begun keeping lists or taking pictures. It was a species that I wanted to get on a hike, walking into its environment, not just driving by. I got them, seeing a group first on the ridge shortly after dawn, when they were just brilliant spots of gold high on red rock. About halfway up the ascent of the switchbacks I got a closer look, and at that point I was glad I had brought 5 plus pounds of camera along.
Rocky Mountain Goat
There was an even more elusive target though, one that I had tried for an missed many times in the past, and had never seen - the Brown-capped Rosy-Finch.
My fellow hikers were a bit surprised when I shouted "Brown-capped Rosy-Finch"! There isn't much air up there for shouting, but I found some. I cruised to the summit, knowing that I had already bagged my two target species on the way up. Then the celebratory picture at the top, I'm squinting on the left - 'note to self - wear sunglasses for future mountaintop pictures'.
With my camera gear I headed back down with a part of the group, while some headed on and bagged Torreys as well. In hindsight I wish I had done Torreys as well, I wanted to get back down to the willow clumps in the valley below to look for Ptarmigan. When I got to that section I found two White-crowned Sparrows, and nothing else. I guess hundreds of hikers can have that effect. Oh well, now I have a reason to go back.
2010 Count: 196