The road to the trail-head at Grays & Torreys was complete and utter garbage. It was completely washboarded and there were potholes from the get go. Great, it is miles to the trailhead and there is no way I'm going to drive to it. So, I started walking. From I-70 to the trail-head at it was about 3 miles and a little over 1000 ft. of gain to get there. A kindly elderly couple picked me up just before 5am and offered to drive me the rest of the way. It turned out to be only another 100 yards, but it was the thought that counts. After a quick shit and some water I started out along the trail. It was just after five and I was keeping pace with a couple in front of me. Eventually I started chatting with the couple, James and Sheila, and as it turns out they had passed me this morning on my hike up from I-70 and felt pretty bad about not picking me up. I told them I had debated lobbing rocks at their windshield and slashing their tires at the trail-head for the offense (totally kidding, I really didn’t care). I continued to hike with James & Sheila until the trail forked and they headed off towards the Kelso Ridge and I continued on towards the Grays summit. As I continued on the route I could see the clouds ripping through the area but they posed little to no danger of producing lightning. They were little more than high altitude fog, but this fog seemed to have it in for me as it engulfed each summit as I approached. I ended up topping out on Grays and Torreys with a solid 5% visibility. As I was walking up to the top of Torreys James & Sheila were topping out via the Kelso route, it was nice to see them up on top safe and sound. We trekked back to the parking lot together. I always find it to be a much better and more enjoyable day when I travel with good people. (I was also elated when they offered me a ride the 3 miles down to my car.)
A few days later I started the Shivano/Tabeguache 11+ miles trek just before 4:30 am. It was really dark that morning and I began the trek with a couple girls from Colorado. There was only a Cheshire Cat moon this morning and very little visibility even with our headlamps. We made it about a half a mile down the trail when my headlamp burned out. Fucking great, that was just how I wanted to start the day. I was extremely grateful for my companions at this point as I would have spent a long time sitting at the side of the trail twiddling my thumbs waiting for the sun to rise. The girls were nice enough to let me walk between them so I could see without tripping over the many rocks and trees that were in our path. This went on for a few hours until it got light out; shortly after sunrise I parted ways with my illuminating companions as they were having some issues with the altitude and needed to stop. I thanked them repeatedly for the light and I kept moving towards the summit of Shivano. As I reached the summit I met up with a number of other people who were on the same path, which included a family that had driven up from Missouri. I joined up with the trio (father, son, & daughter) and the teenage kids were leading the group. Apparently teenagers from Missouri are completely unaffected by altitude, because they were fucking moving. FAST. I barely managed to keep up with them, FUCK!, these kids made me feel like I was 34 for the first time in my life. They were effortlessly hopping across the boulder fields at 14,000 feet like they were skipping down a sidewalk at sea level. In retrospect I am really glad they put that pace on us because shortly after we made it back below tree line there were some serious lightening strikes in the area! We said our goodbyes in the parking lot and went our separate ways.
Every mountain brings new people and new experiences, some of which are more appealing than others. Regardless of how bat-shit crazy the people are or how much the route sucks ass, those are the things that make it memorable and worthwhile for me.