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  • Writer's pictureJoanna Lee

Torreys Peak | Kelso Ridge

Updated: Aug 17, 2023

July 26, 2023

Torreys Peak | 14,272 feet

6.5 miles; 3100 feet elevation gain

Total time: 5 hours

Torreys Peak via Kelso Ridge is my second class three climb, my first was Mount Bierstadt via Sawtooth Ridge about a year ago. My overall summary is that Kelso ridge is a fun scramble with many class three moves, lots of loose rock, plenty of route finding and some exposure. It my opinion it is definitely a jump in difficulty from Sawtooth Ridge which has less exposure and less overall technical class three climbing.

The first thing to mention is parking. Most AWD cars can access this trailhead but it is a rough road. The parking lot fills up very quickly even on week days and there is no parking allowed along the road, so I recommend starting early. We arrived at 4:45am and there was about 10 remaining spots.

The initial two miles is on the standard route for Grays and Torreys. It is a straightforward trail that leads you out of the treeline. Around 12,300 feet there is a cairn to indicate the turn off for Kelso Ridge. Once you reach the ridge the loose rock begins and around 12,700 feet you reach your first class three move. From there the class three moves continue to alternate with difficult class two terrain, with an abundance of loose rock. There are many route variations with varying levels of difficulty. It is really important to make sure you are familiar with the route and understand how different variations can present different challenges. While there is a trail for portions of the route it does require critical thinking and route finding almost the entire way. I found the images on 14ers to be extremely helpful in preparing, visualizing the route and recognizing different sections as we tackled them. The final class three move and the crux of the route is the knife's edge, just past 14,000 feet. It is a short but exposed section that the route is known for. I was most concerned about this section of the route but found it much easier than I expected. The rock is extremely stable and there are enough notches in it to safely locate foot holds as you climb across. After this you will ascend a loose scree section, difficult class two, to the summit of Torreys Peak. The descent then follows the standard Torreys Peak trail, a marked and maintained trail all the way back to the car.

Overall I thought a few of the more "climbing" class three moves were more intimidating than the knifes edge. Finding stable and safe foot and hand holes was my biggest struggle in some of these sections. It was so helpful to have another set of eyes to help me in these moments. The exposure and route finding throughout was tricky at times but not overly difficult. While I extensively studied the route photos and descriptions, my biggest advice for this route, especially if you are newer to class three climbing, is to climb with someone who has done it before. It was incredibly helpful to have someone who was familiar with the route to lead the way and discuss any route variations with. In my opinion this is a route for building confidence in class three terrain. It was so much fun and absolutely beautiful the entire way!

Hike Details:

Trailhead: 2WD trailhead accessible in any car (this will add mileage to the above route). 4WD to reach the actual trailhead.

Camping: dispersed camping along the road to the trailhead.

Fees & Reservations: none.

Bathrooms: bathrooms at the trailhead.

Trash: no garbage at the trailhead.

Dog-friendly: this route is class three and not dog friendly.

Recent Conditions: see peak conditions.

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