Before arriving in Denver, I had messaged one of my college roommates sister, Amanda who is a runner, triathlete & hiker in Denver. I wasn't sure what the trip would look like at that point, but I always try to meet up with people I know when I'm in new to me cities.
Amanda text me later offering a few suggestions, an 8 mile run, either a sunrise hike of a 14er or another Sunday hike. After consulting with Joe and deciding it was absolutely insane, we agreed to join her and her friends on the sunrise hike. We took a lyft from Boulder to Denver since earlier in the day we had finally parted ways with the budget truck. Once there we immediately left to eat Indian food (Little India and delicious) before packing our bags and taking a nap. I fell asleep quickly around 9:30 but had no problem waking up at 12:15 to start the day.
We drove to a parking area to meet up with her friends and began the drive to the trailhead for Gray Peak. Somewhere along the line I started to worry a bit about the altitude and the fact that I hadn't been hiking much but no one seemed too worried about me being to handle it, so I went with their confidence. It's a short drive to the trail, about an hour & up a very bumpy dirt road. (My trusty Corolla might not have survived) we took a few minutes to adjust our bags and started on the trail at 2:49am.
It was a gorgeous night, stars were out, nothing like the Badlands from earlier in the week, but the Milky Way was visible. The moon wasn't out, but with headlamps we were able to navigate this wide trail easily. The 8 of us trucked along, I took my favorite place at the back of the group settling into my own pace. The first 2 miles were quick, we gained about 1,000ft of elevation, but were able to maintain a 2 mile an hour pace. We slowed right down after that.
The wind had picked up and there was no real break since we were already well above treeline. The clouds had started to roll in, but we could still see the sky begin to lighten up. As we made our ascent we realized that actually seeing the sunrise seemed unlikely despite our timing due to the clouds. The last mile was tough. The wind was blowing hard and I was cold. We had pants to put on, but with no wind breaks we kept pushing to the summit. I did however pull out my extra pair of socks and stick those on my hands to help. Once we got there Joe and I scrambled to add more layers and to keep our rain shells from flying off the mountain. It took us a few minutes to layer up before joining others in a rock wall.
My mood was pretty low, I knew I hadn't been drinking enough water or eating enough food, I had consumed half of a cliff bar and significantly less water than usual. And I was cold. I need a permanent warning sign that reads : forgive anything that I said while I was cold.
The group had planned to summit a second nearby 14er -Torrey also, but at that point I had absolutely no interest. I am not actively trying to climb all of the 14ers. The wind was no joke and there was absolutely no view. Another girl, Joe and I decided to descend and plan to meet back up at the car. (I've been told the wind wasn't too bad, but I have no regrets about our decision, we were not very prepared for the day.)
The hike down was slow due to the rocks being a bit slick but as we came out of the clouds, the wind lessened too. Now that the sun was up, we had great views of the valley. We could see lots of people coming up, but we were not prepared for how many it truly would be. Without much exaggeration, I believe we passed nearly 300 people. Never in my life have I seen so many people walking up a mountain.
I am amazed that the trail is in such great shape. (albeit wide) My face hurt from smiling and saying hi to so many people. In the beginning we paused a bit to chat about the trail conditions, but that stopped when we realized we'd never get off the mountain.
Our last two miles were similar to our first two just hovering around 2 mph average. We were delighted to see the parking lot (and that despite the hundreds of people, no one had double parked us) after 8 miles and 6 hours later.
Because of the lollipop loop that Torrey offers (and is therefore only .5 longer than just Gray) we didn't have to wait too long the rest of the group to arrive. It seems crazy to believe that we had hiked a 14er all before noon.
The drive off the mountain was rough, with cars parked all along the single lane road, we had a terrifying encounter with a truck, luckily we all made it through and down the bumpy path (no joke I collected 1,000 Fitbit steps on the drive.) I wasn't feeling awesome, mostly due to lack of water and food but enjoyed the view back to Denver. I even saw my first big horn sheep!
Once back a nap was necessary, forget showering or eating, I just wanted to sleep, so I did for nearly two hours.
It would have been great to see the sunrise, but the whole night hiking & 14er was a really great experience. I absolutely would do one again, but ideally with warmer gear!
Mountain: Grays Peak
Rank: 9th highest
Elevation gained: 3,000
Miles: 8.08 miles
Time: 6 hours including breaks
Gear used: topo athletic trail sneakers, smart wool socks on feet and on hands. oiselle long rogas, janji singlet, Vermont flannel company, jansport sweatshirt, north face rain shell