Kelso ridge is a dramatic alternative to the very popular route up Torry’s peak near Denver. 14ers.com has a great route description so I am not going to repeat that here.
I have been chased off this route twice by weather. The forecast for Saturday morning was 60% thunderstorms after 11AM. Not a great forecast, but it looked like we had a window of good weather before 9AM. We decided to be on the trail by 5AM. We arrived at the trailhead around 4:45 to find a mostly full parking lot. The first few miles of this route follow the standard trail, so we got an easy warm up. The trail was very easy to follow by headlamp. We reached the turnoff to the ridge around dawn. The sun revealed no sign of approaching weather so we put on our helmets, and started up the ridge.
The ridge starts off as difficult class 2, but doesn’t take long to become class 3. There is lots of loose rock on the route, but the harder sections offer solid scrambling. The class 3 climbing is interspersed with class 2 walking where you need to do some route finding. We got into some class 4 sections a couple of times, and had to back off and look for an easier way up.
The “crux” or most difficult part of the route is the knife edge. This is a short section of very exposed class 3 rock just below the summit of Torry’s. The climbing is pretty easy, as long as you don’t let the exposure get in your head. The worst part was the move out and around to get on the white rock at the end. The move was very exposed, and your only choice for a handhold is semi loose rock.
Here is a go pro video of us crossing the knife edge.
kelso ridge (knife edge) from Keith Ganger on Vimeo.
The Knife edge was over quickly and the summit was a few minutes later. We summited Torry’s a little after 8AM. The couple from 14ers.com was on the summit, along with a guy who had come up the standard route.
The weather was exceptionally good, as we relaxed on the summit Jeremy said “its still early wanna run up Grey’s?” We look over and see a large line of people working their way up Grey’s. Looking down the ridge, “how about Kelso Mountain?” With that we picked up our packs and sped off down the trail.
The route up Kelso mountain was steeper than it looks here, but was over all pretty easy. It was grassy and even terrain to walk on. There were at least 3 false summits which are disheartening, but we made quick work of the mountain topping out at around 10:30. We took a short break, and pulled out our maps to identity the surrounding peaks. The descent off kelso was pleasant and fast. We were back on the standard trail by 11AM and had a quick hike back to the car.