Let me start with a disclaimer: I am not what you would call a "hiker." I get out from time to time for some good views, but this challenge was definitely unique for me. I climbed Mt. Bierstadt last summer, and this year wanted to top it. So two in one summer would do it. The easiest way to do that is to make it a set. Grays & Torreys. Here's what I learned:
Getting there: Early
I left my house in Denver at 4 a.m. to make the drive to the trailhead. When I arrived, there was a parking spot or two still available (it was a Monday morning). When I left, there were cars parked along the road and moderately far from the start of the hike. Many of the things I've read online also say it's nearly impossible to get a spot on a weekend morning. I personally don't want to add miles to my hike, so I'd say go early. I arrived at 5:15 a.m.
Getting there: The road
The road from the Bakerville exit off I-70 to the trailhead could be described generously as "a rugged adventure." It is an unpaved forest road that is about three miles long to the trailhead. Large rocks popping out of the ground, deep ruts, and large potholes make it quite the challenge. I was lucky enough to borrow a Jeep from a friend. You'll need something with high clearance, and I'd recommend 4-wheel drive.
What to pack: The weather
On top of the standard hiking attire and accouterments (lots of water, hiking boots, layers), you'll need to pack for several different climates. It was the first time in my life I applied sunscreen while wearing a winter coat. Good quality gloves and a winter hat are also necessities to deal with wind and the overall cold. At 5 a.m., it was 36 degrees. I didn't take my gloves off until 9:30 a.m.
The hike: Pacing
As I said earlier, I'm no hiking rock star. But I also wanted to complete the hike, and do it before any inclement weather hit. Starting early will help you be able to take your time. I took breaks every so often while making my way up to the hardest parts of the trail. Those breaks became more frequent the higher I went, and the less oxygen there was in the air. My best advice here: Look ahead of you but don't look at the person ahead of you. It's not a race. The best-laid plans of summiting the mountain with a group you met in the parking lot are likely not going to happen. Take it at your own pace. Your body will thank you for it.
The hike: Summiting Grays
There is a well-defined trail leading to the top of Grays Peak at 14,278 feet. It starts going around a large rocky ridge, then up the gradual side of that ridge, to several switchbacks the closer you get to the top. There wasn't much bouldering, just a whole lot of stepping up rock steps along the trail. When you get to the point where you can't see the top, you're getting close. The summit actually snuck up on me, and all of a sudden I was on top of the world. Hint: bring a sign with name and elevation if you'd like, but remember if you pack it in, pack it out (bring it with and take it with you when you leave). Make friends and take a lot of pictures.
The hike: Summiting Torreys
This is where things get complicated. Hooray! You made it. Now scramble down a less-defined and much steeper trail to get down to the ridge connecting the two peaks. Luckily, you're going down so it is relatively easier and you won't get spent too quick. You should see the entire trail up the side of Torreys. The ridge itself isn't too bad, but the top 1/3 is the hardest of the entire hike in my opinion. It is by far the steepest part, and you've been hiking for hours at this point. At the top, the view was one of my favorites in Colorado. You can see Dillon & Breckenridge, Copper Mountain, and about four levels of peaks. You did it.
The hike: Coming all the way down
And now you have to come all the way down. This was my least favorite part of the hike. Everything that goes up must come down and now so do you. The steepness of Torrey's makes it tough getting back to the ridge. Skip over a path with snow on both sides and eventually meet back up with the Grays trail. Then down several miles to get back to the car. It seemed never-ending, so I'd suggest breaks and more pictures to break up the time.
So that's my version of hiking advice. Please don't write to me and tell me how wrong I am. I hope if you decide to try to "bag" two 14,000-foot peaks in the future, it helps a little bit.