On Saturday, June 11, 2022, we went up Kelso Ridge (exposed class 3 scrambling route) on Torreys Peak (14,267 ft.). Its neighboring peak, Grays, is the highest point along the continental divide, a drainage divide where on one side of the peaks, all water drains towards the Pacific and, on the other side, towards the Atlantic Ocean. Here’s a view of what it’s like to cross the famous “knife edge” along the exposed ridge. Watch all 4 minutes, to get the full crossing. If you’re short on time, watch just the last 2 minutes. There, you can see how a vein of quartzite (where Ricardo is standing) bisects ancient (Precambrian) granite. Quartzite is a metamorphic rock that originally was a pure quartz sandstone. You get quartzite through heating and pressure. In the case of the Rockies, this was due to tectonic compression as the mountains were being formed, millions of years ago.
Millions of years is a lot of time to erode mountains. But both granite and quartzite rank high on the Mohs hardness scale (6 – 6.5 for granite; 7 for the quartzite). This ranks how hard minerals and rocks are on a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is talc (the softest mineral) and 10 is diamond, the hardest known mineral on the planet. Hardness makes something more durable. In the case of mountains, harder rocks won’t crumble or break as easily as other rocks, given the same amount of time. It helps explain how, after all this time, the quartzite “pitch” of scrambling is still intact. Water does find its way into the various natural cracks in the rock and, when the water freezes, it can crack the rock further and eventually break it down. So, with that said, it is very important to test every hand and foothold before committing your weight to it!