Post subject: Torrey's Peak, Northwest Face "Tuning Fork Couloir" 5/28/07
Posted: Fri Jun 01, 2007 4:24 pm
Joined: Tue Feb 20, 2007 10:19 am Posts: 544 Location: Capitol Hill, Denver, Colorado, U.S.A.
Torrey's Peak, 14,267' Front Range, Rocky Mountains Ascent via Standard Route Descent via Northwest Face "Tuning Fork Couloir"
Its Friday already and while already in the middle of planning tomorrow's outing, I've realized I forgot to finish off the Memorial Weekend blog with Torrey's PeakNorthwest Face. This is a line that I've driven past on I-70 with a veteran skier many times who feels it necessary to remind me EVERY time that he has skied it. It is large, wide, and long, with an easy approach, so I found it perfect to finish the weekend with.
Early Memorial Day morning, Old Style and I sped off under the rising sun and arrived at Steven's Gulch Trailhead around 7am. We were planning to do a complete loop from the Trailhead, up Torrey's Peak via the Standard class 2 route, down the Northwest Face, and hike out Grizzly Gulch. To top things off, the recommended car shuttle from Grizzly Gulch back up to Steven's Gulch (and our vehicle) would be achieved using convienently stashed mountain bikes.
Your Narrator...it was sunny all morning!
Going up the standard route provided many interesting encounters with a wide range of outdoor explorers. Up on Kelso Mountain we saw two skiers traveling the ridge. Four mountaineers were visible inside Dead Dog Couloir, all safely spaced 200 feet apart. Even the standard route had a few gapers with blue jeans and the always stylish shorts-with-gaitors setup.
Old Style (Nice tights, dork!)
At 9am we saw four mountaineers in Dead Dog. It alreadly looked crowded so I was very glad that this wasn't our intended line
We were able to hike the first 1/2 mile on dry land with lightweight shoes, but by the time we reached continous snow it had already started to softed, so we skinned it across the flat part of the trail. Once the uphill part of the trail started, it had been bootpacked enough that I was able to hike it all with snowboard boots. My partner remained on skins the entire time. Although we had taked different approaches up the mountain, I didn't notice any difference in our pace.
It had been sunny all day until about 10:30am. By the time we reached the saddle between Grays and Torreys, the clouds had gathered and were looking very strong. We hauled ass up the remaining 800 feet, stopping only briefly to talk to the Dead Dog mountaineers who were on their way down the standard route.
By 11am it was snowing at the top of the mountain as we switched over into our ski gear. At this point we had no idea if the morning sun had cooked the Northwest face enough to make for comfortable skiing, but since we had no idea how long it would take for the clouds to disappear and the sun to return, we decided to play it safe by heading down right away.
Looking up at the summit from farther down the West Ridge
This was a fun experience because it was the first trip where I played the role of leader. I had gathered all the beta on the route, and now it was up to me to find the start of our line. The upper terrain for the first 50 yards skier's left (from the summit) was a boneyard. I walked another 50 yards until I found what I thought to be the best possible start. We would have to ski through a tight section about 10 feet wide, and then we would be out on the huge open face for the rest of the run.
At the top of our line
I dropped in first when I had a small break of light through the clouds. Old Style followed, and we exchanged leads a few times during the whole run. The upper section was pretty harsh. While the sun had melted out the snow during the early morning hours, the small storm that hit us earlier on the ascent had done some chemistry on the snow, and the surface was turned back into a choppy and crusty layer.
However, near the middle of the run we encountered nice corn, and the remaining 1500 foot drop was a blast. It was fun to carve nice wide turns into the side of the mountain after my recent experiences in tight steep couloirs.
Look at the retarded skier stepping over rocks with his skis on
Damn I wonder if this guy is sponsored?
Probably the only pic with decent exposure
Looking back up at the couloir. From this point the snowfield was full and continous, and we ripped it with style.
The hike out of Grizzly Gulch was less than ideal. It is that time of year where the approaches aren't totally melted out, but aren't totally full of snow (for an ideal skin-out). We had changed back into out hiking shoes, but had to posthole through snow drifts and cross the river 3 times. Finally, after an hour of hiking, we spotted the mountain bikes! We stashed the gear and hopped on the bikes. Two more miles of a steep and exhilarating ride, and we were back at the truck.
Our descent line in red
In a matter of 6 hours, we had completely circumnavigated Kelso Mountain...via the summit of Torrey's Peak!
_________________ Riding a '06 Voile Split Decision Freeride 173, '07 Salomon Malamutes, Spark Ignition I bindings.
Yeah the North West Couloir (Tuning Fork) is another long, great descent. You can really open it up there.
The nice thing on Emperor is that you usually can ride it right from the top. No down climbing/picking through rocks required. It also offers some nice variety of route finding, narrow, steep and wide shots.
You definitely should try it sometime.
One of the better lines I have done in my "career".