Peak(s):  Torreys Peak  -  14,267 feet
Date Posted:  05/17/2016
Modified:  05/19/2016
Date Climbed:   05/14/2016
Author:  jmanner
 Emperor Couloir Ski   

Round Trip Distance: 9 Miles
Round Trip Time: 7.5 hours
Ascent: 4,500 Feet
Descent: 4,500
Ski descent:~4,450 feet

For a couple years now I have been eyeing a ski of Emperor(like everyone else), but never seemed to make the time to ski it. This year though, it was priority number one and with a good week of dry weather I figured this past Saturday would be a great day to give "one of longest couloirs in Colorado" a go. And since there hasn't been a ski report on Emperor in a long while, I figured I'd write it up.

I met my skiing and running buddy, Terrence, at my house at 2:55 am and we were driving toward the mountain by 3:15 am. We both have families to get back to so we were hoping to make quick work of the road and be back home by 11:30, of course my time estimates are always a little too optimistic.

In Georgetown we stopped to get some fuel and take a quick bathroom break. While chatting with some hikers about their mornings plans, the cashier overhearing mine, quipped "You know its landslide and snow slide season," I replied that I did. After checkout, I thanked her for her concern, which prompted a response of "the last time some fools went up Torreys it took 20 people to get them out." me: "Oh, well, I guess this fool is going up." The scowl she gave me indicated that she did not appreciate my remark.

We got to the Bakerville exit and made our way up to a nice parking spot on the road, by around 4:20. Within, twenty minutes we were on our way, we started out hiking up the road, but luckily we were able to throw our skis on pretty soon after leaving the car. It only took about a half an hour to reach the Grizzly Gulch junction, where we got our first view of Torreys and the Emperor couloir.

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Alpine glow on Torreys


Just as I was putting the camera away, the sound of a thousand demons began to grow in the forest behind us. As this sound grew near we turned and saw two people riding a snowmobile up the dirt part of the road at 20+ mph, blankly staring at us with their headlamps. Maybe they were confused as to what we were doing? No way to know. After they had passed we were treated by the lovely smell of half burned diesel. Nothing like a nice tour in the wilderness to make you forget the city.

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First light on the summit. Credit: Terrence


After about an hour and two short creek crossings we arrived at the base of the couloir.

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First Creek crossing.


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"Screw it, I am just going for it." Credit: Terrence


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About a mile from the couloir. Credit: Terrence



From the base of the talus mound/couloir we were able to tour up the hard freeze/thaw snow to around 11,400 feet. Here we threw the skis on our packs and got the crampons and axes out and began the climb in earnest.

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2,900 of couloir in one shot. Credit: Terrence


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Luckily there was a solid boot pack we could followed, the booter they put in was pretty efficient and allowed us to move relatively quickly up the left side of the couloir.

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Credit: Terrence

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Credit: Terrence

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Summit from around 12,500. Credit: Terrence

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Credit: Terrence


After about an hour and forty-five minutes of moving we had reached 13,200 feet and the boot track appeared to veer off to below the east side of the summit. Seeing this I felt it best if we left the boot pack and cross over a rib into a gully just to the west of the line we had been climbing.

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Terrence after crossing into the untracked gully.


Once over the rip it was un-tracked, so I got to kick steps for a change. Since I was leading up fresh snow for the first time, we stayed as close to the still shadowed cold snow as we could. At this point, my legs started to let me know we'd climbed 3,500 feet and I found myself checking the altimeter on my watched ever few minutes. Pro-tip: Staring at your watch very thirty seconds is always a good way to keep your mind off the fatigue.

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Approaching 14,000.

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Credit: Terrence


En route, we found a fun, steep, (50-55+? degrees) gully that deposited us out onto the ridge that cuts between the Emperor and Tuning Fork couloirs. I can't speak for Terrence, but seeing the summit from this vintage point and the few hundred feet more to the summit, did not improve my spirits.

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John approaching the steepest section. Credit: Terrence

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Terrence at the narrowest section.


Once on the ridge, we found ourselves a few hundred feet to the west of the previous boot pack, which it turns out actually went directly to the summit. Realizing my stupidity, Terrence directly that we should get back on it, and again we used the rather good boot-pack to continue to labor our way up to the summit. To give you an idea the penalty we paid in breaking trail, it had taken an hour and 24 minutes to cover the final one thousand feet whereas the first two thousand feet of the couloir, using the boot pack, had taken no more than an hour and forty minutes.

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Terrence finishing the last 100 vertical feet.


Once on the summit we took some pictures, texted the families, ate some flavorless cliff products and were moving in after about twenty-five minutes.

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Nice view of the cloud layer over the plains. Credit: Terrence


The face below the summit was still relatively hard from the wind and the clouds, that were starting to blow in, but it was relatively straight forward to the top of the couloir.

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Skiing off the summit.


Once there, we realized that there was not a great way to get through the bottom of the constriction, that leads into the main couloir, so we decided to traverse over and cut through about a fifty feet of the Tuning Fork couloir in order to drop into the skiers left entrance. I am not sure how to classify it, it's either Bill's primary entrance or the variation entrance from Miller and Conner's book, either way, its skiers left of the two.

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Dropping into the couloir proper.

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Terrence skiing in the foot deep wind snow.

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John near the top with another 2,800 to the valley floor. Credit: Terrence


Once we dropped in, the snow was amazing; it was a mix of soft wind deposited snow up top that transitioned to perfect spring corn as we descended through 13,000 feet.

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Terrence carving in corn, mid way down.

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By the time we had skied to the entrance, of the couloir, my legs were so gassed I just fell over a couple times in lieu of making a turn, which led to a funny back-flip back onto my skis.

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Its not fun if you don't back-flip... Credit: Terrence


We made it back to the road, in what I call quick, 35 minutes after leaving the summit and began polling and skiing our way back to the car.

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If you squint you can see our tracks. Credit: Terrence


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Last creek crossing before the couloir still had a little snow bridge left.


Except for a few uphill sections, and two of the creek crossings, we were able to ski all but maybe a third of mile back to the car.

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Thats right skied to the car! Credit: Terrence


What a day... I can't imagine better weather, conditions or ski partner.

Thanks for reading, go get it while the getting's good.

My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):




Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions
BenfromtheEast
User
Alpine glow, diesel sleds, and backflips
05/18/2016 10:28
Sounds like a typical day with J-Man. Nice work, Broah.


Jay521
User
Ah...
05/18/2016 14:15
But can you do a back flip whilst on a diesel snowmobile?

Nice report, John!


lodgling
User
Style points
05/18/2016 17:20
I like the creek crossing technique! Congrats on getting a classic in good conditions and car to car no less.


SnowAlien
User
Beautiful line
05/19/2016 08:50
and great conditions. Congrats!


jmanner
User
Thanks!
06/06/2016 14:10
Ben: to complete the experience a verbal confrontation would have been required. Maybe next time...

Jay: I can't, only on skis

Lodgling/Nat: Thank you, I'd say you've both had far cooler ski lines in the last month.


SolarAlex
User
yeah buddy
05/20/2016 19:14
Nice work !! great write up too



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