Peak(s):  Torreys Peak  -  14,267 feet
Date Posted:  06/06/2016
Date Climbed:   06/04/2016
Author:  jmiller889
Additional Members:   sbutterfield04
 Emperor Couloir -- Torrey's Peak   

On the morning of June 4th, we left Denver from the dino lots at 0400. By 0500, we reached the first creek crossing E of the Grizzly Gulch Junction & decided to gear up at that point (you can easily cross & drive another 200 yards, but we didn't see the point). Twenty minutes later, we crossed the creek & started the trek up the remainder of the road towards the base of the couloir. After an easy mile-or-so jaunt (& another river crossing), we tossed skins on until we got to 1.85 miles total distance (10,950'). At that point, we ditched the skis to head SSE, crossing the creek for the final time.

At this point, the base of the couloir is right infront of you. We skinned up another 350' vert until the icy conditions made us toss the skis on our back (there's definitely a play here for ski crampons). The conditions weren't terrible, but a couple stints sliding a few feet on skins will make you reassess you're climbing style. By 0640 we were starting the ~3,000' boot up the shaded left side of the Emperor. Scott strapped some crampons onto his snowboarding boots & Paul opted for micro spikes; Justin & I decided against any ice gear as the snow seemed to soften a bit higher. I'll say this -- there were definitely a few points where spikes would have been helpful, but I was happy with my decision to keep them in my pack.

The first ~1700' of the couloir was shaded from the sun, but we could tell that the top & right side of the run were heating up faster than preferred. The shelter from the sun, coupled with a 4-person rotation for breaking trail made the first part of the boot much easier than usual. However, as the pitch steepened past 45-degrees & we got out into the sun, the pace slowed. We shortly made the call to start the descent by 1000, regardless of where we were on the route. Around the 13,200' mark, we had a few rocks fly by our heads... that's when we really started to make a push for the summit. From there to about 13,800 -- where a small cornice has built-up looker's right -- the sun's effects were really starting to show; the snow was softer & kick steps were a bit tougher to make. However, the snow on the final push to the summit felt much more solid due to the decreased slope angle. Just before 1000, we topped out.

Overall, it took us a little over 3 hours to climb the entirety of the couloir. We knew that the transition needed to be quick, as the 80+ degree temps in the valley were heating just about every aspect. Fifteen minutes later, we were skiing... VIDEO HERE.

I skied over to take a look off the East face & eventually over to scout Dead Dog Couloir, which had been the intended route before flip-flopping earlier in the week. The route looked nice, but that East face was getting sunkissed a bit too much for my liking. I quickly flipped around to meet up with the crew about 14,100'. We discussed options for taking the steeper & more technical route to our right or follow our ascent back to the left. Quickly, we chose the latter, where the plan was to ski one-by-one & meet above the cornice at 13,800'. I skied last, making a few hop-turns through the choke before rejoining the group.

The 600'+ below the cornice was the most concerning snow on the ascent, so we knew to be careful through this steep pitch. Justin ski cut the face, but nothing propagated past a small wet top layer. We continued one-by-one along the skier's right side of the couloir -- managing slough on every turn -- to another checkpoint at 13,300'. From there, we felt pretty comfortable & I let it rip down to 12,000' before getting a few shots of the boys mobbing the lower section. Another 1,000' later, we were laughing & making that creek crossing back to the trail... SUCCESS!

Total distance: 6.75 miles
Total time: 6:33
Vert gain: 4,062'

Sorry I don't have more pics of the ascent... hope this helps.

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

Comments or Questions
Awesome write up,
06/08/2016 12:34
thanks for the beta. I was going to hit this one the same day but plans changed. I will take your info into consideration. I've been dying to get this line. Great video too.

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