Peak(s):  Torreys Peak  -  14,272 feet
Date Posted:  03/23/2017
Modified:  03/24/2017
Date Climbed:   03/19/2017
Author:  mountaingoat-G
 Torrey's peak-Tuning Fork   

I decided to give the Tuning Fork a try. The CAIC report was favorable for northwest faces, so I saw an opportunity to give this a go. Attempts to round up a partner were not successful, so I accepted the risk of going alone. Safety is the number one concern, and without favorable avalanche conditions, there is no way I would have felt comfortable with this route.

I arrived at the I-70 TH at around 6 AM and there were several cars parked already with one group of skiers heading out as I was getting ready. This would be the last I would see of them for the day.

The road is firm snowpack just past the parking area and you can hike up the frozen snow (but don't even think about trying to drive it) for miles. I didn't decide to put the split-skis on until about the Grizzly Gulch turn-off. I probably could have gone further on foot if I wanted, but there was no point. I reached the start of the tuning fork at a bit after 9:30 if I remember correctly. It took longer than I thought to get there. I crossed the creek and started up the base after putting ski crampons on the skis. I wasn't able to get too high with this setup, even though it has worked well for me in the past. The snow was firm, but not super firm, best described as "chalk" as I have heard others refer to it when like this.

The wind was blowing and sculpting the snow into little formations called sastrugi. It was time to switch to boot crampons due to not being able to climb up without sliding. The climb took me a while. There were sections where the snow was boilerplate (almost) and then thin layers that would break out under your feet. I climbed some sections walking and using the Whippet poles like normal ski poles, and other sections where I did steep zig-zags in order to use the side of the crampons instead of the front. I had snowboarding soft boot on, and front-pointing with those can really work your calf muscles. As you can see in the vid, there were a few sections where I did front point just to avoid slipping. I am guessing that if there were a bootpack there already, I would not have had to do this. I saw no trace of anyone else having climbed this face recently. The wind was blowing across from right to left and re-sculpting the surface constantly.

Time dragged on with this climb and I was not making good progress. The weight of the pack on my back, complete with much more water than I needed and the board was slowing my down, not to mention the altitude. I don't usually get up this high this time of year. Oh well, at least there were no clouds in the sky and I knew that the sun would be up for hours. Getting close to the ridge was a relief. It was probably about 2 PM by this time and I had not eaten anything since early in the morning. I was on the verge of bonking. I had food, including a sandwich, in my pack- but it was too much of a pain to dig it out on the slope, so I didn't bother.

I got to the summit and turned on my cell phone to let my contact know where I was. It was windy (of course) but clear. I walked up to the summit and came down to choose my line. I decided to try the right (west) fork because the snow looked more consistent and I had climbed up the left fork, I thought some variety would be fun. I was also noticing on the way up that the sun had hit that fork sooner than the one I was on and hoped it would have softened up a bit. I was sort of dreading the descent on the choppy snow that I just climbed up, especially since I was bonking.

Hiking down along the ridge, I saw I had to scramble down a sketchy talus face to reach the snow. It was also tricky finding a good spot to convert from hike to ride configuration. I was able to do it without dropping anything, but immediately found that the snow was pretty brutal. I had to take a slow conservative path down this face. Safety was foremost in my mind. The ride down was long and slow. It wasn't what I was hoping for, but I am glad I did it. I felt like I was getting my butt kicked by this mountain, but as long as I got up and down safe, it still felt like a win for me. I had never summited a 14er in calendar winter before, so this was a first.

By the time I got down to the bottom of the face, the snow magically turned into super-slush, the kind that pulls you in like quicksand. I sat down and dug out my sandwich and ate half of it just sitting in the slush, before converting to ski mode. Getting out of there was sketchy because I was skiing down on a splitboard (think wide skis with no camber and no lateral support) through unsupported slush keeping all the speed up that I could. It beat walking, though and I got out without eating #$%^&. Overall, I imagine most skiers would do this route a lot faster than I did, but I still consider the day a big success. All stats on the trip are taken from this website.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions
I can see the video
03/23/2017 22:26
Looks good!

03/24/2017 07:41
I logged in from a different computer and I can see it too. So, it must be my other computer's fault...

03/24/2017 08:36
The inserted video works for me in all browsers. I'm guessing your browser is blocking it for some reason.

Thanks Bill!
03/24/2017 12:38
Yeah, I was on my home computer and it didn't work. I tried several times. Then I sent that message to the Admon. But I checked other people's trip reports with videos and saw it was also blank. That's when I suspected it was my computer's fault. I am still running Windows Vista, so I know that is ancient.

Thanks for checking...

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