| The Emperor on Torreys Peak
May means snow climbing season, and when a climb other than Flattop was suggested, I jumped at the opportunity. Then one of the others mentioned a ski/board decent and I was definitely in. Planning was set in motion, and something on the North side of Torreys was picked for our climb, Eroica or the Emperor were the two choices(we decided on the Emperor). On Friday night(5-25) Brian, Andy, and I headed for Grizzly Gulch to scout the routes and camp out for the night. The road was easily passable to the first river crossing where it disappeared in the snow. We set out the tent and bedded down for the night, having the road entirely to ourselves.
We awoke at 440a and started to gather our gear, Dan and Fabio arrived shortly after, ready to head off. We hit the trail at 530a, hiking up the snow covered Grizzly Gulch Road, we make short work of this section, booting all the way. We reached the base of the Emperor around 630a, and headed up the slope. After some wallowing and postholing through the willows we headed up into the heart of the Emperor. The snow was a mix of windslab, sun crust, and sugar. While steps came easy, conditions really varied. We made good time up the coulier, with Brian and Dan leading the way. The sky was clear, temps were cool, and the coulier was shaded for most of the morning.
As we climbed our first choice presented itself, stay left in a series of rocky chutes, or ascend right onto the large open face. The open face on the right had been sun soaked for sometime now and there was a small cornice built up in certain places. Thus we decided to head into the chutes on the left side. The snow was soft, but settled well enough to not be much of a concern. As we neared the upper chutes the sun lit up the coulier, though the snow remained nice and cold. After climbing the final steep slope and traversing back to the ridge, we found ourselves at the junction of Dead Dog and Kelso Ridge. It was a spectacular morning, with sweeping views in all directions, and not a soul on the North side of Torreys.
The final push set us atop 14267ft Torreys Peak on a beautiful spring morning(1030a). After a snack and a few pics we headed toward the NW face, where Brian and I intended to ski/board down, while the others tried to find a suitable glissade. We booted down through the upper rock strewn slopes to a place where the snow coverage was much more consistent. Brian assembled his split board while I dawned my AT gear. The snow was hard, though we had hopes it would soften as we descended. No such luck, as the upper 2000ft were a mix of windslab, sun crust, and sugar, inconsistent and a tricky ski to say the least.
After slowly descending we reached some avalanche debris around 12K, where the sun had finally softened the snow into more spring like conditions. We enjoyed some very nice turns while the others enjoyed a nice long glissade. After crossing the creek(which was cold and moving swiftly) we arrived back on the Grizzly Gulch jeep road. I continued to ski down another mile(walking through sections of mud), finally throwing the skis back onto my pack for the final few miles out. We arrived back at the cars shortly after 2p to find our once quiet campsite surrounded by 20 people and half a dozen dogs. We were glad to be heading home, a cold beer and a shower awaited us back in civilization.
Video by Andy Leach
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