| Dead Dog Couloir, Partial Ski Descent, and a Storm
Peak: Torreys, Front Range
Date Climbed: May 8, 2008
Group: Stu (marmotman) and Ben (benners)
Route: Dead Dog Couloir, ski descent of South Ridge
RT Distance/Elevation Gain: 13 Miles, 4,500 Feet
Time: 13 Hours
Stu and I had not climbed anything together since Orizaba in December so we decided it was time to stop being lazy and get out there for another adventure. The Dead Dog Couloir had been on my list for a while and it seemed like a good time to go for it. The only weakness in our plan was the weather which looked less than great, we decided to give it a shot anyway thinking if we got out in the early morning we would miss the forecasted evening snow storm. We set off from I-70 (neither of us own an suv or snowmobile unfortunately) and hiked to the Stevens Gulch TH in 2 hours. Already the skies were churning clouds and blowing huge wind gusts down the valley. Disconcerting to say the least.
Stu hiking en route to Torreys
Dark clouds moving in
We pushed on and arrived at the base of Dead Dog around 6:45am. The upper half of Torreys was engulfed in clouds and it had begun to snow. Hmmm...better at least give it a shot...
Torreys Peak at 7:00am
After a brief assessment of the snow layers, we strapped on our crampons and started climbing. There were signs of recent sluffing which we attributed to the 3 inches of snow Torreys had received in the previous 24 hours.
Climbing the slope at the base of the couloir
We slowly worked our way up the couloir over the course of 3.5 hours. We found the climbing to be exhausting; the storm which enveloped the upper portion of the mountain constantly sent small powder avalanches down the couloir, also the higher we climbed the deeper the snow seemed to get. After a while it really took a lot of effort to gain a few feet, it was much more physically difficult than I had anticipated.
About a third of the way up
After a while the storm lowered our visibility, preventing us from being able to see the top of the couloir or the surrounding landscape.
Half way, the storm beginning to drop our visibility
Taking a break
Upon reaching the final few hundred feet, the weather began to clear again. The last hundred feet or so held a surprising amount of snow, at this point we were pretty tired and it took us a long time to finally top out on the ridge.
Nearing the top
The final few feet
Kelso Ridge a few feet from the summit
Torreys was being blasted by winds from the west which we were fully exposed to upon gaining the ridge. I ascended the final section and collapsed for a much needed break on the summit. Within minutes the storm had again closed around the summit, and Stu had yet to show up. I waited for a few more minutes and finally saw him emerge from the clouds. We skied off the summit through poor visibility down the ridge towards Grays. At this point we sort of lost interest in photography and so unfortunately I don't have any more pictures.
We skied to the Grays/Torreys saddle (being very weary of the massive cornices on the east side of the ridge) and decided it would be a bad idea to go for Grays, the weather was just too ugly. We took a long break from the wind behind the massive pile cairn on the saddle, regrouping after sloppily lashing and packing our gear on Torreys' summit for a quick departure. It took us quite a while to find a good way to descend from the saddle because of the cornices blocking our passage. We ended up having to ascend about 1/3 of the way to the summit of Grays before the cornices relented and we were able to escape the ridge (and a lot of wind). We decided to down climb rather than ski because of the poor visibility, thus this was only a partial ski descent unfortunately. We made it to the valley floor, cold and tired, and took another long break.
Looking back at Torreys
I was pretty relieved to be off the mountain; the wind, cold, visibility, and cornices did not make for particularly hospitable conditions. After another mile or so of postholing, we were able to ski the final 5 miles to the car (including most of the way down the road), making the trip in a little over 13 hours. Overall we were happy about bagging the route but disappointed about missing Grays (would have been Stu's first Grays summit) and even more so about missing the ski descent. Luckily this duo is close to Denver so a return trip won't cost much.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):