Peak(s):  Torreys Peak  -  14,267 feet
Grays Peak  -  14,270 feet
Post Date:  02/17/2009
Modified:  11/08/2014
Date Climbed:   02/15/2009
Posted By:  Mrwaffles989


 Grays and Torreys  

Grays and Torrey's Peak
Valentines Wknd 2009

I edited this report in November of 2014. My edits are in this font. The original report remains the same.

I'm sure I will get owned and harassed, so here is who you will be directing your comments to(I don't like the anonymity of the interweb):
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I'm just going to try to keep this short and sweet. The plan was to climb Grays and Torreys on Saturday and then Evans and Bierstadt on Sunday. My partner and I left Laramie on Friday the 13th. We arrived at the bakerville exit around dark and unfortunately had some car issues. By the time everything was worked out it was after midnight. We decided to not ski up to the TH and went and got a motel room in Georgetown.

2/14/2009
We arrived at the Bakerville exit at around 10 or 11 am and started preparing our gear.

Once I was ready, some guy asked me if I would carry up a gallon of gas to his sled. Which was stranded 1.5 miles up the trail. I agreed to be his sherpa if he let me drive it down. I carried the gas up and got high/sick from the fumes. We then started the sled and I drove it down, first time driving a sled. It was nice. Then he gave me and my partner rides about halfway up the road.

I started skinning up the road and saw a ton of people on the way. Along the way, I stopped and took pictures of the slide paths on the side of the road. I met a guy named kyle when I was just about at the trailhead. We skinned up the road for a little while and talked. Turns out he owned some of the cabins up there. He showed me where a spring was to get water and a good place to camp.


I pretty much feasted all night long and then went to bed.

2/15

We woke up at 330 and it was pretty cold. We got ready and headed down to the spring to get some water:

AFTER DOING A BEACON CHECK, we were off by around 430-500.
Skinning up the basin was pretty nice. I had just quit smoking, and traveled with ease.

The sunrise was unreal:
If I had a tripod, I would have got some bomber pics.
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After getting a glimpse of Gray's and Torrey's, we decided what route we would take. Then my partner turned around though. So I decided to go for Gray's first.

Looking back: ascent is in yellow. this route followed bare patches and avoided locations with snow above
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Notice all the bare patches:
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I don't have any better pics of the ascent up grays, but notice the lack of snow on the ridge in the middle right of the pic, i.e. lack of avy danger:
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Just about at the saddle. Torrey's:
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Summit of Grays: Looking towards Frisco?
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Is that resort breck?
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I hung out on the summit for a little while then headed for torreys.
Route up torreys:
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This is from torreys. I-70 is down in the valley I believe:
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I hung out and enjoyed the summit.
Then I got ready to start skiing:
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It really does look beautiful:
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I dug a pit, did a ski cut across the top, and jumped up and down all over the top of this line.
(Weak layer failed at C15, Q2shear plane, no major change in crystal type/size, no facets, no noticeable surface hoar, fist to 4finger hardness transition.) I gave it 2 lemons.

The spatial variability in snowpit tests is enormous. Pits are useful and serve a purpose, but only represent the slope at that exact position. They do not represent the slope as a whole. You can dig one pit, observe tests results that indicate a stable snowpack, move 5 ft up/down/left/right, and discover an entirely different animal. It is absolutely vital that you do no make the mistake I did and rely on a snow pit as your main go/no-go factor.

The weekend before this trip I completed Avy 1. Therefore, I "was an expert in evaluating avalanche danger." It also didn't help that I was 19 years old and was an expert at everything in life. The truth is I was young, extremely inexperienced, cocky, and foolish. If I were to stand at the foot of Dead Dog now, I would have known just by looking at the slope that it was far too dangerous to ski, let alone solo. I wouldn't have even needed a pit or a CAIC forecast.

The ski-cut, lol, while I was still a strong skier 5 years ago, It was a miracle I did not trigger the slope attempting to "cut" it. Ski-cuts are very useful, albeit extremely dangerous, even after years of experience. Ski cutting should be practiced on very small slopes with a level runout, and of course with a partner. Ski-cutting on belay is also a very good idea. The first time you get one to break, you may shit your pants. They require immense experience and strong skiing skills. The east face of Torreys, with 2000' of vert. is not the place to perform your first "ski cut".


It was foolish for me to start skiing because I was alone.

It was retarded of me to even think about skiing given the recent snow, strong winds, observed spindrift in the morning, and clear evidence of an obvious wind slab staring me right in the face.


Turn #1: ah this is f****** awesome
Turn 2: ahhhhhh I love snow
Turn 3: Oh fuck!

Right on turn 3 I luckily cut abnormally far to the left, I look over and just see the slab break off. I don't even know what happened really. It was so fast. It looked like a river of snow and just went sliding past me. It sounded just like a tidal wave at the ocean. WHoooooooosh. It broke at my skis and luckily I just stopped and watched it float away. As I was standing there more pieces of the snow started breaking off and sliding past me. I nearly had a heart attack.

I started freaking out. And for some reason I pulled out my camera!??

This is right after the fracture, all the snow seemed to slide down lightning fast creating the scariest sound ever. The debris cloud:
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After the cloud: (You can see 3 separate "lines" of debris at the bottom. Who knows which one I would have been in)
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One of my skis slid down the slope, I put on crampons and ditched the other one with haste and headed up to a rock directly above me. I sat around here for a good hour deciding which way to regain the ridge. I climb around to the left of the rock, grasping it with a death grip. I gained the summit and began hiking down.

I did not ditch the crampon, it fell off because it was improperly secured and I lost it in the snow. Also, there was really no need for a crampon to begin with, as I was climbing through a thick layer of sugar, depth hoar and surface hoar. This is another classic example of myself being a young and dumb teenager.

Looking back:
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I lost my other crampon regaining the summit. It sucked walking down with just one. My cramponless boot would slip and I would fall and the other foot would stab my leg. Ah. At about 12000 I heard someone yelling my name. I thought it was my partner and hurried around a bend. Then I saw 3 guys on sleds and was just like shit. I told SAR that I was fine and felt apologetic they got called out. It turns our my partner sent out a spot message or something when I wasn't back to camp by 12pm. They knew nothing about an avalanche. They gave me a ride back to camp and helped me pack up and carried out some of my gear. I got to the bottom and there was about 30 rescue members. I'd like to thank the Alpine Rescue Team and Clear Creek Sheriff's office. They were so helpful and professional. Thankyou so much.

On my descent, I remember crossing three snow slopes. These slopes could have avalanched at any given moment. The mountain gods saved my life numerous times on this day. I can't even fathom how I could have been that ignorant. If I recall correctly, the slopes terminated at rock, so had I gone for a ride I would have been seriously injured or killed from trauma of impacting the rock.

I know I'm stupid for trying to ski this, especially solo. I am sorry if that bothers you.

Oh boy, I was ignorant and arrogant for so many reasons:
1. Heavy snow and high winds the days prior leading up to climb
2. Inexperience with avalanches and mountaineering in general
3. Overconfidence in my experience (I had minimal if not zero)


It never felt better to hike down a mountain instead of skiing it. I feel so lucky and grateful to be alive. I lost my skis, but I didn't lose my life. And besides, my socks 30+ dollars, cost more than my skis!

'The skier proceeded to hike down, cutting across snowfields that the witnesses had "assessed (as) way too dangerous to touch."'
-No

Above statement is true.

"witnesses reported numerous shallow, natural avalanches, including on the slope the skier attempted."
-No

I took home some lessons. I'm not going to ski steep lines solo anymore. I'm gonna save steeper routes for the spring time. And do not worry, I will get my trash off the mountain. I don't know what else to tell you.

What would a partner have done for me? If I were caught, I would have been taken over several cliffs and went for a 2000' ride. If I did not die from trauma, I would have likely died from asphyxiation. My partner would have had to ski down, this would have been dangerous due to the hangfire, or hiked back down the standard route.

I still ski solo to this day. When I am with others I tend to ski more aggressively and less cautiously. This debate can go on and on forever, so I will not address it. BOTTOM LINE is that I should not have even been up there in the first place.


I will still try to climb all the 14ers in the winter. and ski down them.
Thank you to all those involved and everyone who expressed concern.

Some general take home points I would like to share for others:

1. This is a perfect case study of what not to do.

2. Take AVY I. You will learn very valuable information. Keep in mind AVY I does not make you an expert. Remember, the "avalanche does not care if you are an expert". Many experienced "experts" have been killed in avalanches.

3. Colorado has one of the most dangerous snow packs in the world. The high winds and dry, light snow, and almost regular annual formation of depth hoar, create deadly conditions. Today, I would not even bother bringing my skis to the summit of Torrey's in February. I would wait until spring when the snowpack becomes isothermal and a uniform layer is formed.

4. The mountain is not going to go anywhere. You will always have the chance to come back and ski/climb when conditions are better.

5. No descent or amazing powder is worth your life.

6. I do not know who was watching over me that day, but it truly is a miracle I am alive and writing this 5 years later.

7. Learn from, and listen to those whom have more experience. Don't learn yourself, the hard way. I was a young, cocky, know it all.

8. Learn as much as you can, read as many books as possible. Gain experience safely by skiing with others, and learn how to read and feel the snowpack just by looking and climbing/skiing through it. Familiarize yourself with the obvious signs of avalanche danger. Learn what heuristic traps are. Learn Alptruth and Lemon's law, and all the other devices that attempt to instill order into chaos. Read CAIC reports everyday. Read every single accident report. After that, read all the accident reports from Utah's avalanche center.

9. When I read this report, I can not believe how foolish I was. It's common sense to me now, but back then, I just don't know...

10. Most of all, have fun, stay safe, and keep learning.




Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
 


  • Comments or Questions
BAUMGARA


Holy Crap
11/30/2010 17:20
I was anxious for the pictures so I looked only at them and will read later, but holy crap you're one lucky dude. You would have been dead for sure had you been swallowed up in the avy. That thing had a huge vertical.
Edit: Just read your report, good job at being to the point. I‘m glad you‘re safe and glad to know that the SPOT really does work.
Think things through next time.


CO Native


Awesome Pics
02/18/2009 15:32
Again simply amazing, glad to still have you around, and thanks for sharing.

Don‘t feel bad about having SAR come out. They‘d much rather come out and head home knowing nothing bad happened, than to loose someone who waited too long to call for help.


BillMiddlebrook


You‘re Lucky
02/18/2009 15:55
Am I reading your trip reports correctly that 2/3 of your reports have resulted in SAR being called? Thanks for taking the time to post the photos. We can see your ski in the last photo but I‘m sure it‘s buried by now.


Mrwaffles989



02/18/2009 20:31
CO Native, aren‘t you SAR? Guys like you are amazing. I want to try to get involved with rescue team up here in WY. If they‘ll take me.

Bill that is correct. I don‘t know why it is. I obviously have to start setting my itinerary in stone to avoid wasting everyone‘s time in the future. and I definately have to re-evaluate my travel style.


cheeseburglar


Quite a line
02/19/2009 19:04
That is a serious line to try to ski.
In the winter I estimate my travel rate at about 1 mile per hour, even with skis for the descent. Sounds like SAR was called because you expected to be back earlier.


CO Native


Yep
02/20/2009 01:52
I am on SAR, and the guys I serve with are amazing. I still have a long ways to go. It would be a good idea for you to join a team. The training would do you good, and the senior team members would be good mentors. It‘s cool you met Alpine SAR, they‘re amoung the best. I‘ve had a couple opportunities to work with them.


GIR

ok, I have to say it
02/20/2009 02:40
since no one else is going to be bold enough...

What kind of idiot are you? Did you watch too many ski videos? What on earth would make you think dead dog would be safe to ski in the middle of february after new snow and high winds? And alone! If you continue on your path to climb/ski all the 14ers in winter, you won‘t be alive much longer. Don‘t let anyone else sugarcoat it, you should be dead. Do something good with your newfound life. I mean, wow. Thanks for sharing...amazing pics of the slide.


Mrwaffles989



02/20/2009 04:31
I blame the large tobacco companies.


killingcokes


Consequences
02/24/2009 17:00
How many visits by Search and Rescue constitute Reckless Endangerment, if one of the Search and Rescue people die trying to rescue this jackass, couldn‘t the jackass be charged with murder/manslaughter


Prairie Native

no,
03/01/2009 05:49
i dont believe so.


Ken Gross

Good Pics
03/02/2009 21:53
Thanks for sharing your expierience. Oh... and go buy a lottery ticket!!!


Shane-O-Mac


Clarify!!
03/04/2009 23:51
Can someone clarify where exactly this guys was when the Av started. I‘ve been up there several times, but I just want a little clarification.


Shane-O-Mac


Dead Dog
03/05/2009 14:24
It looks like Dead Dog, I just wanted to confirm.


Tmo

Dead Dog Variation
03/10/2009 19:46
The line he started on is the summit access for DD couloir. He would have to sneak into it by going skiers left into one of the upper entrance chutes (a-la Chris Davenport...http://www.skithe14ers.com/p-torreys-peak.php.) Obviously this entrance is tricky at best and very exposed as the face he was on just cliffs out about 800 vert below the summit. The safer entrance to DD is hike down from the summit on the north ridge and enter the couloir in it‘s saddle entrance. Although you wouldn‘t be technically skiing it from the summit. My partner and i skied DD on Feb 10th just fours days before this guy. We booted up the DD coolie itself. We had no problems except booting up with 10-20 inches of fresh blown in from a previous small storm. The pack was solid with no problems on the descent at all. The coolie itself is not as steep at the summit pitch he attemped and of course not as rocky so not prone to the type of fracture he triggered. Ck out the pictures of torres from Davenports site to get oriented and you can see where the slide happened and the entrance to Dead Dog.


jtrenary1


mmmm
12/08/2010 15:13
. . . . that's horrifying



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