| Northwest Face (aka "The Tuning Fork")
Route: Northwest Face (aka "The Tuning Fork")
Elevation Gain: 3,100'
Gear: Crampons, axe, poles (1 whippet), ski boots, skis/skins, beacon, shovel, probe (yes, even solo)
This is has always been one of my favorite 14er ski routes because it combines a long snow climb and up to 3,000' of continous skiing. Lou Dawson refers to it as the "Big-ol-strip-o-snow" in Colorado's Fourteeners Volume 1 The Northern Peaks. Here's a conditions report for the snow climbers and skiers...
Topo of the route (yellow=sled, orange=hike, blue=ski):
These two photos were taken during a hike of Grizzly Peak in a different year, but today it had similar snow conditions. The Tuning Fork route is the massive "Y" or fork shaped couloirs that stretch from Grizzly Gulch to just below Torrey's summit. Today, I climbed the main couloir (west) and skied the east couloir from 350' below the summit.
The view of Torreys from the start of the Grizzly Gulch road/trail.
After a quick ride in, I parked below 11,200'.
Skinned up the first slope to reach the base of the main couloir. Crampons went on here and skis were attached to the pack.
The view down after climbing about 500'.
Approaching the split in the couloir. Above the blue arrow is the east fork of the couloir that I used for the ski descent. I climbed the right side of the west couloir.
A look at the slope angle. This is looking west to Grizzly Peak.
Another look at the couloir junction.
Continuing up the main couloir.
Another look towards Grizzly Peak.
Near 13,400', this photo looks east across both couloirs. The rib that separates them is not that high.
Getting closer to the top of the main couloir.
Sadly, the snow ended about 200' below the ridge and the rocky terrain made from some sloppy hiking.
Taken from the summit on a different day, these two photos show that you can just barely see the route if you walk north off of the summit.
About 350' below the summit, skiing commenced at the top of the east couloir.
Conditions were a mix of powder, hard-pack and breakable crust.
The upper part was mostly powder.
Approaching the choke at the bottom of the east couloir and the intersection with the main couloir.
The choke was fairly wide today.
Looking down from the junction.
And another look across the main couloir.
Another look back at the exit from the east couloir.
The remaining snow was firm crust that occasionally broke.
A look back from the "bench" below the couloir.
The best snow of the day was on the tree-covered slope above the gulch.
Looking back at the route.
Another look from higher up the slope on the north side of the gulch.
Another great winter day in the backcountry thanks to my BFF snowmobile.