| Torreys Peak: Dead Dog Couloir - Day 1
This is one of those climbs that has been on my list for a very long time. I still remember reading the description in Roach's for the first time and thinking to myself 'that sound so cool, I have to climb that'. The fact that the first snow climb I ever did was Lost Rat in only served to heighten my desire, when we finished the first thing i did was look over at Dead Dog and said, 'that's next!' My climbing partner felt we should get more moderate climbs under our belts first. Being the quasi-rational person I am, his logic won over and i agreed to wait.
Since that climb in 2006, I have patiently waited to find someone to climb Dead Dog with me. During that time my list of 'must do' snow climbs has grown, but I never lost the desire to climb this beautiful line.
Finally, this year I was able to convince someone to climb this with me. We decided on this Saturday, and watched the weather closely. The plan was to meet at the Bakersville Exit parking lot, where I would sleep in my Honda fit and then meet up and drive up the road in Mikes much more capable vehicle. I made it to Bakersville Road at 11pm, after driving through a whole lot of rain. As I laid down in my sleeping bag and fell asleep I could have sworn I heard thunder, and it sent chills down my spine. If Torrey's was getting rain right now, the snow could be destroyed for our climb. The alarm went off at 330am I hit snooze until 350am. Mike met me at 420am, we loaded my gear in his truck and headed up the road.
We were able to make it within a half mile of the summer trailhead before coming to a snow bank that was a bit much. It was clear from the dry ground that the area had not gotten rain the night before, and this made me feel much better. After getting geared up, we were on the trail by 510am.
the place where we stoped
The mountains were socked in with thick fog as we started, but as first light broke across the ridge, the sun began burning through the fog. We were periodically gifted with a view of the mountains around us, and did not clearly see the first ¾ of dead dog until we were nearly there. We could see 3 climbers moving up the lower slopes, and thought we might have boot tracks all the way up… a mixed blessing.
the sun burning through the fog
the first real look I could get of Dead Dog on the Camera
We ditched our snow shoes at a pile of rocks where the other climbers had left theirs, cramponed up and headed out. As we left, a guide with 2 clients was preparing to climb the couloir as well, so we thought we would have company not far behind. We wanted to keep a good amount of distance between us given the potential for wet slides if the climb was not stable.
Mike getting ready for the climb
a view of the clouds rolling over the Edwards Ridge as we got ready for the climb
The first several hundred feet through wet slide avalanche debris, we had some shallow tracks to follow. The snow was still solidly frozen, and very stable, preventing us from kicking the steps any deeper. The climb quickly steepened to about 45 degrees, with the enhanced challenge of snow frozen enough to keep kicks shallow.
Mike on the lower half of the climb
Me on the lower half of the climb climbing through the avalanche debris
As we made our way above the last of the avalanche debris, the snow was solid enough to prevent any real kick stepping, though I sure tried. In retrospect, I really wasted a lot of time making the attempt when I was not in lead. Also, as soon as the sun hit the rocks, the rock fall began. Not large rocks, but they were enough to ruin the day on anyone below, so I found myself yelling rock an awful lot just in case the guide and his clients had headed up (though we could not see them yet).
Me nearing the turn towards the summit variant
Mike happy to make the turn to the summit variant of Dead Dog
Mike Nearing the top of the false summit
Mike‘s self portrait with me in the background
The last 200 feet before the split in the couloir revealed snow that was really beginning to soften in the sun. We decided quickly to head left, which would lead us to the summit. From the initial turn left, it was impossible to see the true summit, and was in fact a false summit. The slope steepened. I could not help but pull out my camera in hopes that I would get a photo of Mike topping out of the couloir, but knew as he crested and did not say anything that we would have more to go. As I reached to top of the false summit, I could see the cornice that lines the summit ridge of Torrey's, but also saw some significant exposure to my left. Mike had just made the turn rounding the last rock, that I was sure would lead to the end of the climb. I could feel the snow soften with every step, and could see the tracks butted up to the rock, which was a real cause for some concern and lit a fire under me. As I reached the rock, I could feel how soft the snow was near it, and the snow had pulled at least an inch from it already. I really wanted to take a photo but really did not want to linger so I kept moving until I was clear of the rock. I should say that when I came back to climb Lost Rat the next day, you could clearly see a wet slide run that broke sometime on Saturday after we cleared the climb, and the crown appeared to be near the rock.
As I looked up, I saw climbers which meant the summit! Once clear of the rock, the snow became much more firm, and I slowed my pace a bit again, but was focused on the top. I crested, looked left, and saw Mike and some skiers 10 feet to the left. I felt so good I wanted to yell to the sky, but instead chatted it up with the skier on the summit and joined mike for some turkey jerky and peanut butter with Ritz crackers.
Mike and I on the Summit
Mike celebrating with Ritz!
Clouds pressing themselves against the Edwards Ridge Line
The clouds sitting on the Edwards Ridge were very cool, so I felt compelled to get some photos before heading down. We took our time on the descent, at least until we could glissade. The other climbers had already smoothed out a track for us to take.
The glissade track all smooth and ready
As we approached the rock where we had left our snow shoes we could see the guide with his climbers only half way up dead dog. We watched them for a while, concerned about the conditions. There seemed to be new wet slide tracks low on the climb, and we knew from postholing across the bowl to our snowshoes that the snow was not very solid anymore. We watched with concern for over half an hour before slowly hiking out, looking back frequently. We waited with the top of the climb just in view as the hit the summit just after noon. Feeling better that they made it safely we made out way quickly to the car. I should saw, we could not have been happier we remembered our snowshoes as we periodically postholed with snowshoes to our knees. I could only imagine what it would have been like without snowshoes. It was an amazing climb that lived up to its reputation as a challenging, airy and brilliantly exhilarating snow climb!
Looking back as we hiked out, the red line is our line up
For a TR of our Lost Rat climb the next day the TR is here:
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):