| Tripling up on Torreys!
What's happening everyone!
I haven't posted too many trip reports here at 14ers.com because of concerns about cross-posting from TGR and diverse users seeing the same stuff at multiple sites. However, after getting out with a few crews of rippers from the 14ers domain in the past month, I realize the power of this community and relevance of sharing this Spring's adventures with all. If nothing else, hopefully the series of reports that I will publish over the next week will serve as a solid archive for future adventures.
In addition, I desire to be very forward and honest in telling you that I am motivated to post reports to increase the knowledge about a fundraiser of which I am a part. The fundraiser's name is "Peaks for Peace" - it is a juxtaposition of mountaineering and a powerful social cause. Every summit that I am able to gain and from which I am able to snowboard before June 22nd raises money for the Children's Hospital Burn Camp Programs. Through the mountaineering community's efforts and generosity, children with burn injuries will have the chance to attend transformation and empowering camps! What a spectacular reality.
I hope that all of you enjoy the images and stories that follow. It a privilege to share them with you.
See you on the trail,
Brennan Metzler (Kansasboarder)
On Monday Night, Colorado's highcountry received its first deep freeze in over a week. The dangerously hot and wet snowpack locked up, giving mountain enthusiasts their first chance to get after it in a while. Andy Dimmen called and we decided to go for a double in the Front Range – the Southeast face of Gray’s Peak to the north couloirs of Mount Edwards.
Andy and I met up at the Bakerville Exit at 6am, and were on our way shortly thereafter. The 4WD road was composed of a mix of dirt and supportive snow, allowing for efficient and effortless movement through the cool of the early morning. We made good time to the Summer trailhead, covering the three miles and 1300 vert in 1:15. Things were looking good.
The inviting West Ridge of Mount Edwards highlighted by dawny light
Following a quick water and restroom break, we began our approach to the remarkable high alpine basin framed by Mount Edwards, Grays Peak, Torrey’s Peak, and Kelso Mountain. The temperatures were cool at this point, and a stiff wind from the west kept us hiking in our shells. The snow remained supportive and fast – we were cruising. At 8:30, two hours and fifteen minutes into our day, we found ourselves at 12,400 feet beneath the aesthetic East Face of Torrey’s Peak.
A view to the North from 12,800 feet. Kelso Mountain stands prominent in the foreground, while Mount Parnassus and Bard Peak loom in the distance.
At this point thoughts of changing our plans from the southeast face of Gray’s began to enter our minds. The East Face of Torrey’s stands out in the basin. It is tall, proud, powerful, rocky, and a damn fine ski when conditions are right. With these conflicting and alluring thoughts we continued up the north facing snow ramp to the East Ridge of Gray’s, and followed it all the way to 14,270.
Andy finishes the climb to Gray’s Peak as Mount Evans and Mount Bierdstadt watch over. Not a cloud in the sky!
Andy takes a moment to himself up top
The time was now 9:45am, and the snow stood stubbornly frozen from the previous night’s freeze. We were faced with a simple choice – hunker down for an hour or more while the snow softened and continue with our original plan to descend Gray’s to Edwards, or ski down the northeast face and hike to the summit of Torrey’s where we might be able to give the East Face a go….
Our route down the friendly northeast face of Gray’s Peak
Well, Andy and I don't exactly do well with the whole patience thing, and damn was our attention drawn to north. We decided to keep moving, making a quick changeover to downhill mode and pushing off for our first set of turns of the day. The snow on the mellow face was edge-able and chalky, allowing for smooth though small turns down to 13,500ft. It was a pleasant reality to get warmup turns before attempting a bigger line. After the short descent from the summit of Gray's, we strapped our skis and boards back to our packs, shedded a layer or two, and began the bootpack up to Torrey’s. We arrived at the summit just before 11:00am, and the East Face was primed and ready – an inch to two inches of corn coating its steep flanks.
The East Face contains several pretty big lines. It is convoluted and steep, containing two cliff bands around which a skier must navigate. It was the first bigger descent of either Andy or my seasons, and the most committing line of my three years of snowboard mountaineering. We discussed descent plans, safe stopping points, and terrain management at the top. Then, we focused and dropped in for an amazingly rewarding descent.
The East Face
Andy takes a moment to focus before banging out a beautiful set of committing turns
First turn in the bag…nothing but corn!
Andy works the ramp above the first cliffband
Below the crux of the route but not through yet, Andy knocks out a couple of steep jump turns mid-line
Letting em fly on the apron, Andy carves some big ole arcs in the soft snow!
Our line, a seriously challenging and fun descent!
Coming out the bottom of the East Face was a one of kind experience. Adrenaline pumping, heart racing, mind numb….
We regrouped in the basin at 12,400 feet and had a quick lunch. The sun was hot and we had already accomplished more than we had hoped. However, the memories of continually being denied summits and ski lines due to poor weather and or unstable snow remained vivid in our minds. With this experience based motivation, we decided to regain the summit of Torrey’s and check out the Northwest facing Tuning Fork couloirs, a pair of 3,000′ sustained vertical descents….among the longest in the state.
The 2,000′ climb passed quickly, both of us still giddy with our descent. The northerly facing snow along the summer trail remained firm, giving us confidence that our descent through the Forks would be safe and stable, despite the heat. At 1:45, we found ourselves standing on Torrey’s for the second time of the day, and couldn’t help but to look back down at our tracks…
Not wanting to give the snow a chance to gain more heat, we kept our time on the peak minimal. We descended the West Ridge for a few hundred vertical and dropped into a steep and firm entrance to the right “Fork”. The top 750′ of turns were challenging, a particularly annoying mix of refrozen snow and windslab. We managed the snow as best we could, making a strong effort to ride fluidly on the less than optimal snow.
Andy crusing at 13,000 feet with beautiful Grizzly Peak in the background
The middle third of the line provided us with immature corn, a strange zippy and grippy texture that allows for bigger though controlled signatures. We began to open up our movements, gaining speed and confidence with each successive arc.
Then, the final 1250 feet to the valley floor gave us what late Spring skiing and riding is all about – CORN, CORN, CORN! The afterburners were lit and we crushed it all the way down, laying super-G banks with fluidity and aggression…AHHH!
As is usual after a solid day of skiing and riding, the four mile deproach to our cars passed pretty quickly. Our minds were busy digesting the day’s turns, and our bodies grew pleasantly numb absorbing the 7,000 vertical feet and 14 miles of travel. Soon enough we were sitting back at 9,800 feet in what seemed like SUMMER. 70 degrees and amazing. Our permanent-grins were strong and showing – what a day in the high country.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):