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Route #7) Torreys Peak - Dead Dog Couloir
Notice! In the winter months, the southeast side of Kelso Mountain is prone to avalanche activity which may run over the summer Grays Peak trail. Unless you're confident that the snow in this area is stable, it's best to leave the trail near 11,600' and take a more direct line up through Stevens Gulch before re-joining the Grays Peak trail near 12,100'.
Take I-70 to the Bakerville exit (#221). Leave the highway and drive south over to the dirt parking area near the start of Forest Road 189. This is the winter trailhead and, even if the upper road is open, low-clearance passenger cars should park here. Itís almost 3 miles to the summer trailhead. Reach a junction after one mile - stay straight and follow the sign for the Grays Peak trailhead. Continue another 2 miles to the trailhead at 11,280í. There are restrooms and a few dispersed camping spots near the parking area.
Before getting into the details of the route, it may be helpful to discuss the difficulty rating. It‘s rated as a "Moderate" snow climb with a difficulty rating of "Difficult Class 2." Generally, this is a good rating for the route, but snow build-up near the top of the couloir can cause the angle to exceed 45 degrees and push the difficulty to "Steep," Class 3 snow. If you are previewing the couloir and see a cornice at the top of Dead Dog, expect Class 3 climbing.
Cross the bridge that spans the stream and follow the well-defined Grays trail up the hill into Stevens Gulch. Continue on the trail for about 1.5 miles to the trail sign near 12,100‘. After the sign, hike up through some willows to a flat, rocky area at 12,300‘. Follow the trail up a small hill on the left, towards Torreys - Photo #1. Near 12,400‘, leave the trail and hike southwest towards Torreys and Dead Dog Couloir- Photo #2. Continue over to a small basin below the run-out of Dead Dog - Photo #3. Photo #4 and Photo #5 are different views of Dead Dog, under morning alpenglow.
This is a good place to put on your helmet and crampons, and turn on your avalanche beacon. Cross over to the large snow "apron" below the couloir and start climbing - Photo #6 and Photo #7. The apron quickly gets steeper and the route ahead is obvious as you climb towards Dead Dog. Near 13,000‘, the terrain narrows as you enter the couloir - Photo #8. Photo #9 looks down from this area. Just above the entrance to the couloir, you will see a rock outcrop in the center - continue to the rock outcrop at 13,200‘ (Photo #10) where the pitch eases a bit. Dead Dog may look very steep during your early morning approach, but most of it is below 40 degrees. Photo #11 is another look down.
Rockfall is a hazard in Dead Dog and you may see plenty of small rocks dropping into the right side of the couloir and whizzing past you. It may be safer to stay near the left side to avoid some of the rockfall. Continue climbing (Photo #12, Photo #13 and Photo #14) to 13,800‘ where the route turns slightly to the right. Photo #15 and Photo #16 look back down the route and Photo #17 shows the steep (left) side of Dead Dog. Ahead, you will see another rock outcrop in the middle of the couloir - Photo #18 and Photo #19. Near 13,900‘, pass the rocks on the right side and continue toward the top - Photo #20.
Now, depending on how much snow was deposited at the top of the couloir, you may be faced with snow that has a steepness of approximately 45 degrees or it could be "steep" snow with an angle closer to 50 degrees. You may also encounter a cornice. Climb the remaining snow as you aim for the left side of the white rocks seen in Photo #21. Photo #22 is another look to the left and Photo #23 plus Photo #24 provide a look down from this area. Climb the steepest portion of the route to reach the top of Dead Dog - Photo #25. Photo #26 and Photo #27 show the area where Dead Dog hits the ridge. The white rocks near the top are the same rocks that climbers encounter after crossing the "knife edge" on the Kelso Ridge route.
Turn left (south) to see the remaining 200‘ below the summit - Photo #28 and Photo #29. With snow, the ridge is quite easy (Class 2). As you approach the top, there are great views of Grays Peak (Photo #30), over the east face, and back down to the top of Dead Dog - Photo #31. Photo #32 is the view of Grays Peak from the summit.
Dead Dog gets a very early sun-hit, so start early!
Some skiers drop directly down the east face (approx. 50 degrees) before turning left to enter Dead Dog: Photo #33, Photo #34 A look at Dead Dog with 2 skiers near the top: Photo #35 A closer look at the upper terrain: Photo #36 Dead Dog with plenty of snow: Photo #37 And fresh tracks: Photo #38
Beware of rockfall in this couloir. Helmet, crampons, and axe are highly recommended.
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