Peak(s):  Torreys Peak  -  14,267 feet
Date Posted:  04/15/2012
Date Climbed:   04/14/2012
Author:  moon stalker

 South Paw on Torreys  

When I was looking into this route, everyone I asked if they had climbed it said "where's that?" And I had asked many people who have been climbing in CO for a long time. The route was not in Dawson's book, it's not listed in the routes on this site, and I couldn't find a trip report for it on this site (at least by searching for 'south paw' for Torreys and Grays). So even though this route is on a such a popular peak, it's apparently not climbed that often. That was appealing to me.

Roach states the route is steeper than Dead Dog and is usually protected by a cornice with the typical exit to the left. I figured a low snow year was a good time to try it, given the cornice should be composed of mainly wind blown, hard snow. I figured I'd just give it a try.
South Paw on the left, Dead Dog on the right

With the forecast predicting a storm coming in about mid-day and temps in the 20s, I figured the snow wasn't going to soften much throughout the day. Murphy's Law didn't work, the storm was either late or fairly wimpy, at least in Stevens Gulch. The max temp I saw on my thermometer was 35 degrees, downright balmy! The sun was in and out behind the clouds, mostly behind the clouds I would say. By the time I left at 3:30 pm, it hadn't started snowing yet. Some wind blown snow was coming in from other areas, but it didn't actually snow in the basin all day. So much for weather forecasts.

South Paw is south of Dead Dog (hence south - paw, sticking with the dog theme).
It's shorter than Dead Dog, and at least this year, had a really large apron below it. After getting above the apron and into the couloir, the angle was 35 degrees. A little further above near two sets of rocks on climbers left that protruded into the basin, the angle was 40. Further up, I measured 45. Below the sets of rocks below the cornice, I measured 50. The angle increased only slightly immediately below the cornice. The cornice itself (at least where I decided to climb it), was fairly thin and required only two or three kick steps to get over it. Those last steps were nearly on top of each other, I couldn't see the steps below, so it was near-vertical.
South Paw with a large apron of snow below it

Close-up of the cornice

Closer on the cornice, get a good look before you enter, chose your line

The snow was in decent condition. There was generally a layer of recent snow on top of bulletproof snow below. The recent snow made a nice cushion and provided full-foot support as long as I wasn't front-pointing. It was a great way to save the calves for further up. In some areas, and especially near the top, the recent snow was thicker (maybe wind blown) and created that annoying slip surface that made it harder to bite into the bulletproof snow below, this is where front-pointing was needed to get a good hold. Overall though, the snow was pretty good, I was happy for the recent snow instead of an entire couloir full of bulletproof snow.
Almost off the apron and into the couloir

I climbed just right of the rocks just left of middle, then basically straight up from there

40 degree snow

Looking down from the same place as the shot above

I climbed almost straight up from center. Couloir is actually concave, apparent convex is from stitching

For folks worried about the cornice shedding large amounts of snow during a climb, if you stick left, there are two sets of rocks protruding into the couloir that may protect climbers below for about half of the couloir. Above that though, if the couloir sheds, you're likely to be in the way.

The couloir itself is fairly straightforward. For the exit, the cornice on the right side is overhung and you can see some layering, some thin. No way I would climb that side unprotected but other climbers certainly have more will than I. I stayed left but still on the snow. Roach says the rocks on the left can be used to exit. But at least this year, they didn't go all the way to the top. You can use them to mostly avoid the cornice, but not entirely. The cornice itself wasn't bad, not too thick, and there appeared to be many places to allow a safe exit. The steeper snow right below the cornice and the cornice itself were very solid. On the cornice, I had no fears of wedges of snow failing and sending me back down the couloir. I used my hybrid ax on the cornice to provide two 'hands', which was nice, gives an extra comfort factor getting on that last two or three steps getting over the top.
Hopefully you can see my footprints up the middle of the pic

Overall I think South Paw was a great snow climb. Due to the cornice, I wouldn't recommend trying it on a day after a questionable freeze. Otherwise, give this route a try, it's a lot of fun. Or, the next time you're headed up to Dead Dog and see too many people in the couloir above you, check out the cornice, then head left (south) and try South Paw.
Two hikers near the cornice give perspective


Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

Good stuff!
04/16/2012 03:28
Great to see some info on this (thanks!) and good to see you out there gettin' after it


That's a nice one!
04/16/2012 11:29
Thanks for posting, Kelly!


Glad we didn't screw this up for you.
04/16/2012 21:47
When I saw the forecast for the weekend I was worried you wouldn't get it and then blame us for making you repeat hope last weekend! Great report, Kelly!

If only you knew the story behind ”Muffy”, Darin...but you'd have to have climbed with someone from KANSAS to know.

Muffy- I almost fell out of my chair when I saw that!


Yaaa buddy
04/16/2012 14:30
this is sick thanks for the write up


Butt riding
04/16/2012 17:40
What? No glissade pics?!?

moon stalker

Nothing screwed here!
04/16/2012 19:47
Darrin, no worries, I'll figure out something for which to blame you!
Bill, that's the problem with hiking/climbing alone, no one else is around to get pics of people in action! Shucks.


Nice job Kelly!
04/16/2012 20:06
Bummer, I was hoping we'd have another fun photo to discuss and laugh over, perhaps of you glissading this time! That's quite the cornice. Nice TR.



04/16/2012 20:36
That's going to draw some attention and raised eyebrows. ;)

And it's funny that the Kansan doesn't know how to spell 'screwed' especially since he's screwed by living in Kansas.
Or he's skewed a little.

Nice report and good looking climb, Miss Moon Stalker!


04/16/2012 23:02
Always fun to see rarely climbed couloirs. Thanks for sharing Kelly!

moon stalker

Can't believe you let 'Muffy' out of t
04/16/2012 23:45
Caroline, you may now have to explain that one since you let it out! In order to get photos of people doing funny things, people have to climb with me! And yes, that means I have to tell people my plans. Oh wait a minute, that's what I did last weekend and 'people' changed the objective. See why I keep my mouth shut. Yes, missed opportunity to get good pics. Getting a pic of someone getting over that cornice would have been cool. Then again if you want to laugh just go look back at all those comments from the pic from last weekend, that will elicit laughs for a long time to come!

Wait a minute, Darrin spelled screwed wrong and I didn't catch it? That's what I get trying to reply quick before work. Lost opportunity to give Darrin a hard time, frick! Yes, Darrin is certainly skewed, esp since he's from Kansas.


04/17/2012 00:32 how Kansan's spell screw, in case you missed it.

Darrin, we run into each other enough in the hills that we don't need to climb together. Two Dar(r)ins on one climb might be too much anyway.
But it is fun for me to pick on you because you're from Kansas.

moon stalker

Thanks for the info Darin
04/17/2012 02:25
I'll remember that in order to rib Darrin.

I can already imagine the jokes between you two if you ever do hike together, if you could get past the one r or two r part!


That looks like a fine couloir!
04/17/2012 16:44
Now that you got the word out, it may actually get climbed more! Nice pics and great description.

Stupid forecast on Sat made me miss my plans, so glad that a bunch of people stuck to their guns to get out! Of course I had a 'bit of a drive' after Sat activities to worry about.

We'll have to get a group to go out again, so we can get more funny pics and stories again!


Great Climb!
04/21/2012 21:22
I tackled this route last year, and will go down as one of my favs. Great climb! After that last bottle neck, looking up at the cornice overhanging you, that's when your in it to win it or emptying out the bottom, talk about steep! I definitely swallowed my heart a few times before the top out.


04/22/2012 00:04
I was up Grays today and South Paw had a very recent Avalanche! I posted pictures on this thread.

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