Peak(s):  Torreys Peak  -  14,267 feet
Date Posted:  03/23/2009
Modified:  04/12/2010
Date Climbed:   03/22/2009
Author:  lordhelmut
 Dead Dog couloir ascent and descent.   

I realize this route has been explained in detail quite a few times in the past, I'm just giving my perspective as a stubborn alpine gear hauler as well as showing the difference in snow conditions between March of 2009 and June of 2008.

Anyways, the original plan for this peak was to meet up with my buddy Chris and ski Dead Dog on Saturday. Chris, having recently acquired a full set of Alpine Touring gear and a Level 1 avy certification, I figured now would be as good as any to work on some ski mountaineering knowledge and skills. That being said, our plans became conflicted and it ended up being me and my brother skiing the route sunday.

A tentative look at our route

We were packed and ready to go around 5pm at the parking lot near 70. The road still has a decent amount of snow on it from the get go. A few cars made it about a fifth of a mile up the road, one had chains, the other looked like it didn't really matter.

Shot of my brother at the parking lot ready to go. Ah, the life of an AT'less skier

Took about 90 minutes or so to lug all that crap up to the summer parking lot, only to realize I left all my matches and lighter back at the car. With no running water anywhere, this was a problem. Lucky for us, there were some guys hanging out at the cabin right next to the trailhead with some matches, so they saved us an aggravating situation more or less.

Alarm went off around 6:30, hit the trail around 6:45am. The avy dangers were low and I can't remember the last time it snowed anywhere in this state.

Our view of the hard boot/skin pack into the basin

We reached the base of the couloir around an hour or so later, pretty straitfoward entrance and we were feeling pretty good for the first third of the climb

Hugh starting the climb

The snow made for some above average bootpacking, but it was still rough on top. We were both hoping this would soften up by the time it was time to decend, unfortunately these hopes would never come to fruition.

Around 13k, Hugh hit the first of a few walls for him. Having been scheduled to deploy for Afghanistan in May, he's been busy training in the Deep South for the better part of the last year and a half and hasn't been exposed to much high altitude climbs.

Looking down on the route, a little more than halfway up

And then again about a hundred feet below the top of the couloir

I was starting to feel a little dizzy too from exerting an absurd amount of energy in the last 24 hours with basically 25 extra pounds of alpine gear on my back. I linked up with Kelso Ridge and was on the summit minutes later.

A look down at the route with Hugh crawling towards the summit

And then finally

After signing the register, checking out the views on a surprising bluebird day (given the forecast) and forcing down some fluids and grub, we decided to being the descent.

On a side note, I found this quite amazing. If you look at the background on Kelso and the surrounding area and compare it to any picture you can find from May or June from last year, the difference in snow conditions is insane. There was basically more snow in calender summer than there was in calender winter(assuming nothing has changed much in the last week) this year.


Given the snow, we opted for a direct descent off the face, since we couldn't access Dead Dog directly without a downclimb. The face was steep than the couloir and eventually ended with a significant cliff. With my brother completely exhausted, I couldn't breathe easy until we entered the couloir, we just neeed to find a reasonable access point along the ridge.

Looking down onto the face from the summit

From this shot, we basically skied from side to side to the third ridge crest on the left, which provided a nice, steep entrance into the Dead Dog. The snow was rock solid coral reef along this section, which was a tad unnerving. There were times when a jump turn ended on a solid surface and then others when it ended in a layer of snow breaking underneath and making you catch yourself from going head first down the slope. Not ideal to say the least.

I skied first into the couloir and got this shot of Hugh about to do the same

The rest of the ski was pretty uneventful. Not too steep, lots of hardpacked snow and a good 35-40 minutes of hiking downhill in alpine ski boots at one point.

Some end of the day shots




Lying in the dirt

I think the best part of the day was flying down the Stevens Gulch road, linking up snow patches when necesary, dodging boulders and making it all the way back to the car with no major damage to the bottom of my skiis. Hugh was so dissinterested in the condition of the bottom of his, he didn't even bother stopping where the snow ended. Crunch! In fact, he was too tired for word one, this was until he heard a sound on the top of his car while merging onto 70 and realizing he had left his ipod on the roof. Oh well.

One last minor note -

Dynastar Legend 8000s may be considered "all-mountain" when talking on-piste, but it is anything but when talking off. The crust made them its bitch yesterday, every single turn was a process.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

Great time
05/02/2011 14:23
in the mountains with your brother! That worked out well. Nice line too. If I had been in town I would have definitely joined ya.


03/24/2009 03:55
If I wasnt being a lazy bum watching hours upon hours of college basketball, I would have joined you on this one. Looks like a solid day.


03/25/2009 05:19
mad props on a summit without AT gear. the blisters on my heels after that day on Quandary were enough to make me invest in AT boots. no need for ice axes or crampons yet on that climb?


03/25/2009 14:06
Good for you Brian.. Looks like a great day..


03/25/2009 15:16
Carl - I couldn‘t believe the difference in snow between the shot of you on the summit with Kelso in the back and my shot from sunday. Still a fun line nonetheless. Unfortunately, I‘m pretty sure I messed up my left ankle pretty good in the trees at Copper yesterday, sprig ski season might be done for me this year.

Scott - nothing wrong with being a bum every now and then, snow wasn‘t really worth it anyway. We hit it at 2:30 and it still hadn‘t softened, to much wind.

seekanddestroy99 - im starting to form those same blisters, I might have to sack up as well at some point. We used axes by the way, crampons might‘ve helped but there was a decent boot pack from the day before, making travel a lot easier. Snow was soft enough for some kick steps.

Vince - whats up man, thanks for the comment, I left you a voice message the other day, we should catch up soon.


03/26/2009 03:06
Brian, I too have lugged a standard downhill setup up this damn couloir, I figured I would share in you pain. On a positive note, great job on the descent!


03/26/2009 18:26
thanks man, it redefines the word slog. Let me ask, would you put everything on your back and ascend in snowshoes or just ascend entirely with your boots on and hope for a hard pack on the approach? I guess you can say fortunately, my boots are comfortable enough to get away with that.


The few times
11/30/2010 17:28
I've slogged a downhill setup up a 14er I've used snowshoes, the weight on you feet and back is pretty much unmatched by anything with this combo. Sucks balls. Glad you finally gave into the AT setup, now we've actually got a feasible chance of getting some big descents in!

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