Torreys Peak

snow Emperor Couloir
Difficulty Class 3 
Snow Steepness: Steep 
Ski/Board: Advanced, D11 / R3 / II  
Risk FactorsExposure: Considerable
Rockfall Potential: Considerable  
Route-Finding: Considerable  
Commitment: Considerable  
TrailheadGrizzly Gulch
Start9,800 feet
Summit14,272 feet
Total Gain3,300 feet starting near 11,000' on the GG road
4,500 feet starting at I-70
RT Length2.75 miles starting near 11,000' on the GG road
9.0 miles starting at I-70
SheriffClear Creek: 303-679-2376
Last UpdatedOct 2022
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This route should only be climbed with consolidated snow, in spring or early summer. Climbing this route in mid-winter could put you in deadly avalanche conditions.


The Grizzly Gulch 4WD road is rough and narrow and not recommended for an SUV. From I-70, take exit #221 at Bakerville and continue to the south side of the highway and the start of Forest Road 189. Drive up 189 over 1 mile and turn right onto the Grizzly Gulch road. Stay right on the "189.1c" road after 1/4 mile and continue west into Grizzly Gulch.


"Emperor" couloir is located on the north side of Torreys and part of it can be seen from Interstate 70 - 1. Follow the Grays Peak road (#189) over a mile and turn right onto the Grizzly Gulch road where you'll get another view of Emperor - 2. Drive or hike 0.25 mile to reach a junction. Park here if you don't have a small, high-clearance 4wd vehicle. Turn right on the "189.1c" road and continue for approximately 1 mile to a stream crossing in a meadow and then another 0.7 mile to a small clearing at 11,000', where you can see the route off to your left - 3, 4 and 5. Leave the road and walk down to the creek where you'll need to find a spot to cross. Once on the south side, hike to a rocky drainage and follow it to the base of Emperor, near 11,400' - 6.

Don the crampons and start climbing - 7. As you enter the couloir you'll immediately encounter a couple of short, steep pitches ( 8) before reaching easier terrain near 11,800' - 9. You'll see snow fields up to the right but stay in the couloir as it turns left above 12,000' - 10 and 11. Continue through a more-narrow section ( 12) before the couloir opens up again, near 12,400' - 13. The upper couloir is not obvious from here and there's complicated terrain up to your right. Stay left and as you continue up the couloir the route will become more obvious - 14.

Above 12,800', the couloir turns slightly right and you can finally see the north ridge, beyond the couloir - 15. The terrain gets steeper above 13,000' and even steeper as you approach the large, gray rock outcrop seen in the center of 16. When you reach the rock outcrop ( 17) there are two ways to gain the ridge: 1) Stay right and climb steep snow to reach the ridge or 2) Turn left just before the outcrop, climb through a narrow section and climb steep snow to reach the ridge. For option #1 (the easier option), 18 shows the climb to the ridge and 19 looks down after gaining the ridge. Once on the north ridge, turn left and climb 200 feet to intersect the top of the Kelso Ridge and Dead Dog Couloir routes - 20 and 21. Continue up the final pitch to reach the summit - 22.


Emperor is longer than Dead Dog and usually holds snow well into June. I was solo when I took the following ski photos, so they are mostly looking back up:
The top of the couloir: 23, 24
A look at the slope angle: 25
Near 12,700': 26
The lower couloir: 27, 28, 29


In winter, snowmobilers sometimes use the Grizzly Gulch road.
#1 #2 #3 #4 #5 #6 #7 #8 #9 #10 #11 #12 #13 #14 #15 #16 #17 #18 #19 #20 #21 #22 #23 #24 #25 #26 #27 #28 #29

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Caution: The information contained in this route description may not be accurate and should not be the only resource used in preparation for your climb. Failure to have the necessary experience, physical conditioning, supplies or equipment can result in injury or death. and the author(s) of this route description provide no warranties, either express or implied, that the information provided is accurate or reliable. By using the information provided, you agree to indemnify and hold harmless and the route description author(s) with respect to any claims and demands against them, including any attorney fees and expenses. Please read the Safety and Disclaimer pages for more information.

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