Photo
Torreys Peak
snow Emperor Couloir
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Difficulty:
 Class 3 
Snow Steepness: Steep  
Ski/Board: Advanced, D11 / R3 / II  
Risk Factors:Exposure: Considerable
Rockfall Potential: Considerable  
Route-Finding: Considerable  
Commitment: Considerable  
 
Trailhead:Grizzly Gulch
Start:9,800 feet
Summit:14,270 feet
Total Gain:3,300 feet (starting near 11,000' on the GG road)
4,000 feet (starting at the bottom of the GG road)
4,500 feet (starting at I-70)
RT Length:2.75 miles (starting near 11,000' on the GG road)
7.0 miles (starting at the bottom of the GG road)
9.0 miles (starting at I-70)
Duration:User Climb Times
Author:BillMiddlebrook
Updated:7/2019
Weather:NOAA Forecast
Conditions:389 reports
Cell Signal:24 reports
Sheriff:Clear Creek: 303-679-2376
Forest:Arapaho
Quad. Maps:Log In to View
Camping:On Google Maps
Eats:On Google Maps
Downloads:Log In to Download
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Trailhead

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.

Route

"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.

Skiing?

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

Notes

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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