Torreys Peak
snow NW Face/Tuning Fork
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Difficulty:
 Difficult Class 2 
Snow Steepness: Moderate  
Ski/Board: Advanced, D8 / R3 / II  
Risk Factors:Exposure: Moderate
Rockfall Potential: Considerable  
Route-Finding: Considerable  
Commitment: Considerable  
 
Trailhead:Grizzly Gulch
Start:9,800 feet
Summit:14,267 feet
Total Gain:3,000 feet (starting near 11,200' 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 11,200' on the GG road)
8.0 miles (starting at the bottom of the GG road)
10.5 miles (starting at I-70)
USGS Quad.:Grays Peak
County Sheriff:Clear Creek: 303-679-2376
National Forest:Arapaho
Author:BillMiddlebrook
Last Updated:7/2019

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

The "Tuning Fork" is one of the longest 14er snow routes - #1 and #2. In spring, it can provide 3,000 feet of continuous snow, maybe even from the summit. Lou Dawson refers to it as the "Big-ol-strip-o-snow" in Colorado's Fourteeners Volume 1 The Northern Peaks. After passing the buildings 1/4 mile up the Grizzly gulch road, continue on 189.1c for approximately 1 mile to a stream crossing and then another mile to a clearing, near 11,200', where you can see the route off to your left (south) - #3 and #4.

Drop to Grizzly Gulch and hike south (#4) to reach a slope below the base of the couloir. Climb the slope and angle toward the the couloir - #5 and #6. Crampons and axe are recommended beyond this point. Also, this is a good place to make a decision on the safety of the snowpack. You are immediately faced with some moderately-steep snow and it's a bad place to be if the snow above is at high risk of avalanche. Start climbing - #7. Continue to approximately 12,400' and a fork where the left side of the Tuning begins - #8. You have two options: 1) Continue up the main (west) couloir, or 2) turn left and climb the east couloir. The east couloir is slightly less steep and ends just below the summit and the west couloir hits the west ridge a bit lower. There's no huge advantage to either option and your decision may be based on snow-coverage:

Ascending the main (right) couloir:
Stay right at the junction and continue up the main couloir - #9, #10, #11, #12 and #13. Above 13,500', you can see the ridge but the snow doesn't always cover the rocks below the ridge - #14. Pick your line and gain the ridge - #15 and #16. Turn left (east) and hike 0.1 mile to the summit - #17, #18 and #19.

Ascending the east (left) couloir:
The east couloir is a more-direct climb when it has continuous snow to the summit. At the fork junction turn left and climb through a choke to enter the east couloir - #20 and #21. Above the choke, continue up the obvious couloir - #22. As you approach 13,800', the snow may run out on you and you'll have to make a decision on which line to take to the summit - #23, #24 and #25.

Skiing?

This route provides one of the longest 14er skis in the state. In fact, you could ski all the way back to I-70 without much trouble. That's 4,500' of elevation. In spring, the terrain just below the summit tends to be snow-free or provide limited continuous snow into the couloirs that make up the tuning fork. If this is the case, look for continuous snow between the rocks above the dotted line in #31. Even if you have to descend a bit to reach the snow, two very long snow-filled couloirs await. #27 and #28 were taken on a powder ski day.

Notes

Snowmobilers ride on the Grizzly Gulch road, but don't bet on it. It's a narrow road and, without a sled track, it can be hard to follow through the forest. A GPS with pre-loaded waypoints may be quite helpful.

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