members of group: Joel Paula, Mark Koelker, Ricardo Moreno-Contro, Ben Koelker, Colin Murphy, and Zach Taylor
14,267' Torreys Peak
photo- A look at the east face of Torreys. photo by Zach Taylor, 2012.
I must admit I have been a little embarrassed to have not been up a 14er since last fall. Between the greater than average avalanche danger in Colorado this year and the lower than average snow fall I have been climbing other mountains and getting my big mountain turns elsewhere.
With plans to leave for a month of riding in the northern Rockies (Wyoming, Idaho, Montana) on May 7th I wanted to ride atleast one 14er this season. Many lines on the high peaks of Colorado never came in this year so planning a 14er descent this year takes a bit more research and hope than past years. However I had several friends who had ridden Torreys in the past couple weeks so I knew that Dead Dog couloir and the east face were still in.
I made some phone calls and rallied a group for a Torreys climb on 4/30/12. Joel and I left Avon Sunday afternoon and drove to the Stephen's Gulch trailhead. Ben, Mark, and Colin met us that evening. Pollo joined us the following morning. We grilled some brats and went to bed around 10am.
The projected highs for 13,000' were 40 degrees F and winds were supposed to gust up to 30mph. We thought we could get a latish start of 7am. In hindsight we should have probably been hiking around 5:30am still. The east face heats up fast and it ended up being warmer than forecasted.
photo-Joel Paula and Mark Koelker hanging out at Stephen's Gulch. photo by Zach Taylor, 2012.
Joel, Ben, and I elected to skin up the drainage while Mark, Colin, and Pollo booted up the summer trail. We all met back up at the base of Dead Dog couloir for the climb.
photo- Colin Murphy, Mark Koelker, and Ricardo Moreno-Contro at the base of the east face of Torreys Peak. photo by Zach Taylor, 2012.
We geared up for the climb and started climbing up the couloir. "Rock! Rock!" was screamed as a couple rocks broke off the east face and tumbled down the couloir due to the early morning sun heating things up on the face. Everyone avoided getting hit and we traversed out of the previous bootpack that went right up the exposed middle of the couloir and broke in another boot track that went up the climber's left side of Dead Dog.
Ben was not feeling good and decided to ski down about a third of the way up the couloir. He skied down and was nice enough to take some great pictures of us riding down the east face a couple hours later. In the upper couloir Pollo and Colin traversed out onto the east face to check out conditions. Joel, Mark, and I continued up the couloir.
photo- Mark Koelker climbing Dead Dog couloir. photo by Zach Taylor, 2012.
photo- Joel Paula in Dead Dog couloir. photo by Zach Taylor, 2012.
photo- Zach Taylor (left, front) and Mark Koelker (right, back) in Dead Dog couloir. photo by Zach Taylor, 2012.
We topped out Dead Dog and walked the last couple hundred vertical feet to the summit.
photo- Joel Paula, Zach Taylor, and Mark Koelker hiking up Kelso ridge, just above Dead Dog couloir, on their way to the summit. photo by Ricardo Moreno-Contro, 2012.
photo- Zach Taylor on the summit of Torreys. photo by Mark Koelker, 2012.
The summit was windy and a bit chilly for April 30th. We knew the east face was heating up though and wet avalanches would be a concern quickly so we did not dally on the summit. We geared up figured out our line down the face and dropped in very soon after summiting. Joel led the way making jump turns off the summit. I followed and everyone else came behind except Colin who dropped solo another chute to skier's right of the direct east face shot off the summit. He met back up with us at the bottom. The turns were pretty steep on the east face and every turn was made above cliffs. The snow on the east face was more water saturated than Dead Dog had made us think on the way up and we triggered small, wet, point releases with many turns. Riding above large cliffs with wet snow running at most turns, and weaving through cliffs was pretty intense. Enjoy the action shots:
photo- from left to right: Zach Taylor, Joel Paula, Colin Murphy, and Mark Koelker on the summit of Torreys. photo by Ricardo Moreno-Contro, 2012.
photo-Mark Koelker on the east face of Torreys peak. photo by Zach Taylor, 2012.
photo- Zach Taylor, Joel Paula, and Ricardo Moreno-Contro skiing/riding the east face of Torreys peak. Look closely and you can pick them out. photo by Ben Koelker, 2012.
photo- Colin Murphy riding the east face of Torreys. photo by Ben Koelker, 2012.
We skied/snowboarded about 2/3s of the way down the east face before traversing skier's left back into Dead Dog couloir right above the massive cliffs at the bottom of Torrey's east face.
photo- Mark Koelker and the east face sneak back into Dead Dog about 2/3s of the way down Torrey's east face. photo by Zach Taylor, 2012.
photo- Zach Taylor riding out the bottom of Dead Dog couloir. photo by Mark Koelker, 2012.
photo- Joel Paula skiing out the apron below Torreys east face. photo by Ben Koelker, 2012.
We met back up with Ben and Colin at the bottom of the east face and looked back up at the east face and our tracks. After eating and drinking a bit we threw our gear on our backs and walked back down the trail for a few minutes before finding the creek which was still snow covered. From there we were able to snowboard/ski all the way back to our tents at the trailhead.
We hung out in the sun for a couple hours, grilled venison, and enjoyed the sunshine before heading home.
The east face of Torreys is a really cool line. It is a bit steeper and much more exposed than Dead Dog couloir as you must weave around cliffs, through 45 degree terrain, all the while being above hundred+ foot cliffs at the bottom of the east face. This line is considerably more commiting and dangerous than Dead Dog couloir. It is not a line to commit to lightly but if you like steep, dangerous skiing/riding above massive cliffs this line might be for you. I enjoyed the complexity and steepness of the terrain but was definitely glad when I got back down in one piece and could admire my line from a safe distance.