Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Torreys North Chute Snowboard Descent - May 14th, 2006

A snowboard descent from Torreys Peak (14,267 ft) is one of the longest continuous descents you can get in Colorado from a 14er. On the North face you can get about 3,000 vertical feet. I was planning on doing the North West Couloir of Torreys (or also called Tuning Fork) this Sunday with the snowboard. I started early since temperatures were not supposed to drop very much overnight. I could drive all the way to the official Grizzly Gulch summer trailhead. The jeep road afterwards still had quite some big snow banks. I hit the trail finally at 5:30 am, a little later than first planned. But the temperature at the trailhead was 30 degrees, which was all right for a decent freeze on the mountain.

Picture 1: Torreys from the trailhead at 5:30 am (click on pictures to enlarge)

I just hiked it in my snowboard boots, no snowshoes required. However one time I tried to take a short cut through the trees and started post holing. So I went quickly back on the trail, which was pretty firm. It took me about 1 ½ hours to get to the bottom of the couloir. Then the hard work started. The couloir has a steady pitch of about 40 degrees.

Picture 2: The northwest face couloir

Luckily there were some nice kick steps from somebody who did it the day before. I did not need any crampons since these were pretty nice steps. But the ice axe is definitely recommended. I was the first one up the couloir. Later on I saw two other climbers make their way up.

Picture 3: Looking down the north west face couloir (about half way up)

Picture 4: Grizzly Peak, seen from the couloir

The couloir took me about 3 hours. Somewhat out of breath I got to the top where 7 other people were hanging out and suddenly heard my name. What a surprise: My co-worker Lacy was up there with three other friends. What are the chances of that !?! They skinned/hiked up from Steven’s Gulch.

Picture 5: Me on the top

Picture 6: Panorama on Torreys

(I can not get it to enlarge the right way, freaking blog thing!)

Picture 7: Lacy and his friends Brittany, Andrew and Dave

After enjoying the view, and taking some pictures we got ready for the descent. Lacy’s group was considering the south facing Dead Dog Couloir. However they opted for the North Chutes (Emperor). They had a second car already at the Grizzly’s Gulch trailhead. I decided to join them.

Picture 8: Brittany navigating through some rocks near the summit

Picture 9: The snow was pretty firm on top but still fun

Picture 10: Looking down the steep stuff

Picture 11: Andrew ripping the steep part

Picture 12: Dave on the upper steep couloir

The rollover on top is probably close to 50degrees. Later on it’s about 45 degrees for a while and the bottom part usually around 40degrees. I heard that some years parts of this needs to be down-climbed. However today this was all do-able on skis/snowboard. The upper part was hard-packed, bomb-proof snow, later on it softened up nicely and at the bottom it was quite slushy.

Picture 13: Lacy the tele-guy

Picture 14: Dave in action

Picture 15: The snowboarder

Picture 16: Our line down the North Chutes (Emperor)

Overall I would say this is a very good line. You will see some more variable, interesting terrain than in the northwest face couloir. I can definitely recommend this route in safe spring conditions. The roundtrip time was about 7 hours. (4 1/2h ascent, 1/2 hour lounging on top, 1 hour descent, 1 hour hike out)

For another trip report and some more pictures from Brittany, see

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