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| |-+  May 2018 Backcountry Trip Reports
| | |-+  May 16, 2018, Torrey's Peak (14,267'), Colorado
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Author Topic: May 16, 2018, Torrey's Peak (14,267'), Colorado  (Read 835 times)

Posts: 509

May 16, 2018, Torrey's Peak (14,267'), Colorado
« on: 05/17/18, 08:48 AM »

Torrey's Peak (14,267'), Colorado
May 16, 2018
Dead Dog Couloir
54 - 2nd time's a charm

Dead Dog Couloir is one of the classic snow climbs and skis along the Front Range - super easy access (when the road melts out), skiing right off a 14er summit, dramatic line through the cliff bands on a reliably good snow holding, east facing descent.  Only real challenge is the early sun hit.  Such a classic line that a conga line forms when the weather is nice over a spring weekend.  To ski it without any other folks around on a warm, magnificent blue bird day - must be a lucky turn of events.

400 am -
This time I'm able to rattle the Tacoma up the dirt access road almost all the way to the trailhead, cutting down on the pre-dawn road hiking from 2 1/2 miles to 200 yards - oh yes!  What a couple of weeks of May warmth can do to aid in attaining your skiing objectives.  I'm at the bridge by 445, at 11200' where the skiing begins.  The Backyardigans Born to Play album hums and the crew sings: "We're ready, we're ready...for anything...sunblock and sneakers and I even brought crayons and a coloring book..." At 4 in the morning this irreverent sing-a-long is bliss for starting out mood setting.  If you don't have children of a certain age you might have missed out on this show, ten years ago my daughter knew all the words.  And so did I.  I sing along in the dark, following my flashlight.  Good times.

620 -
The sun has just crested the ridge to my east and I sit at the base of the couloir putting on my crampons, eating some cold cuts and soaking in the sun. So was the couloir above me. It was 32F in the night and the snow is nicely solid with tell- tale melt patterns from the day before.  It will be an early corn up, and loose conditions as the day advances.  I'm glad for the early start on the couloir and use French technique to climb the lower snow fan in the still hard snow of the early morning.  Soon enough, I'm in the couloir itself, following a bomber boot pack up into the bowels. It's getting steeper and the avy paths from the days after the last storm are icy.  But the snow on this east face warms up quickly and part way up I shed down to my t-shirt for the rest of the climb.

830 -
This is what it is all about.  The very top of the couloir reaches 50 degrees and I'm counting out my 50 step intervals, glancing around for progress at the mark.  I'm very close to the ridge.  The angle has kicked up so I'm using my free hand to grab the steps and ice axe holes above me, driving the handle of my own axe deep into the snow with each step.  Foot plant, foot plant, axe drive, hand grab and repeat.  Exhilarating climbing with 1500 vf of the couloir just below my heels.       

900 -
The top is empty.  And devoid of wind.  And sunny!  What a day.  I can see a couple groups and singles making their way up from the Grays-Torrey's saddle and know the solitude won't be long.  But that's ok, I had 15 minutes of alone time and Eddie Harris serenades me as I chug down another coconut water, his saxophone somehow made for this lofty height. 

Almost like a train arriving at the station, everyone converges on the summit at about the same time. A party of three skiers and boarders, a single non skier from Texas, and another single skier arrive within 5 minutes of each other.  It's a really friendly group and we compare notes on descent options.  I wish them all well, and ski off down the north ridge to the very top of the Dead Dog letting them enjoy the top.  The skiing along the ridge is not great, very rocky, firm and steep.  I cautiously make my way down, jumping a solitary rock band that bars the steep couloir below. 

Just as I drop into the steep upper couloir the angle of the slope turns the snow to delightful corn and mashed potatoes.  I arc back and forth across the couloir finding the smooth super steep sides enjoyable turns and the middle sections where the avy paths ran through bumpy river bottoms.  Toward the bottom, the damage to the snow is more severe and slows me down as i jump the frozen river of jumbled debris, it's soft snow, but not deep enough to run it too fast.  At the snow fan at the bottom, I'm able to cut left and enjoy smooth white corn down into the flats, pulling up to the rocks that warrant a portage.

I had told the folks up top about the creek bottom to follow that avoids the unpleasant trail back to the trailhead, having skied this drainage a couple times over the years.  After a short walk, I find the finger of snow that connects to the run and am soon zooming down the wide open river bottom, early enough to really enjoy this 2 mile long, 1,000 vf section almost all the way to the bridge and my parked truck. 

1030 -

My feet are not as wet as I would have feared as I had literally walked down the open river at the bottom the last 100 yards, sometimes up to my knees, but my boots and gaitors prove their worth and into the back of the truck they go for the ride home.

* Dead_Dog_Couloir.jpg (111.53 KB, 640x480 - viewed 434 times.)

* North_ridge_descent_2.jpg (99.47 KB, 480x640 - viewed 433 times.)

* top_of_the_dead_dog_2.jpg (87.41 KB, 480x640 - viewed 432 times.)
« Last Edit: 05/19/18, 12:30 PM by MW88888888 » Logged

Posts: 64

Re: May 16, 2018, Torrey's Peak (14,267'), Colorado
« Reply #1 on: 05/18/18, 09:38 AM »

thanks for the report! new colorado transplant from the PNW and I was just contemplating riding that line next week.

Posts: 785

Re: May 16, 2018, Torrey's Peak (14,267'), Colorado
« Reply #2 on: 05/18/18, 02:36 PM »

That's a fun one.  Access at its best. 

Posts: 913

Re: May 16, 2018, Torrey's Peak (14,267'), Colorado
« Reply #3 on: 05/19/18, 10:35 AM »

I had to check out both your music references on youtube. LOL backyardigans!
Thanks for the report. A fun read.

Posts: 509

Re: May 16, 2018, Torrey's Peak (14,267'), Colorado
« Reply #4 on: 05/19/18, 12:48 PM »

Jacob - a little more melting on the north ridge will make the direct east face access more enjoyable into the Dog. It thought about it, but decided on the full Dog. The east face line is pretty hairy if the snow is bad with the cliffs below.  Caution is the name of the game there.

I'm holding that line (the east face) for when I can complete the full run as you can see from the pic that the little snow finger was melted out already at the bottom for one variation and I couldn't see the other. 

Good luck - great line.  Hopefully we're getting another couple inches in the high peaks.

MikeR - I thank my kids for my well-rounded musical repertoire!
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