Sunday, June 14, 2009

Sunday, 6/14/09 N. Face of Torreys (Emperor Couloir) and Grays Peak

Torreys via the “Emperor” couloir, and Grays
Jeff Valliere, Dave Hale, Sierra and Shep (for Emperor), Emily Hale, Kiefer and Sophie (for the hike out from Torreys summit)

Dave and I have been trying to coordinate to get in a good snowclimb together for weeks, but for various reasons, we just have not been able to make it happen until today.

After a short and restless night of sleep, I was wide awake at 3:15am, so I just got up and took my time getting ready, as I was to meet Dave in Bakerville at 5:45am. I got there 20 minutes early, put the final touches on my pack and we were soon cruising up the road in his truck to the campsite in Grizzly Gulch where he and Em had camped. We started hiking from the campsite at 5:55am and was once again stymied by the web of roads and found ourselves on the wrong side of the raging creek. We poked and prodded our way along and finally found a slippery log to cross that barely did the job. Once on the road on the N. side of the creek, it was easy street again for a short while.

Some easy bushwhacking soon had us at the base of the mighty Emperor, just in time to catch up with Bob Dawson, Sharoni, Steve Cassin and their group training for their upcoming Rainier trip. We all geared up together and started up the couloir within minutes of one another, chit chatting as we went.

The lower section was compacted avy debris which made for easy cramponing. It was impressive to witness how this snow had piled up, must have been one heck of a wet slide and I was glad to be here on a cold morning.

There was a fairly steep initial pitch, where the snow was a bit hard, but this was no big deal and before long the gradient relented a bit and was nice comfortable cruising. As we got higher, Dave and I were a little ahead of our group of friends, just basking in the glow of a glorious, blue sky Colorado day, when I happened to look up and see two softball size rocks skipping down the gulley at high speed.

Dave and I both yelled and stepped out of the way. Fortunately, they were on a trajectory opposite of the Dawson group and they passed without incident. This got me a bit on guard, as I was now always looking up the slope. Aside from two more small and less threatening rocks that skipped across our path, we did not have any more rock issues.

As we approached the summit, there were several options on the left and right, of varying grade, but we ultimately decided to stay in the very center of the couloir and head for what looked to be the most direct (albeit steep) finish. The final few hundred feet got progressively steeper with every foot, but conditions were perfect for kicking a deep enough and solid step. I also brought along an extra axe which at times seemed like overkill, but I was really glad to have it along, as I could plant/plant, step/step and always felt very secure. Sierra and Shep were absolutely loving this climb, every bit of it no matter how steep it got and were always smiling.

Dave and I topped out at 9:22am and the Dawson group of 10 trickled in very soon after. We waited a bit for Emily, Kiefer and Sophie to ascend the standard route and it was a festive atmosphere as we basked in the glow of a great climb and a perfect day.

After we had all regrouped, Dave and I cruised over to Grays, then back down to the saddle to rejoin Emily, where they decided to glissade and I walked. As I descended, I was surprised to bump into Kevin Lund and Carol Gerber heading up Grays for a late day jaunt. As we arrived at the Stevens Gulch TH, it started to snow/graupel, but there was no thunder which was good for all those above.

This was an all time favorite climb and I can’t wait to go back.


1 comment:

  1. Nice Jeff. I havent been up those peaks in years. What about the "million vert in a year" goal? You are the prime candidate for it.