Torreys Peak - Emperor Couloir
Climbing mountains is dangerous! Please read the Mountaineering Safety Page and make sure you have a map+compass and can use them effectively. A GPS or cell phone can be very helpful with navigation but you should still be able to use a map+compass in case your device stops working.
(WINTER) HOLD ON! If you don't have much high-elevation, winter climbing experience, be careful in your planning and take a partner. Even the "easy" 14ers (Quandary, Sherman, Grays & Torreys) can be deadly in winter.
|Difficulty:||Class 3, Steep Snow|
Ski: Advanced, D11 / R3 / II
|Total Gain:||3,300 feet (starting near 11,000' on the Grizzly Gulch road)|
4,000 feet (starting at the bottom of the Grizzly Gulch road)
4,500 feet (starting at I-70)
|RT Length:||2.75 miles (starting near 11,000' on the Grizzly Gulch road)|
7.0 miles (starting at the bottom of the Grizzly Gulch road)
9.0 miles (starting at I-70)
|USGS Quad.:||Grays Peak|
|County Sheriff:||Clear Creek: 303-679-2376
Take Exit 221 at Bakerville on Interstate 70 and continue to the south side of the highway and the start of Forest Road 189 (goes to the Grays Peak Trailhead). Start up the 189 road and after over a mile, turn right on the Grizzly Gulch road. It is a rough, narrow 4WD road so park along the first 1/4 mile if don't have jeep or other small, high-clearance vehicle. To continue higher, stay right on the "189.1c" road after 1/4 mile and continue west into Grizzly Gulch.
"Emperor" couloir is located on the north side of Torreys and part of it can be seen from Interstate 70 - Photo #1. To get there you must first hike or drive the Grizzly Gulch 4WD road. In spring there are several stream crossing along the road, making the approach challenge.
Follow the Grays Peak road (#189) over a mile and turn right onto the Grizzly Gulch road where you'll get another view of Emperor - Photo #2 and Photo #3. Drive or hike 0.25 mile to reach a junction. Park here if you don't have a small, high-clearance 4wd vehicle. Turn right on the "189.1c" road and continue for approximately 1 mile to a stream crossing in a meadow and then another 0.7 mile to a small clearing (11,000') where you can see the route off to your left (south) - Photo #4, Photo #5 and Photo #6. Leave the road and walk down to the creek where you'll need to find a spot to cross. Once on the south side, hike through the bushes to enter the rocky drainage below the couloir. Continue up the drainage to reach the bottom of Emperor (Photo #7) near 11,400'.
Don the crampons and start climbing - Photo #8. As you enter the couloir you'll immediately encounter a couple of short, steep pitches (Photo #9) before reaching easier terrain near 11,800' - Photo #10. You'll see snow fields up to the right but stay in the couloir as it turns left above 12,000' - Photo #11. Continue through a narrow section (Photo #12 and Photo #13) and the couloir opens up again near 12,400' - Photo #15. This area can be confusing because the upper couloir is not obvious and there's complicated terrain up to your right. Simply stay left, continue up the couloir and the route will become more obvious above 12,600' -Photo #16 and Photo #17.
Above 12,800', the couloir turns slightly right (Photo #18) and you can finally see the ridge beyond the end of the couloir. Photo #19 is a look down from this area. The terrain gets steeper above 13,000' and even steeper as you approach the large, gray rock outcropping seen in the center of Photo #20. When you reach the rock outcropping (Photo #21) there are two ways to reach the ridge above the end of the couloir: 1) stay right and climb a steep snow pitch to reach the ridge or 2) turn left just before the outcropping and climb a steep, narrow section followed by a steep snow pitch. Option #2 is shown as a dotted line in Photo #21 and Photo #22. For option #1 (the easier option), Photo #23 and Photo #24 show the climb to the ridge and Photo #25 looks down after gaining the ridge.
Once on the ridge, turn left and follow approx. 200' of easier terrain to intersect the top of the Kelso Ridge and Dead Dog Couloir routes, above 14,000' - Photo #26 and Photo #27. Continue up the final Class 2 pitch to reach the summit - Photo #28.
In winter, snowmobilers sometimes use the Grizzly Gulch road.
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