Peak(s):  Torreys Peak  -  14,267 feet
Date Posted:  05/24/2013
Date Climbed:   05/22/2013
Author:  BKS
 Tunning Forks   

Date: May, 22, 2013
Crew: Brian Sommers & Gabriel Zachar
Vertical Elevation: 1000 ft. skin, 3000 ft. boot.
Time to summit: 5:30 hours.
Beers waiting in Jeep: sadly, only 1.
Spring snow conditions: almost ideal at top, getting wet and sloppy at bottom.

Gabriel and I meet on the slopes of Breckenridge back in January soon after the Horseshoe bowl opened. At that time, Horseshoe wasn't much more than mounds of snow surrounded by rock. As Gabriel and I are both new to Colorado this season, we talked about getting together later in season for a backcountry outing.

There have been several classic lines on the list for my first season of ski mountaineering: Silver couloir on Buffalo, Box Creek on Elbert, and the Tunning Forks on Torrey's. As our schedules meshed, I sent Gabriel links to several of these routes and others for his perusal.

After being humbled (I fell a total of 6 times) the last two weeks skiing both wet heavy slush and trap crust, some of my ski confidence had eroded. Maybe my big three goals needed to wait for another season til I had more crappy snow experience. Gabriel emailed that he liked the looks of the Tunning Forks - so I decided to give it a try.

After parking just past the Grizzy Gulch turnoff, we started skinning at 6:30 a.m. Soon the vast north side of the mountain came into view. There were 2 skiers that we saw drop in above the Emperor couloir later in the day while we were topping out on the forks. The route looked spicy.

Emporer Couloir right of center

Soon after, the Tunning Forks appear- 3000 ft vertical - all in one slope.

Lower headwall with Tunning Forks in background

After an hour of skinning and the last creek crossing, we transition to crampons and skis/board on pack.

Base of intital headwall

Above the initial headwall, we stop on the lower angle bench before beginning the forks proper. Gabriel was having trouble with his crampons on the soft snowboard boots he ended up having to rent for the day. It would continue to plague him the whole climb.

beginning of the fork

After that, its all up. Yes, Lou Dawson, this is a 'big ole strip of snow'.

West fork

me with backlashes

The views were amazing. The length of couloir was deceiving. Step kicking...endless.

still in main couloir

By the time we reached the ridge, legs were jello. I was shocked, it took us 3:45 to do the 3000 ft booter - half a usual summer pace.

summit ridge

We got to summit around noon. Funny thing, Jesus showed up on top. I hadn't noticed the resemblance until then. Turns out, Jesus has some serious skills with a board and is a super patient and dependable partner.


Our mostly cloudy forecasted day was starting to get sunny and calm. The snow was softening. Views were amazing in all directions.

View of A basin, Keystone and Breckenridge (barely)

View looking towards Loveland resort

We dropped in around 12:30 on the far east chute leading to the east fork only about 20 feet below the summit. Snow was continuous on the narrow corniced ridge into all chutes that lead into both forks. Snow had softened to ideal spring conditions in the upper East fork.

Upper East fork

I skied cautiously, even doing some kick turns before feeling comfortable committing to real turns while looking down the 2500 vertical feet.

above junction

I carried my axe in the same hand as a ski pole (I know I need to get a whippet, but I've spent so much money on gear already this year). I don't know if I could have gotten poles out of the way quick enough to arrest if I needed to, but it gave me some security. In reality, the snow was soft enough and slope moderate enough that I'm sure I could have stopped a fall without it. Gabriel thought there was more danger of me poking the axe in the gut than having a long sliding fall... probably true.

still above junction

Gabriel rode with ice tool in hand.

Gabriel riding to safe zone by me

The snow was getting very soft lower in the line. Just as I felt I was getting the hang of skiing the wet heavy stuff....

lower headwall came the wet slough and roller balls.

base of main fork

It was time to get off the slope. The sun was heating everything up too much. We had debated between a 4:30 and 5:30 a.m. start and opted for 5:30. 4:30 would have been better.

tracks and wet debris observed from bench

Looking back at tracks... and slough.

base of headwall

I'm starting to imagine how a dog must feel after having marked their territory. I know why so many ski trip reports have pictures looking back at the tracks on the slope. There is a certain pride in looking at the curves one just carved into a pristine face. I marked that mountain. Yes, those tracks are mine. Actually I think these tracks are Gabriel's... but its a great picture.

lower headwall

There was plenty of dry tooling with skins on across the several patches of dirt and creek crossings on the road back to civilization. I was too tired to take skis off...let's just get to the jeep. I still haven't looked at the edges or skins to check for damage.
lowest creek crossing

Goals accomplished are a wonderful thing.

Thanks Gabriel for a fine day... sorry I called you Jesus.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions

Great job
05/24/2013 12:54
Certainly one of the best 14er ski lines in the state. Congrats!


05/24/2013 16:35
I'd call the Tuning Fork a classic too. 3000' unbroken vertical!


Creek crossings with skis
05/24/2013 17:40
Is a skill and a state of mind. The damage : effort ratio favors the skier, nothing more than a few scratches- nothing a quick tune can't fix. My buddy and I call it ”Company Car(ing)” your skis. Depending on the level of care for your skis, or your sense of humor - every time you hit an obstacle in the backcountry, just say out loud the words ”Company Car” and all is well.

Looks like solid conditions!

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