Peak(s):  Torreys Peak  -  14,267 feet
Date Posted:  05/21/2015
Modified:  05/22/2015
Date Climbed:   05/16/2015
Author:  globreal
 Off Key? Try a Tuning Fork!   

Torrey's Peak as seen at sunrise from the Grizzly Gulch fork

Torrey's Peak-14,267 feet
Climb Date: 16 May, 2015
Crew: Paul Perea (Perea) Chris Tomer (Weather Wizard), Eric Tishner, Britt Jones (me)
Mileage: 14.5 miles approximate
Vertical Feet: 4,900 approximate
Round Trip time: 6:45
Trailhead: Steve's Gulch @ Grizzly Gulch fork 1.1 miles above the Winter trailhead at I-70 (exit 221/Bakersville exit)

The Tuning Fork couloir on the northwest face of Torreys Peak wasn't a couloir I even knew about. My long time climbing buddy, Paul Perea, invited me to join his Peru training team...and I was thrilled to join in.

Paul, Erik, and "Tomer," (as everyone calls him), are training to go climb Huascaran Sur, 22,200, and Chopicalqui, 20,800 this July down in Peru. I am training to go climb Rainier in late June. Good reasons for a Saturday workout up the "Tuning Fork." This route is a 3,000 vertical snow climb; one of the longest vertical couloirs in the state. And, it's close to the Denver/front range area, so the driving time is nice and short.

From what I learned about the Tuning Fork is that this is one of the most skied routes on a 14er. Many people come to climb and then ski it, due to it's loooong vertical distance and then with a safe cliffs to go over or rock yard at the bottom!

Our group all met at the I-70 Park N Ride, and then carpooled up to the Bakersville exit/221. When I was up here to climb the Dead Dog couloir two weeks prior:

we had to park right all the way down at the interstate due to deep snow on the Quayle Creek/Steven's Gulch road. I thought for sure we'd have to hike this road again due to massive rains and snows over the past two weeks. However, the snows stayed above 10,000 feet and then things changed quickly down lower. This time we could drive up 1.1 miles to the Grizzly Gulch fork.
The Grizzly Gulch fork is about 10,300

We were on the trail by 6:15am. Since the low overnight temperatures were below freezing, the Grizzle Gulch road was pretty much solid snow for our approach.
No snowshoes required

NOAA forecasted Friday night snow and ugliness up through Saturday. I really expected it to be snowing. However, it helps to check the hourly forecast or have a weather forecaster as a friend....because Tomer told us the weather wasn't coming in until later in the day. I couldn't believe it....we had a bluebird, super sunny, gorgeous morning!
Paul and Erik lead the way with Tomer in tow

We hiked without snowshoes all the way up to our left turn at 11,200.
There she is...The Tuning Fork!

From the truck to this turn it's a little less than 2.5 miles. We were moving quickly and were here at 7:34am or about 1 hour and 20 minutes.
It's just about 2.5 miles in

Jon Kedrowski was suppose to come meet us. However, he was coming from Loveland Pass. We could see his ski tracks down off of Cupid Mnt.
Jon's ski tracks off Cupid

Once we climbed up a couple hundred feet, we stopped for a rest where Tomer and Paul got a clear view of our goal.
Chris Tomer (L) Paul Perea (R)

Erik looking up what we have ahead of us. That's a lot of white stuff!
Erik checking out our route

Tomer and Erik, heads down and cranking it up!
Tuned in to the Tuning Fork!

From the picture, it looks like a nice groomed run at a ski area. It's not!

This is where it's time to talk about being "off key." You can see that there was a soft layer of 4-6 inches of sugar snow. This fresh snow was sitting on a hard-packed base layer.
Soft sugar on hard pack

Normally, hiking in soft snow is not a problem. I have not had to many difficulties climbing couloirs in the past. But for some reason today, I wasn't just singing "off key"...I was singing a different song!! As the slope got steeper, I could not get my crampons to hold. It seemed like 80% of my steps kept sliding back down on me. It was step, slide, and argh! My feet would literally slide 2-3 feet down hill until my arm fully extended and I was stopped by my plunged in axe. It felt like I was exerting three times more energy than usual to get up this thing. Usually, I do pretty good and can keep up with my climbing partners. Today, that was not the case.
I can't keep up!

For my partners, it was just another fun day at the office.
Look what stuck to my ice axe!

Paul-working the phones!

Erik with his nice shiny points and a smile

For me, it was taking all I had to hold on to the side of this mountain. Climbing was laborious, my heart rate was maxed-out, and I could feel this was not going to be a normal day.

At least the weather was cooperating with bright sunshine
Sunshine, on my shoulders, makes me happy....

...and blue skies!
Tomer is a climbing machine!

What a snow climb!

Finally some reprieve came a couple of hundred feet below the ridge crest. We got into some deeper snow and now my feet were not sliding out from under me. It was back to just climbing stairs.
Finally, the snow is deep enough to hold me!

On the ridge, the climbing eased up and we now had our goal in sight but, boy was I sluggish. And something happen to me that has not happened in a long, long time. I bonked! I could tell I had over-exerted myself.
Ridge walking is wonderful!

We finally ran into Jon Kredrowski where he was coming down off of Torrey's. We visited with him and then it was on to our summit.
Chatting with Dr. Jon

Summit bound!

I got ahead of Tomer as he stopped to do some video filming for his Tomer's Trails segment. To view his video, copy and paste this URL into a fresh web page:

But, as he was heading up the final portion of the west ridge, you can see the storms we had heard about, were coming in.
Dark clouds over Tomer

We all made a successful summit bid before the storms arrived. However, on the summit I could tell I was suffering from some mild AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness) as I was a bit nauseous. I've had AMS twice before. It was very early on in my climbing career, before I learned what caused it. The basic idea is that to prevent AMS, SLOW DOWN...don't over exert yourself. Well, I didn't really have a choice with my "wardrobe malfunction." It wasn't that I was going to fast, it just took all I had to make progress.

I learned from a doctor that there are two things to counter AMS, 1. eat/drink even though you won't feel like it. And 2. head to lower elevation. So, I forced myself to eat part of my lunch on the summit and then after our group photo, I started immediately heading down.
Mandatory summit group shot (photo by Chris Tomer)

Within 20 or 30 minutes, all nausea was gone and I was feeling much better.

Once back in the couloir, that soft snow layer made for a sweet glissade! Often the top layer is hard crust that crushes the bum. But today, that powder kept our speed in check and it was just plain fun!

After that glissade, I felt like a giddy school boy!
Total funness! I know...that's not a word. (photo by Paul Perea)

We made it from the summit to the bottom of the basin, dropping that 3,000 feet, in only 45 minutes. Unfortunately, the last little bit isn't steep enough to glissade, so the Peru team had to walk it out.
Heading to the truck

Now for the post-script report and to explain where I had to "change my tune" so to speak. On the technical side, the Tuning Fork helped me realize that either my worn down crampon points were the problem or my boots were. My boots are a leather boot with a soft/bendable sole. Therefore, the front points would not hold in the hard snow layer causing all of my issues today. So, to remedy this, I am buying Steve Gladbach's Grivel crampons from Nona. AND, I have a new pair of boots with a stiff sole, on their way! But....

this is where the story really became amazing for me. Sunday, the day after this climb, I went to church where two things the pastor said, stood out to me.
1. God is with us.
2. God provides.
I pray before every climb (as I did starting out this day) as I invited God to be with us. And that prayer was once again answered. We all had safety and success. However, after this climb I saw how God provides. Many of you know I've had very little work/income in my video production business as of late. Therefore, buying new boots was not in the cards. Regardless, I was talking with Tomer on the hike out, about his boots. He had on these really awesome looking, Scarpa Rebel Pro GTX boots. He explained that they have a carbon fiber shaft in the sole. And they claim that they are "the lightest ice and alpine boot in the world." But at $500 bucks, that just ain't happenin'. So, I thought...

It ended up that this was the week of REI's anniversary sale. One 20% coupon equals $100. Then my wife's brother last Christmas gave me a $250 REI gift card that's been sitting on my dresser just waiting for that special needed item. Then my wife Debi went to bat for me, and makes a call to my Mom. "Hey, wanna help Britt get some new climbing boots for his birthday?" "Sure," said my Mom, "I'll cover the rest.." BAM!! I get these boots for..... ZERO out-of-pocket. Wow! How's that for God providing?!
I share all of this not out of a desire to say hey, look at me, I got some free boots, but to make a couple of points....
1. On occasions, you will have good days in the mountains. And no matter how strong you may be or how good of a climber you are, you can and WILL HAVE BAD DAYS in the mountains. That was the case here for me this day. I WAS humbled.
2. Sometimes, you need to evaluate not only yourself, but occasionally your gear. I was to cheap to purchase new crampons even though mine were worn down and in need of replacing, and new boots just seemed out of my price range. But guess what happened? God provided.

So, that's how I "changed my tune." The Tuning Fork helped to get me back "on key." However, I believe I know where the true source of the re-tuning is coming from.

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights,
James 1:17

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27

Comments or Questions

Love that route
05/22/2015 06:55
Nice job, Britt! Looks like you guys had a great day. I wish every day looked like Pic #19.

Excellent coverage up there. Did you guys happen to dig a snow pit? I’m curious how the different layers compare to what we’ve seen in the Tenmile area and what we saw in the Sangres on Sunday.

BTW, skiing is better than glissading!!!


Image 4
05/22/2015 07:28
Man, the Grizzly Couloir looks so tasty. Cornice doesn’t look as big as usual.


Thank you!
05/22/2015 08:16
I was planning on riding the tuning fork tomorrow (hoping the north aspect blocks the South winds!), appreciate the trip report! Looks like you guys had a good trip up! Do you think a Subaru Impreza could make it to that Y junction?


05/22/2015 09:05
Bill, it was a great day. Kevin Baker doesn’t steal all the bluebird mornings! We did not dig a pit. We saw zero instability. No sluff–off, no cracks, whoomphs, or even roller balls, etc. Yes, I agree…skiing is better. And I would be all over it if I had an AT set up.
Col_Forbin, that Grizzly cornice really looked huge! We all actually commented on it.
aholle88, Yes, a Suby should be able to make it up to the Grizzly Gulch fork. (Unless that road got snow since Saturday.)


Nice, Britt
05/23/2015 06:50
I just GOTTA give that route a shot. Sure looks like fun. Way to push on through, Britt.


Love it
05/31/2015 10:17
Thanks for the report brother. Hope to hit something down there this week!

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