TR: Tuning Forks, Torrey’s Peak 4.10.15

While we were discussing our plans to ski the Grizzly couloir, I checked out the route on Google Earth, like I often do. Something quickly jumped out at me. The base of the Grizzly couloir was basically the same location as the base of the Tuning Forks “couloir on the nearby fourteener Torrey’s Peak. It would only make sense, I said, if we did both routes. I mean, if we were getting up at 3am, driving 3 hours to Summit County, and then driving home, it would only make sense if we got the most bang for our buck, so to speak.

Once we finished skiing Grizzly, we stayed high on a bench below the Tuning Forks. We hadn’t exactly gotten an “alpine start” to our day, so it was already 2:30pm before we started transitioning- and the weather was mediocre at best. “Are we really going for it?” I thought, but surprisingly everyone seemed up for it. It’s so easy to make excuses and not try things, both in life and on a mountainside, so I was pleasantly surprised as we started cramponing up.
Climbing the Tuning Forks

The Tuning Forks are huge by Colorado standards. Rising 3,000′ from the valley to the summit, at an average angle of around 36 degrees or so, this climb doesn’t go by quickly, especially on the second peak of the day. A few snow squalls came through, but we knew the skiing would be good, so we kept going. Then the skies started to clear.

Loveland Pass and the Gore Range

Looking towards the Gore range

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TR: Grizzly Couloir (10 April 2015)

After descending the Emperor on Torreys, completing my 2nd fourteener ski descent, I stood on the Grizzly Gulch road and giggled in excitement of what my fourteener project held in store for me. Then, my smiling eyes looked upward and gazed upon the grace of the Grizzly Couloir. I vowed to ski it some day. But, my focus remained on completing my fourteener project. So, the Grizzly Couloir would have to wait.

Grizzly Peak and Grizzly couloir

Frank & Brittany pose with Grizzly Peak and the Grizzly Couloir behind.

That was nearly 9 years ago – before I skied 52 more fourteeners, before I even met Frank, and before I moved to Crested Butte. During that time, the Grizzly Couloir still stood there, waiting. It was time to get it done.

Frank and I met up with Summit County local Gary Fondl, on our way for yet another adventure.
Backcountry skiing on Grizzly Couloir

As you can see in the previous photo, Grizzly couloir is guarded by a massive cornice. I am told that there are sneak arounds some years, and plenty of options for ascending Grizzly Peak. But rather than having to navigate around the cornice, we opted to climb below the cornice, planning to stop just below it to transition for our ski. The climb was fun.
Climbing Grizzly Couloir to go backcountry skiing.

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14er TBT: Grays Peak (12 May 2007)

This is part of an ongoing series re-telling Brittany’s fourteener-skiing story. Look for the reports every Thursday, as part of a Throwback Thursday theme.

Work and inclement weather were providing some barriers to getting fourteeners done. I had to think creatively. After skiing Mount Bierstadt after work, I was looking to see if I could get one done before work. Grays Peak fit the bill. I headed out solo on this mission. Gray’s ended up being my 22nd fourteener skied, and the only one I would do solo. Below is a slightly modified version of my original trip report.

Skiing a 14er Before Work
Grays Peak
Brittany, and her shadow

After a weekend of crappy weather, I was antsy to get out and this weekend’s weather was looking much better. But, I was scheduled to work all weekend at my second job, and outdoor shop. I didn’t have to be at work until 10 am so I decided to make something happen. I settled on Grays peak knowing it was a relatively easy ski and I’d been to that basin before so I knew I wouldn’t get lost in the dark. I’d checked out the trailhead the weekend before and knew you couldn’t really get up the road past Bakerville at 9,800 ft so I knew it was going to be longer than usual. “Okay, so I have to work at 10, and it’s an hour and a half drive from Gray’s…. so…. looks like I’ll be hiking at night!” So there it was. My plan was to leave the car at 1 am.

When I got to Bakerville the snow was frozen despite the temperatures reading 39 degrees. It was a clear night. It was possible to drive up the road a ways on the frozen snow but I opted not to do that. I didn’t want to get my car stuck should the snow collapse, nor did I want to go sliding into a tree or something. So I parked at Bakerville.

I left my car at 1 am.
Car parked and ready to ski on Grays Peak.

And I hiked on the road for quite a while in the dark
Grays Peak sign near Bakerville

Skinning up the road was easy, but seemed to take a while because I was alone, and it was dark. I was able to skin most of the way up the road except for a stretch that was not more than a half mile long.

Having skied Torrey’s before, I was familiar with the route to Gray’s. So, even though I could see only outlines of the mountains, I could generally find my way just find.

I generally followed the standard summer route to the top of Gray’s. The snow had a hard freeze on top, after melting earlier that day. This made skinning difficult at times. Near the summit, I was frustrated with skinning and opted to boot pack the last few hundred feet of the route. By then, I was seeing the first glimpses of twilight.

I reached the summit just in time to view the most beautiful sunrise. Sunrises are always better when earned, and when seen from the top of the world!
Sunrise on top of Grays Peak

Sunrise on top of Grays Peak

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Two Sided Owen Tour 4.4.15

On closing weekend, I normally like to ride the lifts, rather than ski the backcountry. It only makes sense to get the last “free” vertical of the year. But with the ski area limping to the finish line this year, good snow in the backcountry seemed like a much better choice for Crested Butte spring skiing. We headed up towards Mount Owen with designs on the South side, something that Brittany had never skied and I hadn’t skied since the 205cm skinny ski days of the late 90’s.
South face Mount Owen Crested Butte

Joining us were Tom Runcie, exactly one year removed from a bad ankle injury, and Alex Reidman. Despite a minor mishap along the way, we made good time towards the summit.
South ridge Mount Owen

For those of you who have never been up this ridge, here’s a quick piece of advice- stay off the snow. The cornices here grow into massive blocks of snow, and they start literally inches away from solid ground. In any case, Tom and I continued to the actual summit and quickly decided that we would head down the North side instead. The unexpectedly good powder conditions on the summit spine just looked too good:

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