North Face Ski Descent
Mod. Snow R
|3,105 page views|
|Type: ||Snow, Alpine, 3000'|
|FA: ||Unkown Old Classic|
|Season: ||Late spring and early summer|
|Submitted By: ||Ken Trout on May 10, 2003|
Kirk Miller starting the face in early August, 150...
Torrey's "Big Ol' Strip of Snow" is visible from Interstate 70 at the Bakersville exit. The Tuning Fork is another name that gets used. About 1,000 meters of ski descent are possible.
Hike or skin the road from the Grizzly Creek road up to the Grays Peak Trailhead. If there is enough snow, leave the trail at the footbridge and skin up the creek (see map photo). After getting back on the trail at the wilderness sign, it's best to take off the skis and hike the trail from here to the Grays-Torrys saddle, then up Torreys southeast ridge to the summit.
Unlike Dead Dog or Main Face, there is a short hike down to The Big Ol' Strip of Snow. Walk down the ridge towards Grizzly Peak, until you see the run. The summer photo is there to help you estimate how much to hike down the summit ridge. A short downclimb on loose talus leads to the snow. No natural ledges to help with clicking in. There are usually a few warm-up turns before the crux, 40+ degree, choke (See Kirk Miller Photo).
Kicking steps up Torreys' north face is a great workout but not recommendable because of rock fall.
Check out the funky map/photo for other options.
Either a whippet for skiers or ice axe for riders. But the top of the face is steep enough that in some conditions a huge, deadly, fall is possible. My worst memory is of a thin surface crust that supports skiers but lets a whippet rip through easily.
BETA PHOTO: Taken 5/18/03 from Mt. Sniktau, "the tuning fork" ...
Heading down to the Kelso Gulch half-pipe.
the first few turns into the cooly...6.14.03
Rippin' pow at the end of April.
A glorious sunrise in the high country.
Pencil lines and arrows are on all the gullies I'v...
Summer conditions. The summit is left of the high...
Top of the North Face routes. Is it really JUNE 1...
Scott ready to drop into Tuning Fork.
|Comments on North Face Ski Descent
|By George Bell|
From: Boulder, CO
May 12, 2003
I agree this is a 3 star descent. You can see the ski descents on Torrey's NW side from I70, this can be a good way to gauge what kind of condition they are in. I have only done the western descent in June, I didn't realize they were still skiiable in August.
In the spring, you may want to wait until the road to the Gray/Torreys trailhead is snow free (drivable), otherwise the approach is much longer. I'm not sure when this happens, I don't know if it is drivable now (May 12th). It is not hard to do the ski descent without a car shuttle, as the two trailheads are not far apart. Particularly in early season, you can ski down some of the Grizzly Gulch road, and hike (or hitchhike) from the junction back to your car.
|By George Bell|
From: Boulder, CO
May 12, 2003
Also, we approached this ski descent by climbing Kelso Ridge. I would not recommend this carrying skis.
|By Willie Mein|
May 13, 2003
Nice addition to the site. All these ski variations are excellent and very accesible. If you find yourself on the summit before the N side softens up, you can ski one of the excellent east side shots (Dead Dog, East Face, ..) early when they get the sun, and then hike back up for the N decent. This makes for a big morning, especially if you don't have a shuttle, nobody gives you a ride because you smell, and then you have to jog up the road two more miles back to the trailhead and your car ..... Stash a pair of sneakers at the junction (just in case) if you are planning to hitch. By the time you need a ride, most folks will be driving down from the trailhead, not up.
|By George Bell|
From: Boulder, CO
May 19, 2003
As of 5/18/03, there is still tons of snow on the road up there. You have to start at the interstate exit.
|By Scott Thompson|
Jun 17, 2003
Uh, oh...now we've got ski descents on cb.com? this could be trouble.
This IS a fantastic descent! at least 5 stars. an axe is nice for the bit of downclimbing to get to the snow; its a bit icy and steep with exposure. the descent skis more like an open snowfield rather than a chute, so you can really let it go if you want; also, this eliminates the inevitable runnels associated with true couliors, Dead Dog for example, which make the skiing a tad more difficult. it was in primo condition on 6.14.03
the NE face is also skiiable, is rumored to be excellent, and looks stellar!
|By Brad Bond|
Jun 18, 2003
I've skied the North Face twice in the past month and found it to be one of the best I've ever done. We were unable to find a way to drive all the way up Grizzly Gulch. The road ended at a mine. From there, walk back down the road about 100 feet and find a footbridge that crosses the creek and takes you up the hill to another road that leads up-vally to the couloirs(about a half hour). This road didn't look like it had seen much vehicle traffic. We hiked up and descended the obvious huge couloir that splits into three fingers at the top and lies just north of the tuning fork -- crampons, axe, etc. were not needed. The skiers right of the three fingers drops in off the ridge exactly opposite of Dead Dog and is the steepest, probably pushing 50 degrees at the top. The first time we skied it the snow never froze overnight and the conditions were actually perfect; the second time it froze, but remained bulletproof off the summit making those first turns rather terrifying.
|By Lee Smith|
May 30, 2004
On Thursday, 5/27/04, I was downclimbing this route after a solo summit. A large rock (think small microwave) that was travelling very very fast (think 70 mph) hit me on the side and top of my left foot. I believe this rock came from high on the route, probably the summit ridge. There was no warning or sound. One second I was wool-gathering and the next...POW!I have seen rockfall here before, especially in the east arm of the tuning fork.Needless to say I had a mini-epic to get myself down the couloir and out the 2.25 mile hike to my truck. I ended up with a foot broken in three places and pretty mangled as well. If the rock had hit me in the head....I am out of action for six weeks and who knows how much recovery time. The moral of the story is geology is always happening. Be careful and vigilant.
|By Lee Smith|
Jun 6, 2004
As near as I can recall, it was about 12:30 or 12:45 pm when the rock hit me. I was @ 800 feet above the stream crossing, near the big white rock outcrop.
I had summited and started down around 11:30 but I stopped for lunch somewhere during that time.
I didn't expect any rockfall. Temps were cool and cloudy. I'm fairly certain this was a "natural" rockfall since I didn't see any other people or cars all day.
|By Joe Collins|
Jul 1, 2004
I skied the right couloir (skier's left) of the tuning fork today. The conditions were surprisingly variable for this time of year. The lower two-thirds of the couloir was excellent hero corn. The top of the couloir was covered in awful semi-consolidated slightly-crusty stuff ontop of hardpack, knee-deep in some leeward protected pockets, which must be recent accumulation. Several nearby peaks have fresh snowfall, with the Mt Evans massif having fresh snow down to below 13000 ft. I found that the best skiing in the upper couloir was on top of recent wet-slide chunks, where the snow was at least consistent. This decent will be in for at least several more weeks, so get it while its still here.
The left branch looks like it's almost had it for the year, with the lower constriction at the junction of the left/right forks nearly melted out. The section above this looks like a "quarter-pipe" where a skier would probably have to ski an annoying double fall line. This, along with the weird snow conditions, made the choice of the right fork a no-brainer.
A high-clearance 4WD vehicle deposits you directly below the tuning fork in Grizzly Gulch. To get on the correct road, take the smaller 4WD road on the right at the junction by the old mill. This road crosses a creek just after the junction. The road is gnarly in parts and took this 4WD-neophyte about 25 minutes to drive the 2 miles to its end. Wouldn't be that much slower to walk.
Another great ski decent which is longer than the tuning forks is on the north side of Buffalo Mountain. In May, you get about 3000 feet of skiing with a relatively mellow slog to the top. British Columbia quality! It's over 1000 feet lower than Torrey's so it's probably melted out by now, but it's typically skiable much earlier than the tuning forks.
|By Brian Milhaupt|
From: Golden, CO
Jul 9, 2004
Did the tuning fork descent on 6/28/04 with 2" of fresh snow. We stayed skiers right and had to cross some rock 2/3 of the way down. The best approach is from the grays/torreys trailhead and as George mentioned earlier it is best to leave a car at the Grizzly gulch junction and hitch a ride up to the trailhead in the morning as everybody will be driving down the hill in the afternoon and the 2 mile hike back up to the trailhead is a bummer.
|By Jason Kaplan|
From: Glenwood ,Co
Apr 30, 2007
Ripped the Tuning Fork up on Saturday, an epic day with a sick line on grizzly followed by climbing the north face on Torrey's to ski the steeper lines lookers left of the Tuning Fork.