A strong appetite, average palate, and weak writing, mixed with outdoor adventure.

A strong appetite, average palate, and weak writing, mixed with outdoor adventure.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Dead Dog Couloir

  • Route: Dead Dog Couloir to Torreys and then standard traverse to Grays
  • Distance: ~6.5 miles
  • Elevation Gain: ~3,600
  • Start time: 5:15 AM
  • Time: 6.5 hours
  • Climbers: Alan, Jen, Paavo and Sandy
Brimming with confidence from the previous week’s snow climb we chose to tackle a route that I had passed many times, but I had always found it too intimidating to climb, the Dead Dog Couloir. The couloir rises 1,200 from the valley floor and cleaves the eastern face of Torrey’s Peak, tying into the Kelso Ridge just below the summit. Averaging ~40 degrees, the Dead Dog offers a solid challenge that bypasses the anthill feel of the standard route.
Alarms were set for 4:15, but in an occurrence so common it cannot even be called a cruel twist of fate, I awoke at 4:06. Awoke might even be a bit of hyperbole as the night was a series of small naps and a lot of tossing and turning. Given the fruitless nature of the night’s sleep it was a relief to get up and gear up for something concrete.
Under the pink clouds of dawn, and the cloud capped presence of Grays Peak, we began our hike upvalley.
The wildflowers are beginning to pepper the tundra with their bright hues. Their delicate nature and beauty is contrasted by the barren landscape in which they dwell. These plants overcome adversity and thrive in an environment that would kill 99% of known vegetation. It is a Darwinistic Libertarian dream come true.
We reached the base of the couloir in ~1 hour, strapped on crampons, threw back some calories and traded the valley floor for the steep flanks of Torreys Peak. Alan led a majority of the of the couloir. This may not sound like much, but the guy on the front of the ‘couloir peloton’ is kicking steps for everyone else. This means that Alan is kicking 3 times as much as the rest of us, so we basically stood around talking about work, politics and how slow our team lead moved! Such is the privilege of the person not going first.
Dead Dog Couloir is dead center, stretching to just right of the summit.
Jen and Paavo several hundred feet above the valley floor.
Alan leading the way, meaning he is kicking all the steps
We had blue skies above, but clouds were leaping off the backside of Gray’s as though it were a game of atmospheric hopscotch. They were nonthreatening though so we continued our upward struggle against gravity.
Cloud cover extending from Grays like a bad combover
Paavo and Jen climb through the gloaming
From the the top of the couloir it is a short jaunt through rarified air to the summit. In a show of bravado or genius, I am not sure which, Alan hauled up a growler of amber ale from Tommyknocker. The best part? A group sharing a few 12 oz cans of beer who look over as I hoist a 1/2 gallon of microbrewed goodness in cheers!
Uncap that, it is time for drinks!
The 14,000 foot beer throwdown!
From the summit of Torreys it is a short drop down the saddle and then a quick ascent of Grays for the second 14er of the day. Of course short and quick is predicated on athleticism, and after having ascended the Dead Dog half of our group was not moving fast. Yet, with gentle plodding and not so gentle prodding we all gained the summit.
Instant headache
See that snow in the picture above. We ran down. We slid down. We plunge stepped. We post-holed. In short, we dropped a lot of vertical feet grinning to a point that makes the Cheshire Cat smiling effort melancholic.
Jen throwing up some snow on her glissade
Throw your axe in the air…
To hell with 4:15 wake up calls
The team members had a different tolerance for the temperature.
Per the norm we had our post-summit celebratory shot. And per the norm, we showed an impressive amount of non-choreography. Despite our shortcoming as a dance troupe I would not hesitate to head into technical terrain with this group.

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