For nearly 15 years now, a handful of friends and I have been planning a solid spring/summer ski descent to cap off our season. Depending on snowpack, the dates have ranged from early May to almost July 4th. For the 2nd time in the last few years, Father’s Day weekend was the plan.
Getting some great beta from a friend that skied the line earlier in the week, we decided to make the trek up to Grizzly Gulch on the north side of Torreys Peak (14,267’) and ski the Emperor Couloir. A very aesthetic line runs from the old Grizzly Gulch 4WD road almost right to the summit, making for a nearly 3,000’ climb and descent. Pulling up to the usual parking area, we considered how sweet it would be to push my new family truckster (a stock Honda Pilot) about 2 miles further along the road and shave off 4 miles RT and several hours from the day. This was about 6:00am.
The day had other ideas. About 1 mile into the drive down the rough but not impassible road, it became obvious that I was driving a minivan in trucks clothing and we got the rig stuck in a small runoff creek with some major mud and silt. For about 2 hours we struggled to free the wheels, add structure for grip and rock the truck out of the spot to no avail. About 8am, 2 friendly folks rolled up in true 4WD vehicle, threw us a tow line and we were out in seconds.
Undeterred, once we got our rig turned around and on the safe side of the obstacle (note that many other true 4WD vehicles passed this spot throughout the day), we parked the truck and got geared up for the adventure. With our start time now looking more like 8:30am, we knew we’d missed our window to summit and ski before the snowpack turned sloppy and unstable. Nonetheless, we headed up the road and to the base of the climb, hoping to get in a 1,000’ or so of climbing and the chance to harvest some nice corn snow on the way down.
Despite not tagging our summit or skiing the entire line, we had a blast. The weather was gorgeous, the valley stunning and the climb and ski a were a ton of fun…check out the pics for a little recap.
We skied pretty much right to the dirt, swapped ski boots for trail shoes and made quick work of the walk back to the truck and short drive back down the 4WD road to the summer trailhead. After some snacks and a beer by the tailgate while taking the in the high alpine views, we motored back to the front range and were settled back in with our families by early afternoon.
A great day in the hills and lesson learned…don’t take your wife’s pseudo SUV on a real 4WD road!!