This day of sking had two very memorable parts to it. The first is that it is still my best day of backcountry sking I've done and it's also the day that I ate the biggest piece of humble pie I've ever seen.
A little background for the trip. I'd been living in Breckenridge, CO for two ski seasons and had skied over 300 days in two years. I considered myself a pretty good skier, atleast compared to those at the resort areas. In my second season I had just started delving into backcountry sking with descents of the easier peaks in the area including Quandry. So when my friend Eric asked me at work if I'd like to join his group of friends for a ski descent of Torreys Peak, I replied yes without asking any details. I assumed we'd just ski down the standard route or perhaps even Dead Dog Couloir. Boy was I in for a suprise.
I met Eric in town early the next morning and got a ride to the Stevens Gulch trailhead around daylight. When I got there and saw the rest of the group, I realized that I was the youngest by over 25 years. At this point I envisioned my self waiting on a bunch of old folks both climbing up and sking down.
We all headed out on the Standard route with clear skies above. As we climbed I found that I was neither at the front of the pack or the back. These old guys were super fit. As we climbed along I began to talk with each of the guys and found out that this trip was actually what they called the 19th Annual Han's and Frans Pump You Up Ski Classic. It turned out that this group of guys has climbed and skied Torreys Peak each year for the past 19 years. It's at this point that I began to wonder.
As the climb proceeded the clouds moved in and it began to snow. The winds picked up and by the time we reached the summit it was total white out. I assumed this was the end of the trip, so I was very suprised when I got to the top and several of the guys were putting on there skis.
Once we all were ready the lead guy, to my suprise, faced North and dissappeared into the clouds down a very steep slope. It was at this time that I realized that we were sking the Emporer. This is the steep snow class 3 chute one can see from the interstate. I began to worry but the guys comforted me and told me that I'd be alright as long as I didn't fall or go too far right. I'm not sure that really helped my feelings but I appreciated the effort.
The start of the descent consisted of hop turns on very steep snow in a couloir about 12 feet wide in some spots. Several spots required us to ski one at the time so that we didn't have a pile up. As we continued to ski down I began to loosen up and the sun eventually came out. Lower down the slope widened and became less steep making for great sking. The snow conditions allowed us to ski from the summit, 3000+ feet down into Grizzly Gulch.
As I said this is still one of the best ski descents I've done of the high peaks and it gave me a new outlook on older climbers/skiers. I also learned to ask questions before saying yes to a trip.
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