Classic Descent: Dead Dog Couloir, Torreys Peak

Front Range skiers looking to start doing extreme skiing have an excellent challenge an hour from Denver in the Dead Dog Couloir on Torreys Peak. Chris Davenport, in his Ski the 14ers project, descended the Dead Dog in late February in an unusually stable winter snow cycle. Most people trying the Dead Dog wait till the spring when the snowpack is more stable, as the steep 50 degree upper slopes from the summit are prone to avalanche.

Torreys is 14,267 feet high and is a popular climb for many people's first 14er, and can be combined with an ascent of Grays Peak. You can catch a glimpse of it from the Bakerville exit on I-70.

The Dead Dog splits the east face of the peak, and is accessed via the Stevens Gulch Trailhead off I-70. A 1.5 to two hour hike will bring you to the base of the couloir at 12,000 feet. Ascend the couloir, paying attention to snow conditions and looking for safe zones to ski to that are protected from avalanche.

The Dead Dog has an average angle of about 40 degrees. The couloir is wide at the bottom, narrowing at the top, and hits the Kelso Ridge just shy of the summit. It is possible, under certain snow conditions, to ski directly off the summit of Torreys into the Dead Dog.

Here is a video of an April ski descent to whet your appetite for a ski of the Dead Dog.

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Candace Horgan