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Emperor Couloir

  4.7 ( 6 ) Favorite


1.1 mile 1.8 kilometer point to point
Ski Line


Ascent: 0' 0 m
Descent: -3,132' -955 m
High: 14,239' 4,340 m
Low: 11,107' 3,385 m


Avg Slope: 52% (27°)
Max Slope: 90% (42°)
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Trail shared by claytown

Avalanche risk for Jul 10, 2019: Unknown

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Full forecast for CAIC: Front Range Zone — Brought to you by CO Avalanche Information Center

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Another classic, steep couloir from the summit of Torreys Peak that is 3k' of fun.

Type: Backcountry or Sidecountry
The ridge from Grizzly > Torreys > Grays > Edwards is the continental divide and separates Clear Creek County from Summit County. I believe everything to the Northeast is Clear Creek Ranger District (Arapaho NF) and to the Southwest is Dillon Ranger District (White River NF).

Need to Know

Depending on snow cover there are three trailheads. If there's a lot of snow (winter) you might have to park all the way at the bottom and skin the road for a long time. This added distance would make for a long day. Then again if it's winter and this much snow, you might consider other options.

Most of the season you'll park at the TH near the NE corner of the base of Kelso. Park at a pullout on the right. This is convenient since you'll ski directly back to your car. If you choose to take the direct approach (west up Grizzly Gulch on N side of Kelso) you'll be booting up the couloir.

It's about another 1.8 miles to the upper trailhead. Later in the season you could park there. If taking the summer approach to grays & torreys (Stevens Gulch), you'll walk back to your car at the end of the day but you could leave all of the gear so it wouldn't be too bad.


The North Face of Torreys is known for having some of the longest backcountry runs in the state. Emperor Couloir is an unquestionable classic with steep turns, narrow chokes, and places to open it up along the 3,000' descent.

Since the line is between 14k and 11k and north facing, it can hold powder a little longer in spring and can be skied a couple of hours later than something like Dead Dog. We skied it on May 11, 2017 after the trailhead got a dusting and it was excellent powder the whole way.

For the approach, you can either take the summer trail to the saddle between Grays & Torreys or you can ski west along the north side of Kelso to get to the base and boot straight up it.

There is a left and a right fork start, both of which can be accessed from the summit of Torreys. I have only skied the right start (skiers right). Ski down the summit ridge until you are atop the goods. It starts out with some ~40 degree skiing to a short left dogleg.

The next section isn't quite as steep but remains somewhat narrow and has a tighter choke at the end which could be a little rocky. Cutting out left at the bottom of this choke yields is a nice place to end the second pitch. The next pitch will have you hooting and hollering down a straight shot that's a little wider and less steep. From here you can continue straight down the gut or traverse out left a ways to the wide open snowfields below the left fork start, where you can open it up and enjoy the ride.

History & Background

I believe this line is written up in Fritz Sperry's MakingTurns in Colorado’s Front Range Volume 1: South of Interstate 70

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May 20, 2018
Drew Beling
May 14, 2017
Pat Murphy
May 11, 2017
May powder conditions on a great line! 9.3mi — 5h 48m

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  4.7 from 6 votes


  4.7 from 6 votes
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