14er TBT: Pyramid Peak, Landry Line Ski (5 May 2011)

This is part of an ongoing series re-telling Brittany’s fourteener-skiing story. Look for the reports every Thursday, as part of a Throwback Thursday theme.


After skiing Mount Wilson in May 2010, I had only two fourteeners left to ski to finish my project. But, Pyramid Peak was no longer in condition, so I had to put my finishing plans on hold. Fast forward to one season later, and I awaited not-so-patiently for a weather window to open in April. That window never appeared in April, and I was getting worried that I wouldn’t be able to finish. I was beginning to feel the pressure of finishing, and it was weighing on me heavily. I just wanted to wrap up this project. So, when a promising high pressure rolled in during the beginning of May, I jumped on it. It was time to get Pyramid Peak done!

Below is a slightly modified version of my report for skiing Mount Wilson, which would become my 52nd fourteener skied.


I’ve been antsy since April 1st. Pyramid Peak was the road block in my five year goal of skiing all of Colorado’s fourteeners. One of the most intimidating of the fourteeners, it is the only one I’ve had to attempt more than twice, and I was hoping that the third time was the charm. But April never brought the window I was looking for. Winter simply wouldn’t leave. Pow day was followed after pow day. Spring wasn’t ready to arrive and I was left wondering if the window would shut before it ever opened. I kept a constant eye on the weather, and repeatedly watched high pressure after high pressure forecasted in the long term crumble into a winter storm warning. I’ll admit it, I was stressed, and even grumpy at times. The pressure of getting my last two fourteeners done was weighing on me.
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Photo courtesy of Caleb Wray

So, when the weather window looked like it was going to open, I called Jordan White– our faithful Aspen-valley friend. He provided me with the necessary beta regarding the Maroon Lake road as well as his opinion on the local snowpack. We rounded up a crew- Matt Kamper, Caleb Wray, and Frank – an excellent mix of strong climbers and strong skiers. And my thoughts were consumed for days about skiing this peak. Am I ready? Because of repeated storm systems, I’ve had so few ski mountaineering days this year…. I can count the times I’ve boot packed this season on one hand and my crampons have been used exactly twice.

On Tuesday, we decided Thursday would be the day. And of course, my mind would not stop racing. I woke up at 3 am on Tuesday night in a cold sweat and was unable to sleep the rest of the night, much to my disappointment. I knew I needed the sleep- I did not want to repeat my first Pyramid attempt where I was forced to turn around because I was falling asleep while climbing. That’s why I nearly cried when Frank and I packed up the car at 6 pm on Wednesday, knowing it would take over four hours to get to Aspen and we had a 1:00 wake up time. Do the math for that one and you’ll find that there are less than 3 hours of time built in for “sleep”. But, who can really sleep the night before a line like this. “I don’t know if I can do this on three hours of sleep in two nights,” I said to Frank. “But, you have to,” he replied. “Okay.” I knew he was right.

Of course, everything took longer than it should have and we didn’t even make it to Aspen. We pulled over somewhere on the road west of Carbondale and “slept” for a couple of hours there before waking up at a time that most people call night, but we were calling it morning. We met up with Jordan, Caleb, and Matt at Aspen Highlands and made our way to the trailhead.

Snowmobiling on a road in the dark is one thing. But, snowmobiling for a mile and a half on pavement with plowed banks beside you is not only frustrating, but silly. Overheating was an issue and we were thankful when we reached unplowed road.

We left our snowmobiles a little bit before 4 am at Maroon Lake and made our way toward the couloir that led to the northern amphitheater on Pyramid. The skies were clear and it was cold. “You’re moving fast,” Jordan commented. “Well yeah, we gotta DO this thing!” I knew today was going to be the day. Three hours of sleep for the last two nights didn’t matter anymore. I’d found some strength deep inside that I didn’t know I had, and it was carrying me through this. It was my dream to ski this and I was living it. I was dreaming and living at the same time.

First light hit on our way up the couloir, as we were transitioning from skinning to boot packing.
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Booting was frustrating up the northern couloir. The snow pack had not yet transitioned to spring. It was still winter there. The first sunlight that pierced the north face of Pyramid was alarming.
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Photo courtesy of Jordan White

And we cruised through the amphitheater. We found better snow on the northwest face and made good time gaining the northeast ridge.
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Photo courtesy of Jordan White

Frank and I reaching the saddle of the north east ridge.
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Photo courtesy of Jordan White

The saddle offers the first view of the Landry line itself. Last year, I stood on this saddle in mid-May but was forced to turn around due to uncooperative weather. I was hoping it would look less intimidating this time around. But that was not the case.
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TR: North Routt Backcountry Skiing – Hahns Peak & Farwell Mountain

This winter, we spent some time up in the Steamboat area and surrounding backcountry. Similar to Crested Butte, much of the best backcountry skiing is best accessed by snowmobile. But, we did find a few worthy non-sled backcountry skiing options on Hahns Peak and Farwell Mountain.

Hahns Peak (13 Feb 2016)

Although Hahns Peak doesn’t have a very impressive elevation, by Colorado standards, it is certainly one of the more prominent peaks in the North Routt area. It beckons backcountry skiers.
Hahns Peak in North Routt Colorado.

We generally stuck to the typical summer route for the climb.
Backcountry skiing Hahs Peak in North Routt, near Steamboat Springs, CO.

Colin, Frank, and I enjoyed good views of Hahns throughout the climb.
Backcountry skiing Hahs Peak in North Routt, near Steamboat Springs, CO.

Backcountry skiing Hahs Peak in North Routt, near Steamboat Springs, CO.

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Book Review: Teton Skiing: A History And Guide To The Teton Range

[Editor’s note: This is a repost from an old article I wrote before our blogs were combined.]

During my trip to the Tetons last spring I was, needless to say, pretty excited about future ski mountaineering trips to the Jackson area. We were able to ski the classic Skillet Glacier route on Mount Moran as well as the Middle Teton, but obviously that only scratches the surface of what is available.

So when we were in Jackson, I hunted down and found a copy of Thomas Turiano’s Teton Skiing: A History & Guide To The Teton Range. Once home, I devoured the book with thoughts of skiing many of the lines within the book. The major landmark lines tend to have a thorough recounting of the first descent, while minor lines often have no more than a sentence or two. Rather than proclaim descents as “first descents”, this book simply calls them “Early Descents”, which is an easy way of avoiding any controversies as to who really skied what first. The amount of information packed into this book is simply astounding, with every conceivable peak and subpeak mentioned to some degree.
Book Review: Teton Skiing: A History And Guide To The Teton Range

As a guidebook, very little information is actually given for the routes. While skiers accustomed to step-by-step climbing instructions may be dismayed, this book’s format leaves skiers to discover the routes for themselves. Trailhead directions could be more clear, however.
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Park Cone North Couloir 4.16.16

Mid April’s big storm was an upslope, which meant that areas like the Front Range and Sangre de Cristos got a huge dose of snow. Upslopes also mean that in our neck of the woods, we get mostly skunked when the winds come out of the east. Thankfully, however, we can reach the Sawatch range on the eastern side of our zone, so rather than ski to our west, we headed east to a mountain that we’ve driven by hundreds of times, but had never skied- Park Cone.

Sitting on the southwest side of Taylor Park, Park Cone sits alone, largely unconnected to other mountains. Our friend Jarrett Luttrell had skied Park Cone a bunch, and Ben McShan came along for the ride as well. We almost didn’t make it up Park Cone. The new snow had insulated the manky mush below, making for waist deep trail breaking at times. A thousand feet higher the snow finally became supportable, while the snow was cranking up again:
skinning park cone

I’m sure the views from the summit are some of the best around, but we only saw fog, wind, and snow. Thankfully our route was well defined and it was looking good while Jarrett made his first turns:
skiing park cone taylor park

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