(Last Updated On: September 28, 2009)
I’m in the process of updating my 14er TR’s and getting them all here on 14erskiers.com. I never really wrote up a good account of this one, since Pyramid was well before I owned a digital camera. I did shoot video, and perhaps at some point I’ll be able to get the video and helmetcam into a little video clip that I could put on youtube. Jeremy Wegner shot a few photos, but they were with a throw-away camera and there weren’t too many of them. Still, I’ll be able to put a couple of them up.
We drove to Aspen and the winter closure at the T-Lazy 7 ranch. Joining me were Sean Crossen, who was still trying to complete his own 14er skiing goals, plus Jeremy Wegner, John Jasper, and Pete Sowar. We had been contemplating another go at Capitol, which we had tried a week or so beforehand, but the lure of Pyramid was just as high or higher than doing another slog up to Capitol.
After camping right on the road at the trailhead, we got going at dark:thirty o’clock and fired up the snowmobiles. Pete and I were tandeming on one sled while towing Jasper, and we forgot all about him and towed him across some sections of melted-out asphalt. We geared up at Maroon lake and headed upvalley. We soon left the valley, a little before the standard Pyramid summer trail, since a tree chute goes straight up and into the cirque. We were surprised to see another snowmobile head up the valley, but thankfully they were headed to North Maroon. The cirque under the North face of Pyramid is a powerful place, and we were lucky enough to see it just as dawn was hitting.
We put the crampons on and started up the easy couloirs to reach the Northeast ridge at 13,000′. Looking up at the remaining thousand feet from the col remains one of the most memorable, scary, and exciting moments of my ski career. Pyramid looks truly amazing from there. The ridge quickly gains exposure on both sides, but the climbing wasn’t terribly difficult and the snow conditions were excellent. Despite the Chris Davenport/Ted Mahon/Neil Beidleman ascent and descent of this route just a week earlier, the mountain had already erased all of their tracks and we were on our own to find our way through the small cliffbands near the summit that are the cruxes of this route. This is the only photo I have of the ascent:
The final cliffband slowed us down for a bit, and I tried to traverse around it on the left (East) side, but this sent me into increasingly rotten snow with a ton of exposure. I worked my way back and discovered that the rest of the group was going straight up the middle of the cliff. The interesting thing about that was that Davenport’s TR said that he and Ted did the exact same thing! There was one tricky drytool move and the next thing we knew, we were on the top.
Unfortunately, I don’t have a single photo of the descent. Right off the top, the first turn is well over 50 degrees and uncomfortably close to some huge cliffs. The snow was great though- somewhat powdery at times and corn snow in others. We continued making our way down, which took a while considering the large group we had. Near the bottom of the main couloir, we had to go right through a pillowy section where Chris Landry had downclimbed way back in 1978 during his first descent. This section was fun as well, and after that we had hero corn for a couple thousand feet straight to the valley floor.
When people ask me which fourteener was my favorite one to ski, I don’t need to hesitate- this was it. There are very few routes in Colorado that can match its’ aesthetic quality, its’ 4,000′ size, or its’ overall steepness. Even skiers in BC or Alaska could visit Colorado and be blown away by the quality of this route. It’s amazing not only that this route laid dormant for nearly 30 years, but also amazing that this route has been skied by quite a few groups since the Davenport party re-opened the route a week before we skied it.