(Last Updated On: April 20, 2016)
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 seeing Christy Mahon’s name on the Little Bear register earlier in the year, I had this nudging feeling that she was getting close to finishing skiing all of her fourteeners. Suddenly, it seemed like the race was really on to see who could become the first woman to finish skiing all of the Colorado fourteeners.
After skiing Capitol, I learned that she chose the same day to ski Pyramid Peak… so, she was getting closer. I still had four fourteeners to go, and I was told she only had one left – Capitol Peak.
In mid-May, we attempted to ski El Diente Peak, one of my four remaining fourteeners. But, the then standard route did not go from the summit. We had heard of another line from our friend Jarrett, who was going to become the first to snowboard all of Colorado’s fourteeners. He had stumbled upon the line blind, but dropped into it thinking it would go. We tried to find the line, but lost our way part way up. With a quickly warming snowpack, we knew we had to retreat. When I got back to the trailhead the messages started coming in – Christy had skied Capitol Peak, therefore becoming the first woman to ski all of Colorado’s fourteeners.
Needless to say, I was heartbroken. There’s a lot of detail I could go in about all of this, but I’ll save that for a different venue. I’ll keep it on the simple side, because even the simple version is somewhat long….
Admittedly, Christy finishing first put me in a funk. I congratulated her, of course, and reminded myself of these things that I said in my post:
When I initially set my fourteener goals, I wanted to get them done within 5 years. My goal was to ski them all, and ski them all safely. I knew other women were probably out there pursuing the same goal, but I didn’t know who they were at the time. I also knew that there was a high likelihood I would not be the first woman to ski them all. When I began my fourteener project, I told myself that being first would be the icing on the cake. But, finishing them all, and finishing them safely, was most important.
I am a firm believer that when setting goals, you can’t base your goals around the performance of other people. In setting a goal to be first, you are setting a goal around what other people achieve or don’t achieve. Good goal-setting focuses on what YOU can achieve. And I believed I could achieve skiing all the fourteeners in five years. This continues to be my goal.
But, to be honest, it was hard. I wanted to finish all of my fourteeners now more than ever. I at least wanted to finish during the same season as her.
Then we gave Pyramid Peak a try. Chris Davenport had skied it just two days earlier and had passed on some valuable information to me. But in just 2 days, the line had gone from being prime to being done. We stood there at the saddle, looking at the upper east face, and knew that the Landry Line was no longer fit to ski and would not be for the rest of the season. My hopes of finishing my fourteener-skiing goal in 2010 were now shattered…
Sounds depressing right? Well, yeah. That’s exactly it. I was depressed. And I was frustrated. So, what do you do if you know you’re goal isn’t going to get finished that season? You do something else fun. Skiing is supposed to be fun right? So, Frank took me out to ski something I’d never skied before – a great peak called White Rock that towers above Crested Butte to the north. And while we stood at the summit enjoying the views of Pyramid Peak the the other Elk Giants, he stuck out a ring at me. He proposed! I got a white rock on White Rock 🙂
I guess the timing couldn’t have been better. My “funk” went by the wayside, and I was back in action. I knew I couldn’t get Pyramid Peak done that season, and I wanted Pike’s Peak to be my last. But, I still had two other fourteeners I wanted to complete that season if possible – El Diente and Mount Wilson. So, back to El Diente we went.
Below is a slightly modified version of my report for skiing El Diente Peak, which would become my 51st fourteener skied.
I jumped when the cell phone rang, and fumbled around, trying to shut off the annoying noise that was emanating from it. It’s too early, I thought. The wind is howling and it’s warm outside. We’re never going to get this thing done.
It was 3 am, only 4 hours after pulling in to our camping site, and I hadn’t slept at all. Not one wink. It was the time of day that I’m not sure whether to call it morning or night. We were debating: Do we get up at try for this peak? Or do we just stay and sleep? We had a lot of things going against us- warm night temperatures, howling wind, little sleep. But, still, I couldn’t just lie there. I had to try. I made the call, “We’re up. We might as well try.”
We pounded our Monster Coffee drinks and CityMarket blueberry muffins and off we went. A few minutes into our hike up the road, we hit the first snow patch- slushy all the way to the ground. I almost turned around right then and there. We’re never going to make this. We traveled through more and more slushy patches. Maybe the snow will be frozen above treeline. If not, we can just turn around and go back to bed.
The near full-moon guided us through the night and the wind continued to blow. Then the sun began to peek out from behind the earth. For a brief time, the moon and sun battled for brightness. But, like a predestined Greek myth, the sun always wins.
As we got above treeline, we found the snow nicely solidified and frozen. Finally, something was working in our favor. Still, our morning procrastination and the blustering wind continued to work against us.
We made our way over Rock of Ages Saddle and skied down to the base of El Diente, the snow was chattery and full of frozen moon-scaped suncups. This is horrible. The worst skiing ever. While taking a food break just below the face of El Diente, gust after gust continued to pummel us, nearly knocking us to the ground at times. We should just turn around. We’re never going to make it. This wind is nuts. But, the last thing I wanted to do was skin back up the frozen sun-cupped wasteland we just descended. We might as well just keep climbing, at least until the snow softens.
We were following a new route that we didn’t have very much information about, descended by Jarrett Luttrell earlier this season. Because of this, we are calling it the “Luttrell Line”. This is the bottom of his route.
Lower down, as we entered the initial couloir, we found ourselves protected from the forceful wind. Yet, at the same time, what wind was present was to our favor, keeping the snow cooled as we continued to climb. As we approached the summit, we found the wind had calmed. It was breezy, but not so harsh as to knock us to the ground. Though we had been doubtful during the majority of our climb, circumstances shaped up perfectly for us, and we were able to summit!
Jarrett Luttrell, the last to sign the register!
The line on El Diente, we named the Luttrell Line after our friend Jarrett. Details of the Luttrell line can be found here.
One more peak to round out the season: Mount Wilson!