(Last Updated On: April 15, 2016)
I’m going to start this trip report of Greg Mace Peak in the Elk mountains near Aspen with a story. The year was 2000, and I was on a west coast road trip, with plans of skiing peaks in the eastern Sierra before eventually hitting up Rainier. Jay Prentiss and I traveled the backroads from Crested Butte and eventually found ourselves in Bishop, CA. Bishop is a great gateway to skiing in the eastern High Sierra and after the snowy 2016 season in the area, it’s probably a good destination for ski mountaineers, for the first time in years.
After some local research (remember, this was pretty much before the internet went big), we headed up to a trailhead that we were told would offer a number of choices. We awoke the next morning at South Lake at the same time that the occupants of a nearby truck were also stirring. Since they also had Colorado plates and were clearly going skiing as well, we started chatting as we all made our coffee and breakfast. As it turned out, the skiers on the other side of the parking lot were skiers from the other side of the Elks- Aspen. That was the first time I met Brad Smith, who now owns the Red Onion in Aspen, and Ted Mahon, who would finish his 14er skiing project right before me.
We started talking about backcountry skiing and Brad and Ted mentioned that someone had just skied a big line in the Aspen area- the line adjacent to the Landry line on Pyramid now known as Frank’s Angst. As it turned out, those skiers were actually Jay and I. It was pretty cool to know that a line that I had had my eyes on for years, and took several attempts to complete, had been noticed by the local crowd. Anyway, after talking the four of us decided we might as well ski together on the nearby and highly aesthetic Hurd Peak. Two weeks later, we ran into Brad and Ted again, this time at Bunny Flats on Mount Shasta. Jay and I had just skied Shasta, while Brad and Ted were gearing up to do so. Brad and Ted finished their season with a successful ski of Denali, while Jay and I got weathered out on Rainier.
Fast forward to 2016. Along with our friends Jordan White and Anton Sponar, Brad would be joining us to ski Greg Mace peak. This was the first time we would ski together since skiing Hurd Peak back in 2000. I told Brad that we should probably ski together again in another 15 years- preferably someplace really cool like the Alps, and preferably randomly. Anyway, on to Greg Mace.
We made our way up Castle Creek and then found ourselves in the Alpine. Jordan:
We had a great view of the east face of Castle. Skiing this is as close to a “first date” as Brittany and I have. Which is awesome.
The West face of Taylor. This zone can be accessed from Crested Butte, and I remember looking down this line thinking it looked like a good one.
We gained the summit ridge of Greg Mace and were treated to an aerial show by a group of Eagles that appear to live near the summit.
The south face was looking good so we decided to start with it. It was perfect corn, a type of snow that seems like a rarity lately, either because of dust storms or spring storms, both of which seem common in CO these days. Brad:
The corn was great, but there was still powder to ski on the north side, along with some nice aesthetic lines. Brittany:
Brad, figure 8-ing:
This line was so much fun, the twists and turns of the couloir were perfectly spaced for GS-style turns:
Anton, with Castle behind:
Looking back up at Greg Mace Peak, while Brittany finishes up her line:
One of the great things about backcountry skiing is how small of a world it is. How cool was it that a car at a random trailhead in the Sierra had a couple of skiers that lived just on the other side of the Elks? It was good to ski with Brad again, and Greg Mace served up the goods, with both perfect corn and springtime pow.
Jordan and I argued about the merits of Dynafit bindings on top of Greg Mace. The correct answer is #dynajunk.
Vipecs are so much better: