Elks and Beyond -- Jordan White's Traveling, Skiing and Outdoor Adventures

Traveling, Ski Mountaineering and Climbing in Colorado and…

Pyramid Peak Ski

Peak: Pyramid Peak

Route: NE Ridge Climb; East Face-Landry Ski

Date: 3/22/09

Partners: Nick Thompson, Adimmen

Andy and I came out of North Maroon on quite a high after getting to ski it in some great conditions, and were talking about what the next day should hold.  I kept thinking Pyramid was at the top of my list, followed by the east face of Castle, or maybe just a big tour in Marble.  A couple phone calls that night and Nick was up for the task.

Just as a heads up here, this TR is going to be forced to show more climbing than skiing because of some unfortunate events and cloud cover that left the light flat and made it almost too cold to take pictures.

After speaking with Nick we agreed on a 2 AM meet time at my place in Basalt.  We loaded up the truck which still had the sled from the previous day in tow.  We Motored up the redundant 15 or so miles to the roundabout and on up to the snowclosure at the Lazy ranch.  We fired up the sled and I towed Nick and Andy the 8 miles to Maroon Lake. I think that we didn’t end up walking until right about 5:10 AM.  But to be honest we weren’t terribly worried at the time, as we had snow and wind blowing around in the darkness and not a star in the sky.  This would all change soon though.

We followed the edge of the lake to the tourist bridge at the uphill end and crossed to climbers left of the lake.  We skinned along the lower valley for a while trying to find the couloir we wanted to climb up the the amphitheater.  After a while we grew tired of trying to set such a steep skin track and the booting commenced:

Photo Nick Thompson

About 45 minutes before the it got light, the clouds cleared and we were greeted with a full sky of stars.  The wind had not left us yet though as we continued on and reached the amphitheatre around sunrise.

Photo Nick Thompson

Photo Nick Thompson

Happy to have some light:

Photo Nick Thompson

We got some grand views of the North Face:

Photo Nick Thompson

After a short skin we started booting again:

Photo Jordan White

We reached the ridge and got some grand views of what we were getting ourselves in to:

Photo Nick Thompson

Photo Andy Dimmen

The climb along the ridge is a fairly exposed one that takes you near the North Face and some large cornices:

Photo Andy Dimmen

Photo Nick Thompson

A nice breather:

Photo Nick Thompson

Photo Jordan White

Photo Andy Dimmen

Photo Andy Dimmen

Photo Jordan White

Photo Nick Thompson A glance to where we came from…sort of:

Photo Nick Thompson

Photo Nick Thompson

Photo Nick Thompson

The climb up the face proper turned in to some of the most exhausting climbing of the day.  The majority of it was sugar snow over rock.  Andy took it like a champ and charged on by me to boot most of the face that left Nick and I wallowing up to our chest at some points.

Photo Jordan White

Photo Jordan White

Photo Jordan White

Photo Jordan White

Photo Nick Thompson

Photo Nick Thompson

After a couple rock bands…:

Photo Jordan White

We had just a short ridge left:

Photo Nick Thompson

Photo Andy Dimmen

Photo Jordan White

Our route up:

Photo Lou Dawson

It was late:  I don’t know what time it was, but on a normal spring day it would be too late to ski this line.  Our saving grace today (or so we thought) was the wind, and the cooler temperatures.  We didn’t spend a ton of time on the summit as we got ready to ski: We all kind of looked at each other like…Who’s going first?  Finally I guess I was just ready to get going and I took the first few turns.  The turns off the top were slightly breakable and a little powdery:

Photo Andy Dimmen

Photo Andy Dimmen

Photo Nick Thompson

Photo Nick Thompson

Now there is a reason why this report is going to be short on Ski pictures and here it is.  As you can see in the photo aboveI was skiing on wind effected snow that felt fairly bomber.  Now to my left in the picture is a more south facing aspect that as soon as my skis touched it, I found to be rotten with a crust.  At the time though I was commited to the line I was taking, not feeling as though stopping was a good idea.  I continued on a traversing path as close to the cliffs above me (that would hopefully act as a snow break) hoping to get back to the more Easterly/Northeasterly aspect as quick as possible.  The snow had other ideas though and I felt it begin to give way to my weight.  I braced myself and dug my edges in as deep as possible to the rock and baselayer below and watched as what was in effect a ski cut sent the slope below me.  Here are a couple pictures that show it pretty clearly:

Photo Nick Thompson

Photo Nick Thompson

Obviously a scary moment and one that I do not wish to find myself in again anytime soon, but one that I hope myself and anyone else reading this can learn from.  At this point I was kind of in a pickle.  To go back would mean crossing over similar snow that had not yet slid, to go forward would mean the same.  I was stuck.  Nick yelled down to me that they would go back to our climbing route, now just slightly above and in front of me and set up a rope to let me do a quick swing around to relative safety.  Anyone who has spent a ton of time in the mountains knows that unplanned rope work is never super quick.  Today was no exception as the wind picked up and looking for pro in “Elk” rock is rarely easy.  As Nick was looking for adequate protection the wind picked up, the clouds came over and the temperature seemed to drop noticibly.  I was freezing, and doing the best I could to stay still and wait for that saving line to get tossed out.  Nick had carried a picket and found a crack he could wedge it into to create an anchor that would hopefully do the trick.  He tossed me the rope, I tied in and swang like a pendulum around to the other side.  Nothing else moved as I was already close to the better aspect, but it was still a great comfort to have that rope tied in to myself.  Nick and Andy downclimbed the cliffband as I went through efforts to warm up.  By the time they got down it was full overcast and time to get moving.  We discussed  different options of how to get down.  We talked about following our ascent route and getting out, but realized this would be a similar aspect to what had just slid.  Looking down the route the rest of it  with small exception faces a more NE direction.  We opted to complete the line, but the pictures were just not the top thing on people’s mind at this point. But…Here are a few:

Nick:

Photo Jordan White

Photo Jordan White

A glance down:

Photo Jordan White

Andy:

Photo Nick Thompson

Jordan:

Photo Nick Thompson

We hopscotched for a while and found the exit:

Photo Nick Thompson

Photo Jordan White

After this it was a ski out of the apron in mixed conditions, all frozen, but all stable. Here is a glance back at what the route looks like from the valley:

Photo Jordan White

And the picture we are all familiar with, of what we wished it would have looked like:

Photo Dav or Ted Mahon

Lessons learned in the mountains are never easy ones.  We got lucky.  I plan on going back to get this one better, as even with the days event this is a very fun line.

Thanks for Reading

JW

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