This post sponsored by our publishing partner Cripple Creek Backcountry.
The year was 1988, I was in the thick of my “ski the Colorado fourteeners” project. Pyramid Peak in Colorado’s Elk Mountains was eluding my best intentions. I knew Chris Landry had done the east side ten years prior, but finding that sun-baked face in condition for skiing was difficult (an understatement). I’d already tried it several times — guessing if it was ready. Unlike the internet facilitated communications of today, Colorado ski alpinists of the 1980s worked in somewhat of a vacuum, without shared beta. More, there were only a handful of ski mountaineers in the state who might try descents such as Pyramid, and have information — perhaps a dozen people, if that. Hard to imagine.
I’d climbed Pyramid’s west side “thread couloirs” many times with and without snow. It was obvious they’d weave together for a ski descent — but would they go from the summit? Alas, as it turned out there was no way I could ski from the top on that side, so after climbing the couloirs in spring of 1988 I tagged the summit anyway (climbers can’t resist), then clicked into my skis about 100 vertical feet below the apex and linked the couloirs in the photo. I had to stumble across scree in a few places to weave the basket, but it was a satisfying route. Ken Ward was with me for Basket Weaver. He downclimbed the upper part but enjoyed skiing the lower main-line. (Thanks Ted Mahon for the image.)
This spring of 2019 might yield exceptional skiing on our Colorado peaks due to above average snow accumulations in many regions. All routes on Pyramid could be in condition (or are they already?). Pyramid is a fickle peak, I failed to ski it many more times than I succeeded. For my “list” descent, in May of 1989 Jeff Maus and I skied upper part of the Landry route and connected it to Pyramid’s great north cirque. That day was rough. Bad snow. Basket Weaver was nicer. I wish it went from the top. Perhaps this year it does? Or, how about what the next generation came up with? Read on.
This is tricky, but it’s possible to drop down the first ~hundred vertical feet of the Landry route, then traverse an airy hanging snowfield that wraps around to Basket Weaver. This route was pioneered in 2011 by Al Beyer and Joey Giampaolo. On the upper portion of the west face, they descended a thread couloir to looker’s right of the route I marked. (They climbed Basket Weaver first, and did the upper traverse both directions, brilliant.) As I didn’t have good photos of this area in 1988, and of course no handheld GPS, I’m not certain but it’s possible I used the same upper couloir as Al and Joey. In any case, the basket has multiple strands. This is a route where climbing it first is mandatory.
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.