| Pyramid Peak - Landry Line
Peak: Pyramid Peak
Route: Landry Line
Vert: Approx. 6,000
Mileage: Approx. 20
Time: About 24 hours, including 6 hours at camp
Group: Rob Miller, Marc Barella, & me.
Photo used with permission from Lou Dawson and WildSnow.com
The Landry Line on Pyramid Peak is regarded by many as supreme in terms of Colorado ski mountaineering. While there may be steeper or more challenging descents out there, this one has it all. In short, an interesting climb leads to an esthetic and challenging ski descent with a pitch that begins at 60 degrees and gradually eases over a vertical drop in excess of 4,000 feet, surrounded by some of the most gorgeous mountains in the state. On Sunday we started early, got lucky with the snow conditions and weather, and were rewarded with an incredible day one on of the best lines in the Rockies.
Many parties start a Pyramid attempt with an early morning snowmobile ride up the gated Maroon Creek Road. However, the road is partially melted now and we don’t have access to sleds. We pulled up to the gate around 4pm Friday as it started to rain. A half hour later we were back from Aspen with trash bags and loaded up the bikes as the weather cleared.
Photo by Marc
After a couple miles the road became too snow covered to easily bike so we switched to skins and headed towards the Bells. With recent beta from Brittany, Frank, and crew were knew the line was in pretty well so we kept the packs a little lighter by leaving the rope and harness at home.
We chose to bivy at the main Maroon Creek bathrooms. With a dry platform, an awning, a recently cleaned bathroom that doubled as gear storage, running water nearby in the creek, and million dollar views, it felt like the Ritz (an assumption, since I haven’t stayed at one).
Forecasted lows were 29 degrees at 9,600ft and 24 degrees at 13,200ft. The skies were fairly clear allowing for a descent freeze. But since the Landry Line faces east, we got up at 12:30am and left the bathrooms by 1:15am. Leaving a little earlier than we thought necessary proved helpful when snow conditions slowed us down trying to gain the amphitheater and we climbed too far right. Scrambling in ski boots at 3am knowing you’re eating up precious time and having to decide whether to continue up in hopes of finding an entrance to the amphitheater or cutting our loses and backtracking was frustrating to say the least.
We lucked out and found an easy down climb from our rocky perch into the amphitheater were we made up time skinning and picking up a recent boot track to the saddle at 13,200ft.
Photo by Marc
Rob on the saddle for sunrise at 6:15am. We’re nearly back on track and I’m feeling like we have a shot at getting Pyramid. I estimated we would have to be dropping in by 9am to be safe.
It’s less than a 1,000 vertical feet to the summit but the climbing is steep, exposed, and the boot track we followed to the saddle had ended.
As we rounded the next little ridge the remainder of the climb came into full view.
Marc and Rob double teaming one of the knife edges.
Most of the time getting from the saddle to the summit is spent on the ridge.
Photo by Marc
At time the climbing can get pretty interesting, with steep snow to the east and dramatic exposure to the west.
It’s hard not to stop occasionally just to take in the scenery.
As we neared the east face I took the lead to kick a few steps and grab a shot looking back at Rob followed by Marc.
The climbing on the actual face is straightforward, albeit steep. We climbed left around a group of rocks and hit the summit at 8:15am.
On the top.
I remembered to grab a beta shot of Capitol Peak to the northwest before we dropped in at 8:45am.
Rob looks on as I ease my way towards the roll over. I’ve read that this slope angle is approximately 60 degrees, which seemed accurate. The exposure here is also pretty dramatic, causing the first few hundred vertical off the summit to definitely be the crux of the route in my opinion.
Photo by Marc
Marc riding this upper portion of the Landry Line. Possibly the third descent ever made on a snowboard??
Followed by Rob.
The snow softened quickly just 500 feet lower on the face. It would have probably served us well to have dropped in a half hour earlier.
Photo by Marc
Looking back at a solo climber/skier on the ridge who wisely decided to drop in before things heated up too much.
Marc flirting with the edge of the line.
And then riding the middle.
The exit skiers right was starting to get narrow.
Rob on the apron, along with a good bit of wet slide debris from days past.
After 4,000 vertical we were elated. This was a line I had been thinking about for a while and we all felt pretty lucky to have conditions come together like they did. Unfortunately we had not given much thought to how to get back to Maroon Creek Road. After a couple hours of bushwhacking to avoid crossing East Maroon Creek, we were forced to cross it anyway.
Rob and I ended up taking off our ski boots while Marc attempted to jump from rock to rock.
Photo by Rob, whose camera inadvertently got set to low quality
Unfortunately this was only the first of two creek crossings. After wading across West Maroon Creek we noticed the bridge just upstream from us.
Photo by Rob
Upon putting my ski boots back on for the second time in as many hours, we regained the vertical to Maroon Creek Road, popping out about 3.5 miles from the truck. But the end wasn’t in sight just yet. Our camping gear was stashed in the bathrooms near Maroon Lake so we had to put the skins back on and head uphill for another 45 minutes.
We picked up the gear around 3pm and attempted to ski a few miles of road before walking the rest of the way back to the bikes. The partially snow covered road from the day prior now just seemed mostly dry as we walked to our bike stash.
The last time I was this happy to see my bike was when my parents surprised me with it on my 14th birthday. I loaded up the old kids carrier with all of Marc’s gear, all of mine, and Rob’s ski boots. Rob with Pyramid in the background.
Marc and I were fortunate enough to ski with Chris Landry earlier this year, and to imagine him pioneering this descent in 1978 is a truly amazing feat. It's a heck of a route and when conditions align a rewarding climb and ski. Thanks Rob and Marc for making this trip happen.
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