Peak(s):  Pyramid Peak  -  14,018 feet
Date Posted:  04/29/2008
Modified:  12/03/2009
Date Climbed:   04/27/2008
Author:  doumall
 Standing on the Shoulders of Giants   

Pyramid Peak
NE Ridge Ascent - Summit Ski Descent of Landry Line - GradeV D20 R5
Maroon Lake Basecamp
Crew: Adimmen, doumall

Sleep is tough when you have something planned like the Landry Line. I lay thinking in my sleeping bag about what lay in store for me the following day. Was I capable of this? Did I belong on a such a seldom skied route? Would the snow cooperate? So many questions... need to get some sleep. Eventually I did fall into that black hole which leaves no memory of its passage.

After a hot breakfast and some quick prep work, we were on our way along the banks of Maroon Lake toward Pyramid Peak. The moon was setting but still lit up the Bells enough to give that familiar feeling of this place; your on another planet.

We used a very efficient couloir stretching from the valley floor up into the stunning amphitheater below Pyramid's north face. The Elks are fantastically steep mountains. Not an hour after leaving camp and only several hundred feet above Maroon Creek we were booting up perfect snow on mid to high 40 degree terrain. The couloir makes its way through cliffbands and then opens up and mellows out through sparse trees. Andy took charge of the upper section here, pounding out hundreds of steps in the firm snow.

The reward for these steps was a look upon a stunning mountain, a mountain which was waking for just another day in its seemingly enternal life. Andy gets first sight of the goal:

The skins went back on the sticks for the tour below the North Face.


Pictures do little to portray the impressive nature of this high alpine wall. Has it been climbed? Herman Buhl would have certainly tested his might on this face, perhaps in his bedroom slippers.

This slot stretching up to the NW ridge is intruiging, any alpine climbers out there?

A look at the couloir we used to escape the amphitheater and gain the NE ridge.

The apron was full of refrozen avalanche debris. The snow was once again perfect for booting down low.

Wow, it felt like winter this morning, a blessing from the mountain gods. We knew the snow pack was locked up tight and the key had been swallowed for good measure. Digestion wouldn't yield its freedom without a strong push and a healthy does of sunbathing.

We decided instead of heading straight for the ridge, we would take a right and ascend a secondary steep couloir for some warmup.

A rock move through here provided plenty of natural stimulant on a brisk morning.

The very last 40 feet before topping out on the ridge was pretty steep.


Your psyche always changes when greeting your first sunlight of the day.

As if the task ahead wasn't enough reason to switch from Dr. Jekyll into Mr. Hyde:

A magnificent climb this Pyramid Peak presents.

I enjoyed climbing along this ridge more than anything else I have done in the mountains.



An incredibly dangerous place this would be without frozen conditions. You are often climbing directly on top of large overhanging snow sculptures.

Often times, upon looking straight up into the sky to look for a passing Cessna, all you see is your climbing partner:

It can be hard to focus with such beauty all around you...

At one point, there was barely room for both my feet on the top of the snow fin. An axe plant was not in the cards. A notch in the ridge is the final bridge to the steep face climbing ahead.


Note the cornices below Andy's perch:

A group of skiers and a solo snowboarder had completed the line five days and one snowstorm before us. A few of their turns were apparent on the face but their booter was gone. Making your own unaided progress up a route like this adds to the excitement. Looking straight ahead...

..and straight at Castle Peak...

...and down at Adimmen.

Traversing on this ground is tough on one of your legs, in my case the right. Some brief cramping gave Andy the go ahead to finish this beautiful face. There is something about trading lead with your partner, its so much fun.

At the first rock band which guards the summit ridge, Andy took a route slightly climbers left:

Then turned a mixed move to overcome the obstacle:

Unfortunately the supportable snow was only good for one climber's passage. I couldn't turn the move in the same spot; instead I stepped out slightly left onto the rock and found a solution to this crux move. Looking out right above this first band gives one a good idea of the snow cover the east side of the Elks have received this year:

The slope mellows a bit below the second rock band.

I headed straight through it. Andy decided the reduction in slope angle was no good and therefore headed out climbers left to turn a rock move over the 60 degree snow slope ending in the 400' cliff. Watching him come over this was better than any IMAX experience.

After that, it was a slow stroll to the summit:


The summit of Pyramid is my favorite in the Colorado Rockies. The Maroon Bells:


Snowmass and Capitol:

Skiing this route is no joke. If you don't hit it in condition, I could easily see getting trapped at the top with no escape. So if you feel the desire to go after this peak on skis, make sure you make the right decision before ascending the final face and ridgeline. Ascent is optional, descent in mandatory. The snow held firm and cold for us. We hit this mountain on the perfect day on a perfect year. A really hard freeze coupled with a brisk morning wind are very helpful.

Time to ski!


Andy led the first half of the upper ridgeline:

Side slipping and jump turns were our preferred means of descending this section of the route. I have heard Davenport cranked some turns out on the face. Well, I am no Chris Davenport. There is absolutely no room for error here. A tumble down every fall line possible ends in a pine box. It is really quite terrifying.

The most committing turn is the one required to overcome the lower cliff band. The jump turn involves dropping roughly your body length onto steep ground. Sticking that turn was amazing. A bunch of frazzled nerves later, we were out on the steep face above the main couloir. Here we could relax and begin to enjoy the skiing:


The snow was as good as you can expect on a route like this! The conditions are best described as slabby powder on top of an ice bulge pockmarked base. We would occasionally break off one of these ice bulges and send it down the mountain. In the White Room on Pyramid? Score!



Once your out on the face...

...and into the couloir...

...this terrain is a ski mountaineers dream come true. Here is Andy making some sweet turns. Note the slough pouring over the rocks on the left:

Looking up the elevator shaft:


Dealing with chocolate chips:


This couloir is continuously steep and straight. A line of a lifetime. Andy making the most of it:

It wouldn't be wise to let your guard down just yet however. There is still a large cliff covered in icefalls ready to swallow your tumbling body at the end of the cold slot. Here is Andy cranking some turns in good snow a hundred feet above the vacancy.

Hmmm, wonder what is down there?

Better check it out!

The exit couloir is the choice to skier's right when the cooler looses definition.

Its narrow, steep and ice lurks about:

Don't forget to take a minute to look around:

Its wide open corn time!


Working out skier's right had us into some easy turns on perfect snow:


A long apron:


The Landry Line stretches 4,500' above:

The look of the long trip back out (and up the road) to Maroon Lake:


 Comments or Questions

04/30/2008 02:14
damn doumall, you never cease to amaze me! How many 14er descents is that now? Congrats on a mountain I can only dream about skiing. very awesome!

Ridge runner

stunning indeed
02/01/2011 00:24
doumall, not only am I impressed by what you guys did, but also in how you wrote about it. This was definitely one of my favorite reports on a mountain I love. The line that hit me the most was, ”The reward for these steps was a look upon a stunning mountain... ”. Thanks for adding your personal touch and congrats on the climb!


Way to go!
04/30/2008 03:06
Are we going to see the helmet-cam footage!


Some serious pucker factor...
04/30/2008 03:25
Way to kill it. You‘re halfway there ;). Think Buhl would‘ve used bedroom slippers on this one?


Five Star Material
04/30/2008 03:38
That was plain ridiculous. Nice shots as alway‘s and I don‘t know what else to say.


04/30/2008 04:08
I thought you guys were completely nuts until the end of the report, where I see you drinking a Budweiser like a normal person.


04/30/2008 06:00
Not only am I no Chris Davenport, I‘m no Doumall. It‘s always great to read a report of an adventure that‘s out of your league. Well done.


Now that‘s a trip report
04/30/2008 12:17
The mountains, the views, the snow. The climb. The fact that you had the wherewithal to stop and take pictures in the middle of what must have been... well, I don‘t have the words. But I don‘t need them - the looks on your faces in that last photo says it all.


Incredible report
04/30/2008 13:23
That‘s an awesome report. Those slopes look incredibly steep with that snowpack. You truly did a wonderful job of capturing what it was like to be there. Incredible!


04/30/2008 13:40
I can climb....but the hills at Ski Cooper are steep enough for me, Very Impressive Report and ski!


08/28/2008 00:37
What a fantastic report! Thanks for such a great write up on one of my favorite peaks!!! Your route up was mouth-watering 8)


F in sweet
04/30/2008 16:45
Wish I could have made it for this one...damn hippie sports


Has Warren Miller
04/30/2008 17:00
Called Yet?

catfish hank

04/30/2008 20:10
Will open this TR when I need a good gawk session. Congrats!


04/30/2008 20:41
is all I can say... Good Job guys! Thanks for the eye candy!


Thanks all.
05/01/2008 06:22
Cheese: it is the king of beers

Jason, whoever that snowboarder is, he is an amazing inspiration to all mountain people. Check out the pics of him slaying this line with an ice axe in hand, solo!

I have a sneaking suspicion there is a silent and humble race to snowboard the Colorado 14ers.

Bill: I have lots to learn with the helmet cam. You want to see some low angle corn turns


Congratulations Joe & partner
05/01/2008 16:02
Yowza!!!! I feel privileged to have climbed Mt. Wilson & El Diente with you, on your first climb of those. I didn‘t know at the time what a whacko you were....obviously the ski helmet hasn‘t protected you well from rock fall!!! Beatiful pics and report. Keep having fun and stay safe.


05/01/2008 17:40
to reiterate...


hmmmm, wonder if mom is going to read this

duomalls mom

she did
05/01/2008 18:17
F is right.


22 oz
05/01/2008 18:31
bud heavy is the way to round that one out, smart choice.


Homer says
05/01/2008 18:38


05/05/2008 15:14
What an incredible trip report! One of the most intertaining trip reports I‘ve read yet on this site!!


Fiddley do!
06/13/2008 15:27
I told you this trip report was good... I was searching for something else and noticed that it‘s landed 14000+ hits. Everybody likey poetry!


top notch
04/07/2009 17:16
Can‘t believe I missed this until now. This is one of, if not the best ski mountaineering trip report I‘ve ever read. The embracing honesty just falls off the page and blends into your soul.

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