Trip report by Native Ambassador Chad Otterstrom.
Its been a long winter—I think I had 5 pow days in June easy. Anyways, I was planning on writing a story on a couple trips this Spring, but it kept snowing so instead of focusing on the stories I got up and rode every day. One of the more memorable days from this year was riding Pyramid Peak. I think I’ve been focused on trying to ride it for a good 6 years straight. Turns out life gets in the way and so do the conditions.
Giving it a go 4 years ago we took a wrong turn, ended up on the wrong ridge, and bailed. The next few years other things came up or the conditions weren’t right when we had time. This last winter was an insane one. We had consistent snow all year with a huge dump end of February early March, where avalanches blew over interstates for almost a week. Pyramid was on the radar for sure come April. The internet stories of the Landry Line, the good line off the top of Pyramid, describes a choke halfway down—saying if it’s not a good season, you may need ropes to repel it. Knowing how much snow we got this year I wasn’t worried. Come mid-April, a good storm rolled through and I got hit up by my friends phAntom, Zak Ferrara, and Chase DeMeulenaere right away about riding it. This peak has become a popular ride over the years and we knew we weren’t gonna be the only ones trying to get it. We watched the weather and were hoping to get it right when the sun popped—preferably before anyone else.
The weekend came and Chase decided to go up a day before us. He’s a weekend warrior and had to be back to work on Monday, so he pulled the trigger early. He and another one of our friends Morris went up and rode it on a Sunday afternoon. Mostly cloudy up there, but they rode it. We ended up getting some good info on it and decided to make a go the next day. The plan was to meet at the trailhead at 2 am, which meant waking up at 1:30 am, walk straight to the truck and hit the road. I think I fell asleep at 10 pm that night which was good. Normally on big missions like this, I have a hard time falling asleep and just don’t sleep ’til its time to hit the road. Anyway, it’s on—we all meet at the trailhead and started the 7-mile trek to Maroon Lake where you start skinning. PhAntom and Zak drive a snowmobile up and I roll up on an Electric Fat Tire bike I got from Fat Tire Beer.
As we neared the lake, there was crazy Avy Debris we had to navigate, along with navigating around a couple tents where people were camped out getting ready to hike the mountain as well. Once we were at the lake we started the real accent. Skinning back and forth in the dark up a steep hill, just steep enough to where we could keep our skis on and not have to boot pack straight up. Halfway up the hill phAntom mentioned that we have company. Looking down there were some headlamps following us. The campers were on our tail. This isn’t a mountain you want to go down with someone trailing you. It’s steep at the top and you can get hit by someone’s stuff. Turns out they didn’t last long and slowly the gap between us and them got so big that they disappeared halfway up the mountain behind us.
We made our way across a flat section and up what they call The Banana Couloir. We booted up the couloir until we reached the saddle around 13,000 feet. This is where it started to get light enough to wear goggles. I strapped on my Native Tenmiles and was back in action. The last 1000 feet of climbing is where it gets real. Everything is a no-fall zone when you are climbing this. We already had our crampons on for the Banana Couloir, so we didn’t waste much time traversing the ridge and heading straight up the final push. Climbing 1000 feet an hour is a good pace. Knowing this at the saddle made it even more exciting, knowing we would be looking down from the top in an hour or so. The climbing was steep indeed. Nothing too crazy, but a lot of kicking off your crampons and jamming in your ice axe to get a good grip. It was a mellow one step at a time for a solid hour once we started moving. This is the climb too where you get a good look at The Landry Line. You could see Chase and Morris’s line going down, but their boot pack had been blown in from snow the night before. Once I saw the run I was hyped. After all the years of wanting to ride this hill, I finally got to see it and felt totally confident that we were gonna get it good.
We got to the top and hung out for about 30 minutes and took in the views. The skiers who were following us up were starting to get close and the East face of Pyramid gets hot quick so we figured we’d drop sooner than later. I went first strictly because I was goofy-footed. The first 100 or so feet of the descent is a left side hill above a large cliff. If anything were to go wrong it would be over. So being a goofy-footer this meant that I was on my toes. For a snowboarder being on your toes is more stable.
So I dropped in, rode 100 or so feet around the corner where I ran into the skiers on their way up and waited for the rest of the crew to follow me in. Once they made it over, it was on. The suspect ledge was out of the way and it was a clear path to the bottom. It was really steep for the first part of the run, having to make a lot of careful turns. Once it mellowed out a bit and the run got wider we were able to start enjoying the hill. 1000 feet of steep and another 1000 of awesome pow turns and mini cliffs ’til we made it to the choke. The choke was wide and mellow. Chase and Morris had put a solid side slip in it the day before, so it was nice and groomed out. Once past the choke, we had another 3000 feet up pow to the base.
We sat at the base and looked up for a few minutes before making the trek out the gully. It was an amazing feeling—finally riding a mountain I’ve been trying to ride for over 6 years. It was sort of like completing the final level of a video game as a kid; you can put it away and buy a new one. The only thing is this was sort of the final level for any mountain I’ve ever wanted to ride in Colorado—so I’m sorta done. I don’t have to go to Aspen anymore, look at Pyramid and say, “I want to go ride that.” I can just enjoy hiking and riding Hylands Bowl and eat powder pancakes with the rest of the snowboarders around Aspen.