Route: East Face
Team: Ted, Chris Davenport, Neal Beidleman
The advanced planning was minimal, consisting of a couple of organizational calls from Chris, laced with tones of muted optimism. The recon was even more limited. We had a few aerial shots of the route, a line that had only been skied once before back in 1978.
The hazards were widely known. A ski route that neared 60 degrees, with high exposure and avalanche risk, a possible sketchy rappel, and the potential for unclimbable, unsupportive snow. But as Chris, Neal, and I have said before, we weren’t going to get anything done sitting at home so let’s give it a shot.
We rendezvoused in the early morning darkness at T Lazy 7 Ranch, along with cameraman Jon Hagman. The sleds were unloaded and gear packed quickly, and shortly thereafter, under a near full moon, we were skinning over a frozen Maroon Lake.
All through the morning I could sense a certain gravity, a focus. Conversations were brief, gear and clothing transitions quick, and breaks non existent. We aggressively rotated lead, breaking trail and kicking steps, offering to step in and take over at the first sign of a slowing pace.
Before long we arrived to the Northeast Ridge and the view was awesome. Jon would film from here. We had 1,200 vertical to go and the summit was in sight. Rotating lead duties we pushed upward and just below the summit we reached the crux of the day, a rotten cliff band that splits the north and east sides. Climbing the loose rock with skis on my back and crampons on my feet while looking down the steep north face of the mountain was a real rush. And there we were, with skis, on the summit.
The rest, in hindsight, was just skiing. With Chris dropping in first, we made our way down the steep 50-60 degree snow. Once it was realized the snow was wintry and skiable, our nerves were calmed and it became fun. Before long I was eying the exit to the difficult upper section and could see a clear path through. Unlike the other recorded descent by Chris Landry, which required a rappel, the exit couloir was full of snow. We would ski this line continuously today.
Once through, I can remember grinning ear-t0-ear for what we had just done, and the three of us looked at each other, almost in disbelief.
While at work that night I told some friends what we did but no one really seemed to understand.