Thunder Pyramid with the Dalai Lama
Be it politicians, actors, comedians, artists, athletes or heads of state, Aspen has always attracted more than its share of important and influential people, not to mention the droves who think they are in the aforementioned category but don’t even come close (I dealt with some of the latter at the restaurant last week). The Dalai Lama might be the most significant visitor I have known to pass through the S-curves since my arrival to town. Fortunately, Christy and I were able to hear him speak at the Music Tent last Saturday morning.
Sitting cross legged on his chair on stage the 73-year old often giggled like a child as he discussed some fairly heavy topics confronted by the world today. Ultimately though, it wasn’t his every spoken word that mattered but rather what this self described “simple monk” sitting before us represented that we took from it all. It resonated with us all weekend.
Later that day we headed out to camp up by the Maroon Bells in an effort to try for Thunder Pyramid in the morning. Wearing several pieces of Tibetan art/jewelry, blessed while over there in 2003, we happened to stumble into a pretty nice campsite and noticed a dogtag of sorts nailed to a nearby tree with the number ‘1’ stamped into it.
According to our friend Sean, some campsites in the Maroon Bells/Snowmass wilderness have been given these numbers so as to note, or rank, choice real estate. We had never seen a tag but Sean has happened upon several through his wanderings through the years. It seemed uncanny that we had walked or run right past this campsite dozens of times through the years but never took notice. We joked about some spiritual guidance we unknowingly followed to the elusive number one. We also pondered reincarnation, wondering if you were given a free ticket to see the Dalai Lama and blew it off because you were hungover, would you be reincarnated as a mouse or bug of some sort. I guess we should ask Dirk in his next life.
By 6:40am we were walking out of camp. The class 3 West Face of Thunder Pyramid isn’t too difficult, nor is it very long in distance(1.5 miles/3500 vertical feet) from camp, but it is part of the Pyramid/Bells group so you can count on lots of loose rock. Because it doesn’t see as much traffic as the neighboring peaks, most of the day is spent addressing rockfall issues. The biggest block I’ve ever seen fall down a mountain was here 6 years ago. Helmets required!
Approaching the 13,932 ft. summit we could see Pyramid Peak in the distance to the north(in photo). Its right ridgeline is the start of the classic east face ski line is as steep as it looks. The ridge between the Pyramid and Thunder Pyramid is every bit as hairy too. Jason Halladay and Bill Geist were in the register as having completed it recently.
I first climbed Thunder back in 2002 with Jann Stoeckl and when we arrived to the summit we found the register still unfilled and was dated as being placed there back in 1971. There were only a handful of Aspen names. Last April I returned with Dav to ski and found it had been replaced. On our ascent, Christy guessed there had been 7 people to the summit since then. “No way”, I thought. So I bet the under. There were eight names since April 18, three of which were there to ski or snowboard. Times have definitely changed. I lost the bet and owe Christy an Americano from Jour De Fete.
It’s a cool summit. I’ve always considered Pyramid to be one of the best, this might be a half a star better. We hung out up there with the Dalai Lama for a while and then headed down. I had to get to work. This was #90 of the Colorado Centennial Peaks(100 tallest) completed by Christy. Nice work, almost done.