Pete Sowar and Chris Webster (prolific ski mountaineers and frequent partners of Sean Crossen) attempted the East Face of Pyramid Peak (Colorado fourteener, IV D20 R4 ) this past Sunday. Their plan was to use the “Winter Theory” for Colorado descents that are hard to find in condition. The idea is that such routes may have a better and more skiable coating of snow in late winter rather than spring. More, (besides avalanche danger) the chances of falling down a steep run are less when it’s covered with powder rather than dense spring snow. Problem is, if you trigger a slab avalanche on extreme terrain, it’s likely to take you on a certain-death ride down a mountain. That almost happened to Pete during their attempt. In his words:
We attempted our Winter Theory on Pyramid two days ago. With Chris D. skiing the East face of Maroon a couple weeks ago we thought we might have a chance. We were able to get to right under the summit cone but the snow was too sugary to push for the top.
I decided to make a few turns on the obvious knob in the photo which turned out to be a mistake. During one of my ski cuts the slope slid just above my feet. I was able to step off it and watch a small but deadly avalanche plow down the east face. The slope slid on facets below the dirt layer, ranging between 12 – 18 inches deep probably about 50 – 75 feet wide. It never stepped down but it did pull out more pockets of the same depth. Ran around 1,500 – 2,000 feet. It was a spectacle I think I can live without ever seeing again.
So while the winter idea may have been good a few weeks ago, I think the theory is on hold now due to the dirt layer we got and the bad layer below it. Gonna have to wait for the big 2 until late March or April, depending on temps.
|Upper 1,000 vertical feet of Pyramid Peak east route. Pete triggered avalanche in area outlined by circle.|