JUST IN, HUGE NEWS: With their May 27, 2015 completion of a ski descent on remote Jagged Peak in Colorado’s San Juan mountains, Ted Mahon and Christy Saur Mahon, along with with Chris Davenport have become the first to ski all 100 highest peaks in Colorado.
The “Centennial” crew’s major effort spanned several years and many hard miles of wilderness travel. Hats off to them. More details to follow here and at their Centennial Skiers’ website.
This from Ted:
The three of us, Dav, Christy, and I, completed our project as a group, finishing with Jagged Mountain on Wednesday, May 27, 2015.
Back in spring 2012 Christy and I joined Chris in the Pacific NW together for his “Volcano Tour.” On the final day of what was a fun trip, as we were climbing and skiing Mount Baker, the three of us were brainstorming ideas for future ski plans and since we had already skied the 14ers, we thought we should try to extend that list to the Centennial peaks, as a group.
Over the past three years, we skied the 47 highest 13ers in the state, and combined with the 53 recognized 14ers, completed the official list of Colorado centennial peaks on skis. That’s every ranked summit in CO from Mount Elbert to Dallas Peak (13,809 ft.).
Our schedules didn’t always allow for us to be together for every single trip, but we tried our best to ski as many as we could as a group of three.
Also, here is a little Q&A we did with Ted:
Lou: Now that you’ve done this, do you feel there is any overall difference between the centenial 13er peaks, and the bulk of the 14ers in terms of aesthetics and if they’re “real mountains” as opposed to a point on a ridge?
Ted: “There are a a lot of similarities between the centennial 13ers and the bulk of the 14ers. Both lists have a fair number of challenging peaks that define them, and both lists have some pretty dull summits too. Three centennial 13ers that have 5th class climbing and require rappels to get off the summit (Dallas, Teakettle, Jagged), which when compared to the 14ers, might actually qualify the collective list as being more technical.”
“In other ranges of the world, where the Colorado 300 foot rule isn’t observed, many high 13ers wouldn’t be considered independent mountains. That’s true. But if we applied that filter to the 14ers, we would lose many of them as well, including many that define the 14er list— Crestone Needle, Little Bear, El Diente, Sunlight, Columbia, Tabeguache — just to name a few.”
“So while many of the 47 centennial 13ers on the list can be considered sub peaks of higher neighbors, there are also quite a few that definitely pass the test in our opinion for being true stand-alone peaks. Pigeon, Rio Grande Pyramid, Jagged, Vestal, Vermillion, Half, Adams, all come to mind.”
“(We’re not trying to debate what counts as an independent mountain, we’re just working off an existing, accepted list that has been refined through the years. And if you’re starting from the valley floor they’re all mountains that take about the same effort to climb and ski. There’s not much difference between skiing from 13,900 ft. and 14,100 ft. except for the fact that there are a lot fewer people.)”
“The three technical summits (Dallas, Teakettle, Jagged) didn’t offer exact summit ski descents, but those aside, we didn’t find that any others were lacking in summit ski routes. They were certainly light, if not devoid, of existing ski beta though. A lot of our days were built around recon made during earlier trips to neighboring peaks, or from summer climbs. There was a bit more adventure and exploring to be had since we didn’t have the benefit of well-researched, photo-supplemented guidebooks such as your own that laid everything out for the skier to utilize. And that is the motivation for Centennial Skiers, to contribute to the ski community here in CO. There’s such a wealth of info available for the peaks above 14K, we think it’s nice to share what we’ve learned from these lesser summits, to help expand the ski mountaineering options in CO beyond what’s above 14K.”
Lou: I also clearly have to ask, as revenge for all the times journalists have asked me about the 14ers over the years (grin), what was the hardest in terms of approach? And what was the hardest in terms of the actual extreme skiing?
Ted: “Hardest is always relative to the day you’re there. We had a miserable time heading into Stewart Peak recently because of a closed jeep road and subsequent muddy mountain bike ride. Stewart should have been easy, but in our case it wasn’t, but that doesn’t mean we can say it was the hardest. It was just that way for us. That said, the access to many of the Weminuche summits are really tough. A lot of folks familiar with the Needle Creek approach to the 14ers down there assume the other valley trails are in similar polished condition but they aren’t. We’ve had some arduous days getting in to both Pigeon and Turret, as well as Jagged the other day. I don’t know that there are any 14ers that are so tough to access. Rio Grande Pyramid is another true grunt, and let’s not forget Red Mountain, the smaller sibling to Culebra. All of the red tape there is ridiculous, and you have to hump over Culebra going in and out which made that one our least favorite of all.”
“As for extreme skiing, I’d put the East Face of Thunder right up top; it’s every bit as steep as Pyramid. Dallas ranks pretty high in the pucker factor, as did the south side of Vestal Peak. Pigeon Peak is quite committing and of course Jagged is just ridiculous in overall challenge. Its combination of alpine climbing, steep couloir, massive approach and remoteness kind of make it an all-inclusive package of total challenge.”
Lou: What’s your favorite 13er, the one you’ll go back to ski again?
I think a few of my favorites that I would like to return to were Cronin, Ice, Vermillion, and Adams. They all had pretty cool ski lines.
Lou: Mandatory blogger/journalist question: What’s next?
“As we were nearing completion this spring we found ourselves asking what’s next. As happy as we are to wrap this up, it’s not really the end of anything. We’ve been talking about simply continuing down the list, into the next round of 13ers and beyond. Nothing as structured and official as this last objective, but we just have so much fun doing this type of stuff together we hope to continue to ski new summits around the state. We’re just having too much fun with it.”
Lou: Again, super impressed by what you guys have done and how you keep finding adventure (and just plain alpine fun) in our Colorado home mountains. More, I know that doing another 50 or so peaks after the 14ers, ones less documented, did take quite a bit more planning and even guesswork than doing the documented 14ers, which brought you back to the experiences had by earlier ski mountaineers in Colorado. Truly amazing what we have in our state, and how if one just looks for it he can find this kind of mountaineering. I thank you, Christy and Dav for keeping it going!
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain. For more about Lou, please see his personal website at https://www.loudawson.com/ (Blogger stats: 5 foot 10 inches (178 cm) tall, 160 lbs (72574.8 grams).