Hayden Peak 1986: Edgerly & Writing Life — Throwback Thursday

Post by WildSnow.com blogger | October 15, 2015      
Yours truly on Hayden, 1986, photo by Bruce Edgerly.

Yours truly on Hayden, 1986, photo by Bruce Edgerly.

The year was 1986. The peak was Ski Hayden near Aspen. The new book was “Colorado High Routes.” The newspaper reporter who joined me (much to my delight promoting shameless self) was Bruce Edgerly, Aspen Daily News.

“Edge” was an excellent writer and went on to a prolific career in ski writing, which morphed into his co-founding Backcountry Access and changing the world of snow safety. Back then I was a carpenter and guide — but I wanted to be a scribe. The idea was to achieve some kind of cross between Poe and Hemingway, with some Heinlein mixed in there. Still working on it. I couldn’t find any guidebooks by Poe to model myself after.

“Colorado High Routes” made a mark (it was one of the first modern ski alpinism guides for North America, perhaps the first) but really wasn’t all that great. Though I do have wonderful memories of writing on an electric typewriter, and struggling mightily with Mountaineer’s Books to get enough photos and useful maps into the book. Frankly, no one at Mountaineers had any idea of how to produce or design a decent modern ski touring guidebook; I was never happy with the results. What is more, one of my route descriptions got messed up and directed people to a nearly impassable cliff. Totally my fault, but Mountaineers didn’t help, only solution was for me to fly up to Seattle and paste a warning sticker in every one of several thousand shrink-wrapped books. Due diligence. Lesson learned. Luckily no one died though I’m forever apologetic to Marcus, who got steered wrong (and let me know about it in no uncertain terms!). I still feel like an idiot every time I reminisce on that.

Second edition (Colorado Backcountry Skiing) was everything I wanted it to be (beautiful topo maps!, and no cliff routes) but had disappointing setbacks. The first printing of 3,000 fell apart in reader’s hands like some kind of disintegrating archeological artifact from an Indiana Jones flick. The second printing finally got out there (after the ski touring shopping season), but frankly by then I was burnt out on hassling with print publishing, and looking back, my publisher was getting burned out on the deal as well.

The web and all you WildSnow readers out there saved me as a writer, but guys like Bruce helped me get started — and we’re still friends and colleagues thirty years later. My only regret is a I can’t seem to convince Bruce to do guest blogs. The consolation is he produces excellent expository prose over at the BCA website, which is placing ever more emphasis on information and education.

Trivia: any of you old timers know who that cover skier is on the cover of Colorado High Routes first edition, and where?


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3 Responses to “Hayden Peak 1986: Edgerly & Writing Life — Throwback Thursday”

  1. Mark Worley October 16th, 2015 6:55 am

    Looks like some long sticks in that photo. Long and skinny, they were.

  2. John Doyle October 16th, 2015 8:47 am

    That looks like the effortless skiing of Michael Kennedy; perhaps on Main Hayden.
    I was building Phoenix tele skis in Aspen with Doug Bitterman when I began ski touring. Doug had your first book and we devoured it. We decided we wanted to do a complete traverse of the Elks from Sopris to Ashcroft. On our second attempt we made it over Daly Pass and followed your book’s route to a col east of the intended Climber’s Notch route into the coveted Pierre Lakes basin. Alas, we had no ropes, the cliff into Pierre could not be overcome and we bailed. Disappointed but more experienced we went back the following spring (1989) with Dan Bunta and Andy Ward, went through Climber’s Notch, spent the night in Pierr Basin, accidentally blew up a tent the next morning and then went on to complete our 9 day traverse to Ashcroft.
    Thanks for writing your books Lou, they inspired us to go farther.

  3. Edge October 16th, 2015 9:58 am

    Awesome, Lou, that was my first ski writing gig! “Colorado High Routes” is what got me turned on to backcountry skiing. I’ll never forget that day on Hayden with you, Michael and Julie: the conditions were heinous and my Marker TR bindings–with only four inches of “free heel”–were even more painful (but not as painful as the not-yet-invented Alpine Trekkers 😉

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