Basket Weaver — An Early Ski Route on Pyramid Peak

Post by blogger | March 29, 2019      

This post sponsored by our publishing partner Cripple Creek Backcountry.

The year was 1988, I was in the thick of my “ski the Colorado fourteeners” project. Pyramid Peak in Colorado’s Elk Mountains was eluding my best intentions. I knew Chris Landry had done the east side ten years prior, but finding that sun-baked face in condition for skiing was difficult (an understatement). I’d already tried it several times — guessing if it was ready. Unlike the internet facilitated communications of today, Colorado ski alpinists of the 1980s worked in somewhat of a vacuum, without shared beta. More, there were only a handful of ski mountaineers in the state who might try descents such as Pyramid, and have information — perhaps a dozen people, if that. Hard to imagine.

I’d climbed Pyramid’s west side “thread couloirs” many times with and without snow. It was obvious they’d weave together for a ski descent — but would they go from the summit? Alas, as it turned out there was no way I could ski from the top on that side, so after climbing the couloirs in spring of 1988 I tagged the summit anyway (climbers can’t resist), then clicked into my skis about 100 vertical feet below the apex and linked the couloirs in the photo. I had to stumble across scree in a few places to weave the basket, but it was a satisfying route. Ken Ward was with me for Basket Weaver. He downclimbed the upper part but enjoyed skiing the lower main-line. (Thanks Ted Mahon for the image.)

 Pyramid Peak, Colorado, as viewed from the west.  My 1988 "Basket Weaver" ski descent marked. Photo by Ted Mahon.

Pyramid Peak, Colorado, as viewed from the west. My 1988 “Basket Weaver” ski descent marked. Photo by Ted Mahon.

This spring of 2019 might yield exceptional skiing on our Colorado peaks due to above average snow accumulations in many regions. All routes on Pyramid could be in condition (or are they already?). Pyramid is a fickle peak, I failed to ski it many more times than I succeeded. For my “list” descent, in May of 1989 Jeff Maus and I skied upper part of the Landry route and connected it to Pyramid’s great north cirque. That day was rough. Bad snow. Basket Weaver was nicer. I wish it went from the top. Perhaps this year it does? Or, how about what the next generation came up with? Read on.

This is tricky, but it’s possible to drop down the first ~hundred vertical feet of the Landry route, then traverse an airy hanging snowfield that wraps around to Basket Weaver. This route was pioneered in 2011 by Al Beyer and Joey Giampaolo. On the upper portion of the west face, they descended a thread couloir to looker’s right of the route I marked. (They climbed Basket Weaver first, and did the upper traverse both directions, brilliant.) As I didn’t have good photos of this area in 1988, and of course no handheld GPS, I’m not certain but it’s possible I used the same upper couloir as Al and Joey. In any case, the basket has multiple strands. This is a route where climbing it first is mandatory.

Basket Weaver, another view.

Basket Weaver, another view. This photo by Ted Mahon calls attention to those lines at looker’s right. I recall hearing about someone doing a ski descent there, and I’ve always been fascinated by the possibilities, but memory fails (apologies). If anyone has the beta on that please comment.


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5 Responses to “Basket Weaver — An Early Ski Route on Pyramid Peak”

  1. Matt Kinney March 29th, 2019 9:56 am

    Totally Lou Dawson…..

  2. Ron Rash March 29th, 2019 10:49 am

    I would be very curious how many times the Basket Weaver route has been skied. Totally frightening terrain on that side of the summit of Pyramid. I can not imagine a ski descent in 1988 with the equipment that was available. The east side or Landry Route under the right conditions (Corn Snow) seems less daunting.

  3. Lou Dawson 2 March 29th, 2019 11:58 am

    Well, at least twice. When the thread couloirs are filled in, it’s more skiable than one would think. Still, intricate and extreme, and you have to climb it first and memorize. Helped me to have been up there so many times over the years, since high school. Lou

  4. Lorne March 30th, 2019 11:17 pm

    We skied up in there in ’98 I think. The road had just opened so May whatever right. The first day we went up South Maroon (skied the Coin Drop, Jeff Maus was with us that day) where we got the perfect view of your Basketweaver face. The next day we climbed the NE ridge of Pyramid. There was a bit of a downclimb off the summit and a fierce graupel storm came in. Not positive but I think we skied the one below your 7th red dot off the top in Ted’s second photo. It got pretty skinny, but we had longer skis back then. Conditions were the usual May mixture with a nice graupel coat. We being myself, Lance McDonald and the late PI (Peter Ingalls). It sure is a great ski mountain.

  5. Lou Dawson 2 March 31st, 2019 8:06 am

    Thanks Lorne!

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