#12 Thunder Pyramid – 13,932 ft.
Date: April 18, 2008
Team: Dav, Ted
Route: Southeast Face
[Dav and Ted skied Thunder back in 2008. Here’s a report from that day.]
This was nothing short of a spectacular day. From the day we first skied Pyramid together two years earlier, we had been talking about Thunder. It’s East Face is actually split into two by a ridge, leaving it with two, distinct, easterly faces– the Northeast Face, which is easily observable from points on Aspen ski areas and looks rather perilous (Though Dav insists he’ll ski it someday.) and the Southeast Face, which, though still really steep, is at least continuous.
From a pre-dawn start at T Lazy 7 Ranch, we snowmobiled up the road to Maroon Lake, and began up the west side summer route from Len Shoemaker Basin. It’s pretty easy travel to the Basin, after which any number of west facing couloirs will get you up on the ridge near Thunder’s summit. Just to share for others, we opted for the prominent couloir that splits Thunder and Lightning Peak. It’s easy to climb, and will get you up on the ridge, but for skiing and snow-climbing’s sake, it puts you a bit too far to south, and a route more to the north should be chosen. We ended up doing a rather large traverse of the East Face to get to the summit. Our route of ascent is detailed in the Trimble map above.
However you get to the summit, get ready for a super-steep, committing descent, 4,000 feet to the valley floor. This is a true gem of the Elk Mountains and Colorado, one of the most aesthetic, long steep descents you can find.
The photos can fill in some details.
Date: April 11, 2014
Team: Christy, Ted, Darcy Conover, Adam Moszynski
Route: West Face
[Christy, Ted, Adam, and Darcy skied Thunder in 2014, details here as told by Christy.]
I’ve been looking forward to skiing Thunder Pyramid for years, so I was excited to have had an incredible day climbing and skiing the West Face this past weekend with Ted, and friends Darcy Conover and Adam Moszynski. Located in the heart of the Elk Range, just .6 miles south of the well-known 14er Pyramid Peak, Thunder Pyramid can be loose and dangerous during the summer, so it doesn’t see a lot of traffic. Interestingly, it doesn’t get skied much either, and many Aspen locals are not too familiar with the peak.
At 13,932 ft., Thunder Pyramid is just 78 feet shy of being a ranked 14er, which explains Coloradans lack of familiarity and the mountain’s related mystique. The views from the summit and those taken in while skiing down its West Face are absolutely stunning, with unique perspectives of the Maroon Bells, Pyramid, Len Shoemaker, West Maroon Pass, and Belleview Mountain.
Ted and I climbed Thunder Pyramid back in the summer of 2010, and Ted and Dav skied the East Face in 2008, so we knew the route and what to expect. This centennial is definitely one of the more challenging peaks on the list, but also one of the most rewarding.
We got an early start from T-Lazy 7, snowmobiled up the road to Maroon Lake, and skinned up the summer trail to Crater Lake. As we traversed over the lake and started to climb up into the Len Shoemaker Basin, the sky began to lighten and the Bells revealed themselves like something out of a surrealist painting. It was absolutely stunning.
Soon we were climbing up the snow of the West Face of Thunder, along a similar path as the summer trail. In 2008, Dav and Ted had climbed the main couloir that splits the west side of Thunder and Lightning peaks. This put them further south down the ridge then they had hoped, and they had to do a spicy traverse across the East Face to gain the summit. The route we took went very close to the summit, but still had a few crux moves to figure out. I think any way you go, you can count on some steep, mixed climbing on the final pitch to the summit ridge.
Once on the ridge, I was able to get a long awaited look down the East Face. The first 100 feet off the east side are REALLY steep, definitely comparable to Pyramid’s East Face. Unfortunately, it looked to be in pretty bad shape after the warm temps we’ve had and the three recent dust storms. The snow had slid and the slopes were a runneled mess. This side of the mountain also gets a lot of sun, and the exposed dark maroon rock collects heat and rots out the the adjacent snow.
Slightly disappointed we turned our attention back to the west, where we actually found better snow and great skiing. We skied a couple turns on the ridge from the summit before finding a narrow gully that led to the west facing snow we climbed. Once through the pinch, the real skiing began, we had steep, wintry snow and amazing views all the way down to the valley floor. Our take from the day was that our area’s 120% snow pack is melting fast and the dust is having serious effects on our spring skiing. We were just psyched to have gotten to ski from the top and have an awesome ski down. I would be exciting to do this one again and try for East Face in better conditions.
What a day. The Elks never seem to disappoint.