Friday, April 21, 2006

Extreme 14'ers

The Ski the 14'ers project is getting super-interesting. Last week, Chris Davenport, Neal Beidleman and Ted Mahon made the second descent of the Chris Landry line on the east face of Pyramid Peak, eliminating the short downclimb that Landry was forced to do on the first descent, way back in 1978. And yesterday, Davenport and Beidleman pioneered an amazing line on the east and south faces of Capitol Peak, one of Colorado's steepest mountains. According to Lou Dawson, who broke the news (and posted an AWESOME follow-up photo) on his Wild Snow website, Davenport said this was the toughest descent he'd ever done. Dawson also reported the third descent of the Pyramid line, the same day, by a group of skiers including Sean Crossen, who now just needs Capitol to complete his own multiyear quest to ski the 14'ers, making him the second person after Dawson to do them all.

Sound incestous? Not really. There just aren't that many people capable of pulling off these descents week after week, despite Colorado's high population of amazing skiers. Speaking of which: a few lest-we-forget notes on Chris Landry, who more or less pioneered extreme skiing in the U.S. After his Pyramid Peak descent in the late 1970s, Landry went on to complete two other almost inconceivable descents: the icy Mendel Couloir on Mt. Mendel in the Sierra, and the 6,000-vertical-foot Liberty Ridge on Mt. Rainier. Later he attempted to ski the West Rib route on Denali but took a 1,000-foot fall and quit extreme descents for good. One shudders to imagine the skill and nerve such descents required on the gear of the late 1970s. The skis no doubt did their share of shuddering, too.

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