Pyramid Peak (N)
Day 9, Pyramid Peak (N)
I arrived at the Pyramid Peak trailhead to find no snow in sight. This was unsurprising -- it is a low elevation, steep, south facing slope that had been partially burned in the Caldor fire last summer. I’m no stranger to long walks with skis on my back, so I saddled up the pack and started grinding up the climb.
There’s something about freshly burned forests that I really enjoy- the wild shapes of the skeletal remains of trees, rocks split from the heat, and the otherworldly feel of the landscape create a haunting memorial to the fierce power of fire.
I climbed at a moderate and efficient pace, the morning sun already hot on my back. Eventually I reached snow, but rather than the skin track (or lack of any tracks) that I was expecting to find, there was instead a well-established boot pack, steps conveniently frozen in place, leading up towards the alpine. I decided to take advantage of the opportunity to give my feet a break from being confined in stiff ski boots, and continued upwards in my trail runners.
The climb felt strangely reminiscent of a Cascade volcano- probably due to the gentle, conical symmetry of the peak above. It made me nostalgic for epic days past in the Northwest. The boot pack continued strong all the way to the summit.
Turns out, I could have easily left the skis behind! Lucky me though, I had them, and would get to reap the reward of a couple thousand feet of funky, slushy turns. I dropped in on the steep east face, and found a handful of surprisingly good corn turns! After a few hundred feet, the snow inevitably took a turn for the worse, and I slogged my way through the heavy, increasingly sparse snow for as long as my legs (and ski bases) would tolerate. Once it got to the point that I was making turns in more dirt than snow, I threw the skis (and boots, and pants) on my pack and slipped and slid my way down the remaining 1,500’ of slush, mud, and ash, in my underwear. Truly a classic ski mountaineering adventure -- hours of carrying heavy gear for 10 somewhat decent turns in a spectacular setting!
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