What Price for Pyramid?

21-24 Feb 2003 - by Stephane Mouradian

(Click on thumbnails below for larger pictures.)

In a new episode of our Series How many times do you need to schedule a winter trip to make it happen?, this climb was rescheduled after a storm hit for President's weekend 2002. This time, we sneaked it in a week after President's weekend 2003 (which was also stormy, amazingly enough). Trip participants were Tony Stegman on snowshoes and Steve Eckert, Kirsten and Stephane Mouradian all on skis.

We left the Echo Lake SnoPark on Friday morning at 8:00. The sky was perfectly clear with a sunny forecast for the weekend. There were a few inches of fresh snow and we got to break a fresh track across the Echo Lakes. We crossed Tamarack Lake and headed straight up the slope toward the saddle North of Ralston. The lower part of that slope was steep, so it was hard work getting up it. Next time I will remember to take the ridge leading to the saddle as I had drawn it on the map, although the ridge presents some steep grade and soft snow spots as well. From the saddle we dropped down toward Lake of the Woods. We crossed the lake and found a protected campsite to drop our packs. It was 3pm.

The second day we all climbed Pyramid - needed crampons near the top, with styrofoam snowdrifts over an icy layer. Yes, Steve glissaded down.

We woke up at 5:30am on Saturday and left camp at 6:45am. The water bottles that were next to the sleeping bag inside the tent were frozen solid. This was a cold weekend. We headed first toward Channel Lake in order to go around a cliff. This area at the foot of Pyramid is a little bit of a maze with many rolling hills, little cliffs and gullies. After reaching the southern tip of Channel Lake, we headed South West for a saddle and dropped 200 feet to Pyramid Lake. We aimed straight for the peak from there. About 600 feet below the summit, we switched to crampons and ice axe and followed a ridge straight up. We summitted at 11am. The weather was clear but the wind on top was bad enough to make us keep summit shots to a minimum. We quickly came down 600 feet to where we had left skis and snowshoes. From there, Tony and Kirsten headed back to camp while Steve and Stephane headed for a 2 mile traverse to Price.

For the traverse on skis, we left the last point at noon and we first had to drop and regain 200 feet across a wide bowl but we were able to traverse upward toward Price thereafter. The approach to Price is very steep on the east side, so we looked for an opportunity to cross over the ridge and approach the peak from the back (the west side). About 0.5 mile south of Price, we found a notch in the ridge with a short but steep couloir. We headed for that spot and found the snow to be firm enough to kick steps, which we did while the skis were strapped to our packs. Steve estimated the slope to be at least a 45 degree angle in some sections. From the top of the notch, it was a very gentle 25 minute climb to the summit which we reached at 2pm, 30 min ahead of our turn around time. For the return, we retraced our steps back down the notch. From there, it was an easy and fast ski trip back down to camp, which we reached at 4pm, on time to enjoy the last sun rays. Pyramid and Price are doable in one day but one may need to be on skis in order to be back to camp before dark, at least in February.

Sunday morning, from my sleeping bag at 5:45am , I heard Steve cheerfully announced his thermometer read 12F (which he later corrected by saying it had dropped another 2 degrees to 10F). We nonetheless braved the cold and left camp at 7am. We left Ralston Peak for another time and headed in the direction of Echo Lake. An army of 25 kids had set up camp just above the lake and our initial single track from Friday had turned into a highway. The Echo lakes are definitely a popular skiing area on a nice weekend. There was an SUV stuck on the snow covered SnoPark road between Echo Lake and the parking lot. If that guy is still there when you head that way, try not to yell at him, he already got his dose. Back to the cars at noon, we had plenty of time to sample the hot sandwiches at the Strawberry lodge, which is a reasonable place.

After Lassen in January, this was another beautiful sunny winter trip. Rescheduling can work!

Stephane Mouradian

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