Frank Konsella, the fourth person to ski all the 14ers from their summits, recently posted a great series on his blog speculating on a new 14er skiing challenge. He writes: “There are still some firsts left on the 14ers—first snowboarder (maybe Eric Kling or Jarrett Luttrell), first woman (Brittany Walker, Pam Rice, and Christy Sauer are all closing in), and first to do them all in one season. But for somebody who isn’t in a hurry to be first at something, maybe getting the best possible descents would be the crowning achievement.”
In six posts, Konsella lists his nominations for the best descent line on each of the 54 peaks, including beauties like South Maroon’s southwest face, “a wilderness classic.” Inspired by his posts, we asked Konsella to pick a few superlatives—the best of the best:
Best Overall Line: The Landry Line on Pyramid. “Nothing else can match its steepness or especially the amount of vert on which this line stays steep. I’ve skied in a lot of places: Alaska, British Columbia, Chamonix, South America. Plop the Landry line in any of those places and it would still stand proud as a steep, committing, and aesthetic line.”
Best Unskied Line That Will Make Even the Jackson Boys Say “Whoa!: North Face of Capitol. Ummm, sure. But on his blog, Konsella offers a more likely possibility: “Everything skied so far has required either a rappel, roped skiing, or switching back and forth between climbing and skiing during the descent. For my own aesthetics, a route without ropes or mid-descent climbing would be the ultimate Capitol route. I believe that this route exists as a variation of the Davenport/Beidleman line, just to the skier’s right of their route. [However], in several trips to Pierre Lakes Basin, this route has rarely looked good—I believe it gets scoured by wind and avalanches more than other routes. It will take timing for someone to get this line.”
Best Unique Route on a Peak that Gets Skied All the Time: La Plata’s South Couloir. “La Plata is a great peak with a number of fine climbing and skiing routes. The north face is aesthetic and regularly sees ski descents, but a couloir on the south side looks promising, so that gets my vote.”
Best 14er Line from a Historical Perspective: North Face of North Maroon. “It’s true that this peak has been skied by routes other than the north face, such as the standard summer route and the west-to-north face variation. But Stammberger’s groundbreaking 1971 descent is one of the major events in American ski mountaineering history. As such, this route reigns supreme.”
Best Line No One Has Heard Of: West Face of Lindsey. “This is one of the peaks that inspired me to write the “54 Best Descents” series. I’m not sure if anyone has skied the line that I think is the top-notch line on this peak. Invariably, the north face couloirs get skied, which are fine routes, but the west side has a wild looking route.”
Frank Konsella’s Best Descents series starts with the Front Range, where you’ll find links to the five other profusely illustrated posts.