To make a list of skiers who have completely revolutionized the sport would be a difficult task, but Chris Landry is definitely deserving of a top spot. On May 14, 1978, Landry was the first skier ever to descend Pyramid Peak in Colorado.
Pyramid Peak is one of Colorado’s most iconic 14ers and is considered class 4 difficulty with high exposure and rockfall potential. For most, it is impressive enough to summit Pyramid Peak, but for Landry, the real thrill was in skiing down.
Beginning his trek in the early hours of the morning, Landry’s first climbing obstacle was a massive gully filled with “solid ice.” Using ice picks and crampons, Landry ascended through the ice to summit the 14er; he recalled that “there was a definite sense of urgency” to summit before the sun heated the snow into avalanche conditions.
After making it to the top, Chris’s friend that he had summited with took his climbing gear and began to hike back down (what an amazing friend!). Cautiously booting up and strapping into his skis, Landry was ready to make his initial descent down the first face. Landry’s technical skills proved valuable as he made tight turns and a terrifying traverse to avoid the first massive cliff band and opt for a skiable gully instead. In the midst of a no-fall-zone, where just one fall would take his life, Landry approached the iced-out gully where his friend had left the climbing gear for him to descend safely. Ready to boot back up and finish his descent, Chris Landry had made it past the most intense zones. Still, he had to navigate through some extremely steep fields, avoid rocks and other debris, and make it back to the base. Well, he did.
Referred to as Landry’s Line, nearly 30 years went by before it was ever skied again, and it is now considered “a test piece of ski mountaineering.” The line is rarely skied, and Landry has since stated that “I’m still shocked by it … It was particularly gripping because it was the first time I’d ever really skied something where, if I fell, I died”.
So, if we are going to discuss skiers and mountaineers who were way ahead of their time, Chris Landry is that guy. He quintessentially represents what it means to be a world-class climber, skier, and mountaineer and has greatly influenced the skiing world.
*WATCH: The Fifty – Pyramid Peak