Chris Davenport checks in from the Centennial Peaks project
It’s no secret that Chris Davenport likes to up the ante when it comes to ski mountaineering. That’s why for the past month, along with fellow Aspenites Ted and Christy Mahon, he’s been on a mission to ski the hundred highest peaks in the state of Colorado, also known as the Centennial Peaks. All three have already completed skiing all of Colorado’s 14,000 foot peaks (the 14ers) in the past and starting April 29th, they set out to ski the 47 highest 13,000 foot peaks in Colorado. Dav checked in with Freeskier after tackling 13,845 foot Mount Oklahoma in the state’s Sawatch Range.
Tell us about the inspiration for this Ski The 13ers trip:
I just love a good old fashioned road trip, especially in the springtime when the ski mountaineering gets good. It’s just fun to load the truck or RV with a bunch of friends, we’re working with Whole Foods Market so we filled up our RV with awesome food from Whole Foods and just hit the road. It’s good living, you get up at 4:30 a.m. every day, you eat, you hit the trail and we’re done at 1 or 2 in the afternoon and we get to chill or drive to the next trailhead and it’s just such a fun adventure. I just love skiing new mountains, new peaks that I’ve never been on, because every time you stand on a new summit you get a different perspective and a different view of the world and other mountains and that’s exactly what’s been going on.
Who’s on the trip with you?
A lot of people, it’s a rotating cast of characters. The three principle people behind this project are myself and Ted and Christy Mahon. The three of us are trying to complete this project together. We’ve all skied all of the 14ers, Christy was the first woman to do so and Ted completed them after I did. So, we wanted to sort of be the first people to raise the bar once again, ski the centennial peaks, the hundred highest peaks in Colorado, that’s never been done.
How does this compare to skiing the 14ers?
It’s exactly the same. These peaks in some cases are just a couple feet shy of being at 14,000 foot status. They’re often times almost even better, you never see any people on them and it’s a lot of similar trail heads. They’re cool because there’s no inclination out there on skiing a lot of these 13ers because there’s a lot of information out there on the 14ers of course, partly because of me and my book and everything else I’ve done on the 14ers, but the 13ers, we don’t really know that much about them, so it’s that much more fun for us to create content and share it with people and sort of spread the word about the skiing on these awesome 13ers.
How’s the snow been?
The snow is absolutely incredible, it’s one of the best springs that we’ve had in years in Colorado. There’s tons and tons of snow from the April snow storms and even in May we had snow. We’ve got cold temperatures so the mountains are holding on to some great snow and this is the perfect time of year for ski mountaineering because the avalanche danger is minimal right now if its early in the morning when the temperatures are cold, which is when we go. This is the time to ski the big lines and get out and tour these mountains. The conditions are phenomenal right now, I’d say almost as good as it gets for ski mountaineering in Colorado.
Have you had any weather issues?
No, we haven’t had any weather issues. We’ve had little bits of weather here and there but we’re pretty dialed on our weather forecasting. We work with Joel Gratz with OpenSnow and he sends a forecast, we watch the CAIC forecast, so we’ve got a pretty good idea when there’s bad weather. Last Monday (5/13/2013) we took the day off, it was pouring rain and snowing. We just try to manage it and right now the weather’s awesome for the next five days. So, we’re out hitting it hard, we got two yesterday and one today, we’re going to go for two more tomorrow and our goal is to get eight or nine this week.
What did you ski today (5/22/2013)?
Today we skied Mt. Oklahoma. It was nice because we had a moment of silence on top for the victims of the tornado in Moore, OK. It was cool to be on the summit thinking of those people. Mt. Oklahoma is an amazing peak with a huge East face. We skied this gnarly couloir, which was awesome and we got some incredible, incredible photos. We’ve been having a really good photographer come along with us, my partner Ted Mahon is a great photographer himself but also Scott Rinckenberger, is from Seattle and he drove out last week and he’s just been slaying it. He worked for Chase Jarvis and he’s a really good photographer so we’ve been getting some great images on the project and that’s been a ton of fun as well because we love creating cool content.
What’re the peaks you’re headed to next?
We’re going to move the RV this afternoon, we’re still in the Sawatch Range between Leadville and Buena Vista, CO, and we’re going to be in this area called Clear Creek for some mountains tomorrow called “Ice Mountain” and “North Apostle.” Ice Mountain has a really famous north facing couloir called the “Refrigerator Couloir.”
How many peaks have you bagged so far on the trip?
20 after today.
Was there any peak that was more difficult than the others?
I think the hardest ones that we’ve done so far are Teakettle, Teakettle is down in the San Juans sort of between Telluride and Ouray, that’s a really challenging one. There’s a steep, steep couloir on it that wasn’t in great shape because the San Juans had a big dust layer from some dust storms in April. The skiing was decent, it wasn’t awesome, but it was technically pretty fun, pretty challenging. Cathedral Peak, right outside of Aspen was a really good one, we got incredible powder snow in the Pearl Couloir. Pearl Couloir is a famous line that doesn’t get done very often and we opened that up in great conditions. I think the Refrigerator Couloir tomorrow, that will be pretty challenging also. One of the biggest challenges of this skiing is not necessarily the technical difficulty of some of the lines, it’s just staying fit, staying motivated every day after day after day to keep going. Getting up early, getting enough calories, staying healthy and pushing your body basically as hard as it can possibly go.
How do you guys go about doing that, staying motivated?
It’s kind of hard when you wake up at 4:30 in the morning. It’s pretty tough to get out of bed, your body’s tired and it wants to keep sleeping but once you get a pot of hot coffee going and you start walking, the sunlight happens and you’re up above treeline, you see the beautiful blue sky day emerging, you’re body wakes up and that’s kind of what it’s all about. It’s all an out of body experience of staring at the natural beauty of the mountains and surroundings and you can scope out a ski line and you do it, get to the bottom and high five and hug your friends and you’re like “Yeah! We did another one.” It’s just a super positive experience.
How does going on a big mountain road trip in Colorado compare to other adventures you’ve had around the world?
I think Colorado is a fantastic place to do this type of adventure because there are so many big mountains here, much more than any other place in North America. We’ve got 650 mountains over 13,000 feet. Nobody else has anything close to that, and there’s pretty good road access. So, if you want to do a road trip, Colorado is just the perfect place because there are so many objectives, so many things to do. It’s fun for me, because it is my home state and I like pushing the boundaries and raising the bar here at home.
Have you given any thought to what your next big adventure is going to be?
Oh my god, yeah! I’ve given a lot of thought to that and I’ve got a bunch of plans already for next year but nothing that can be revealed quite yet.
What’s the first thing that you’re going to do once you get back home to Aspen?
Hang out with the kids because I’ve been pretty delinquent on the parenting side of things, I’ve been traveling pretty much non-stop since January and so definitely would like to hang out with my family and bike and run and maybe sleep a little bit too.
Any plans for the Southern Hemisphere later in the summer?
Of course, I’ll be down in Portillo, Chile in August. It’s my fourteenth year in a row going to Portillo and the tenth year in a row for my Superstars Ski Camp that I run out of Portillo. I’ll be down there guiding in August and my family will come down in August and I’m definitely looking forward to that but, I’m looking forward to some summer too, I look forward to being out of ski boots because I’ve skied about 160 days this year already.
For more information on the Centennial Peaks Project and to follow Chris, Ted and Christy on their adventure head to CentennialSkiers.com.
About the author:
Donny O'Neill hails from the mystical, faraway land of New Hartford, CT. When he's not in the mountains searching for Big Foot, he's the Associate Editor here at Freeskier.