A poetic ski mountaineering route to connect with mountain goats on two of the most challenging peaks in Colorado


7 - 8









FATMAP difficulty grade



How poetic - Thunder and Lightning.

Except don’t get caught up in the poetic side of the mountains’ names, because they are aptly named.

They strike, they’re loud, they’re intense.

The day begins with an approach up the magnificent West Maroon drainage.

Assess the best point to begin the ascent into the Len Shoemaker Basin where Thunder and Lightning both funnel into.

The first climb of the day is Thunder Pyramid’s West Face.

Determine whether you prefer ascending the face entirely to the summit, or keeping to climber’s right and finishing off the ascent with some fun and technical ridge traversing.

I opted for the ridge, partially because I love traversing ridges, but also because the Pyramid ridgeline is famous for being home to numerous stunning mountain goats.

If you catch a glimpse of one, lucky you.

You’ll undoubtedly not see any other human tracks in the snow, but you’ll likely discover the essence of the mountain goat through their impressive footprints along the ridge.

Descend the steep west face of Thunder and enjoy the rather open turns you're able to make as the Maroon Bells stand tall across the valley.

Once back into the basin, it’s time to ascend Lightning in a manner that’s rather contradictory to reality, because lightning always comes before thunder.

The route off of Lightning, which I have named the bolt, is a more challenging climb and ski than that of Thunder.

The west couloir is straightforward but quite steep.

The real climbing begins on the very steep northwest face: this will most likely consist of mixed manoeuvres through snow and loose red shale rock.

You should pop up onto the ridge just beneath the summit and be greeted by the same mountain goat tracks that you just admired on top of Thunder.

It’s a beautiful mystery how these animals move and live in these mountains that seem so uninhabitable.

Descend your route of ascent: enjoy the powder turns on the steep northwest face, but be careful of the rocks that lie beneath the white blanket.