Alpenglow Ski Mountaineering History Project Home
Doug Robinson - A Night on the Ground, A Day in the Open
I have reviewed only the chapter about the author's trip to Mt Rainier in May 1980 during which Chris Landry made the first ski descent of Liberty Ridge. The book also contains stories of skiing in the Sierra Nevada, including high routes in the 1970s and 1980s.
Chapter 24: Out to Launch
p. 181: In early May, 1980, the author joined Chris Landry for an eleven-day ski trip on Mt Rainier. The two had met earlier in the spring at an outdoor industry trade show in Las Vegas. There they planned their trip and lined up a few equipment sponsors.
They approached the mountain from the White River park entrance, skiing up the snow covered road before it was cleared for the season. They carried 200 pounds of gear, two pairs of boots each, two pairs of downhill skis for Landry, and full ice climbing gear. Chris Landry skied Liberty Ridge on carefully filed Rossignol FP downhill skis with Marker M5 bindings set to "Race." He carried the skis on his back the whole trip, "carefully taped together with a paper spacer, only taking them out the morning of the descent."
The two men climbed the mountain and skied the Emmons Glacier on May 6. The author claims he made the first ski descent of the mountain on Nordic ski gear (three-pin bindings) that day. Then they circled around the mountain to the north side, waiting out a blizzard along the way. The author does not provide the date of the Liberty Ridge descent, but it must have been around May 10.
The snow on the descent was smooth windboard. Robinson downclimbed the route on foot and took photographs while Landry skied. The author describes Landry's technique--double pole plants and jump turns--and gives his impressions of the descent:"A faint hiss brings my attention up to powder snow sliding over the horizon of ice above. Backlit golden, the snow rolls over the toes of my climbing boots like a miniature ground blizzard, leaving a taste of vertigo in my mouth. Now the powder is coming in rhythmic waves, too small to be an avalanche. Soon I can see a figure behind them, pumping turns as he comes into view, skis flashing in the air between the edge sets that are scraping off this cascading powder. Chris Landry is skiing the north ridge of Mt Rainier."The author writes, "Ski mountaineering edges into the realm of extreme skiing, according to Chris, at about 45 degrees." He notes Landry's other definition of extreme skiing: "'Extreme skiing begins,' he says, 'at the point where if you fall, you die.'" The chapter contains a photo of Chris Landry skiing Liberty Ridge, another of him relaxing in a tent, and a photo of Doug Robinson skiing the Emmons Glacier on Nordic skis.
Return to the Alpenglow Ski Mountaineering History Project home page