Christening ‘Peg Leg’: White, Hinchliffe and Soderquist ski the north face of Capitol Peak

Last Thursday, Aspen locals Jordan White, Colter Hinchliffe and Riley Soderquist skied the first descent of a line now known as “Peg Leg,” located on the north face of Capitol Peak (14,130 ft.) in Colorado’s Elk Mountains. Before Thursday, five variations had been skied off Capitol’s summit, but the trio’s line is now the most direct. The group descended 2,530 vertical feet from the summit, completing three rappels—one of which measured 400 ft.—along the way.

We caught up with White—a guide for Aspen Alpine Guides and a seasoned ski mountaineer who has skied all of Colorado’s 14ers—to talk about conditions, line choice and a runaway ski.

The north face of Capitol Peak (14,130 ft.). Elk Mountains, Colorado. [Photo] Jordan White

The north face of Capitol Peak (14,130 ft.). Elk Mountains, Colorado. [Photo] Jordan White

Backcountry Magazine: How long had you been eyeing the line? What made you want to ski this line in particular?

Jordan White: A few years ago, Colter and another friend of ours, Anton [Sponar], skied a different line on Capitol a little bit farther to looker’s left on that same face, but it had a lot more traversing and bullshit compared to this one. I had a picture of this line just this season really.

I’ve spent a lot of my ski mountaineering career so far skiing the 14ers, and every time you’re up there, you’re looking for the most direct, most aesthetic line that has the least traversing and the least junk to deal with. It’s the sixth way that somebody has skied off the top of Capitol but it’s now the most direct way. And that’s what we were looking for.

BCM: What were the conditions like?

JW: It hadn’t frozen super heavily overnight, but we figured, based on the fact that we were skiing a north-facing aspect, that was OK as long as we finished our climbing on southern aspects early enough. There was definitely some wintery snow up there on top of some older, more firm snow so it made for edgeable, carvable snow for pretty much the entire length of the line. It was sunny with a little bit of wind. As far as the snow went, we couldn’t really ask for much better.

Colter Hinchcliffe and Riley Soderquist make their way up the steeps of Capitol Peak [Photo] Jordan White

Colter Hinchliffe and Riley Soderquist make their way up the steeps of Capitol Peak. [Photo] Jordan White

BCM: What kind of logistics went into planning for such a technical route?

JW: Anything you go after you pack your pack based on what you think you’re going to deal with. A lot of days are just crampons, ice-axe and your ski gear. That’s the end of it. But when you go for a line like this, you’re fully expecting to have to do a lot of rappel work and a bunch of extra rope work, so you’re bringing a whole lot more gear to accomplish that.

We had two 60-meter ropes, cordelettes; we had webbing; we had cams and pickets. We had a rack to build an anchor in just about any scenario.

BCM: What went into the final decision making for your route when you were up on the summit?

JW: We had a backup plan and we were trying to decide between the backup plan and this line. I think, for us, it was looking at what was available for rappel anchors and the fact that our line was in the sun and the other one was going to be in the shade for several hours. We ended up choosing this one because it was the more aesthetic line.

Colter Hinchcliffe and Jordan White setting the bootpack towards the summit [Photo] Riley Soderquist

Colter Hinchliffe and Jordan White setting the bootpack toward the summit. [Photo] Riley Soderquist

BCM: What were some of the technical elements of the line that made it difficult?

JW: It was a 60-degree pitch. It had cliff bands, and you’re skiing over incredibly gnarly exposure. For one, you’re not allowed to fall on it. I think everybody was pretty on their toes until we got to the second rappel. I wouldn’t say you let your guard down but you’re a little bit more comfortable than you were above that and, as the snow got better, the skiing got better and there were less rocks to be worried about.

Riley Soderquist linking turns through fresh corn snow [Photo] Jordan White

Riley Soderquist linking turns through 60-degree corn. [Photo] Jordan White

BCM: Tell me about Colter losing his ski.

JW: That happened at the very bottom. I mean, he was bummed. But we’d skied the entire line before that happened. All we had to do was rappel off that last cliff. He was just trying to transition from skiing to putting [his ski] on his pack so he could rappel and it slipped out of his hand as he was pulling it off. His ski was a little more beat up than when he started but it was fine to ski out the rest of the way.

BCM: How does this line compare to the other lines you have tackled on the 14ers?

JW: This is the biggest line I’ve tackled in Colorado, by far. It may not be the longest, but it’s still the most stout line I’ve done in Colorado.


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