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Cody Townsend Finds Himself Between a Cornice, a Rock, and a No-Fall Zone

Because, why not tackle one of the scariest lines of the Fifty Project at the end of the season?

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Cody Townsend doesn’t seem to ever take the easy way out of anything, so of course he saves one of his scariest and most challenging lines of the Fifty Project for last—or at least, for the end of his third winter checking off the 50 classic ski descents in North America.

The Patriarch, Towsend’s 36th objective on the agenda, is a technical line on Montana’s 12,555-foot Glacier Peak. It’s one that necessitates a 10-mile skin in (after you’ve already gotten a sled bump), an overnight in the middle of Montana’s vast and freezing wilderness, and a puckering mountaineering approach with some serious consequences if you take a wrong step—and that’s all before you get to ski a terrifyingly steep line guarded by a menacing cornice.

Cody Townsend, the Fifty Project, the Patriarch
Ski mountaineers Hilaree Nelson and Jim Morrison join Townsend, freezing their behinds off in unusually cold temps on their way to bag the Patriarch in Montana. (Photo: Bjarne Salen)

To get this one checked off the list, Townsend called in the big guns in the mountaineering world: Hilaree Nelson and Jim Morrison, a.k.a. ski mountaineering legends and power couple.

The foursome, including cameraman extraordinaire Bjarne Salen, face a lot of scary things on this mission, chief among them high-consequence terrain without many safe zones. Sure, that’s worrisome. But what shook us to our very core is the idea of putting on cold ski boots in single-digit temps. No thank you very much.

Watch: The Fifty Project Line #36 – The Patriarch

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