Bio — Long Form



Writer, ski mountaineer, climber, and multimedia creator Louis Dawson II (2nd) climbed his first peak at age nine. Since then his mountain adventures have ranged worldwide. In the 1970s and 1980s he made his living in outdoor education and as a carpenter. During that time, he combined his ski skills with his mountaineering savvy to become one of Colorado’s most prolific ski alpinists. He is the first person to have skied all of Colorado’s 54 14,000 foot peaks, a project he completed in May of 1991. Find a list of Lou’s descents here.

Louis Lou Dawson with wife Lisa and son Louis, Alpbach, Austria 2008.

Louis Lou Dawson with wife Lisa and son Louis, Alpbach, Austria 2008.

In the early 1980s Dawson began his career in outdoor media with the publication of his first book. Since then, magazines have published numerous articles by Dawson, and six of his books have been in print. Dawson presently works as a writer, professional blogger, public speaker, website designer, and digital content creator (both words and graphics). In a word, Dawson is a generalist. He is incredibly talented in skills ranging from skiing to mechanics, and enjoys applying his skills to the multifaceted challenges of outdoor recreation in all forms, including the communication side. Dawson is married, has one adult child, and lives in Colorado USA.

Expert ski mountaineer.
Extensive rock climbing background, from big walls to sport climbing, numerous first ascents.
Lifetime commitment to fitness and athletics.
Advanced IT skills: video editing; website security; design and publishing; digital imaging.
Published writer.
Published photographer.
Public speaker.
Expert in residential home building — construction manager and master carpenter.
Experience in automobile mechanics and restoration.
Trained in firearm safety, backcountry elk and deer hunter.
Expert 4×4 trail driver and snowmobile operator.
Vast experience in vertical ice climbing, numerous first ascents.
Search and Rescue volunteer.
Ski boot fitter, Masterfit trained and certified.

50 years mountaineering and backcountry recreation. In mid 1970s owned one of the original permitted mountaineering guide services in Colorado. Instructor for National Outdoor Leadership School, 1969-1973. Middle School outdoor education program director, Aspen Community School, 1975-1978. Colorado Outward Bound Instructor, 1979-1981. Carpenter and residential construction manager, 1972-1990. Masthead, Climbing Magazine, mid-1990s. Masthead feature writer and columnist, Couloir Magazine, 1992-2001. Editor: 10th Mountain Huts Newsletter, 1989 – 1997. Freelance writer and photographer, 1980 to present. Freelance computer consultant, multimedia creator, website design and management, 1991 to present. Publisher emeritus and professional blogger,, 1997 to present.

Lou is a Colorado Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame, class of 2005.

Lou is a Colorado Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame inductee, class of 2005.

Avalanche Safety Training, American Avalanche Institute; Red Cross Advanced First Aid; National Outdoor Leadership School instructor certification; Colorado Outward Bound School instructor training; Amateur Radio license KC0FNM. High School equivalency certificate and numerous adult college level courses: Geology, Computer Skills, Spanish language, Photography, Writing. Friends Hut Incorporated, charter board of directors. Colorado Division of Wildlife hunter safety certification. Previous memberships: American Alpine Club, Outdoor Writer’s Association of America, Colorado Mountain Club, Colorado Snowmobile Association. Search and rescue volunteer.

– Outdoor Writer’s Association of America photography contest, winner of Scenic and People category 1991.

– Banff Book Festival 1996, winner, Mountain Exposition category book award.

– International Ski History Association Ullr Award, 1998.

– Couloir Magazine Hall of Fame, 2002, inductee.

– Colorado Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame, 2005, inductee.

– Powder Magazine, 2007, named as one of the “48 Greatest Skiers of our Time.”

— Born: 1952 Home: Colorado, USA
— Family: Married with one adult child.
— Please contact Louis Dawson by using the “contact” option in menu on this webpage.


n 2007 Lou was named by Powder Magazine as one of the most influential skiers in the past 35 years.

n 2007 Lou was named by Powder Magazine as one of the most influential skiers in the past 35 years.

— 2002 to present
Lou has continued his devotion to ski mountaineering and backcountry skiing. He spends around 100 days during most seasons doing everything from local descents to European ski touring trips such as the Silvretta Traverse. While we could round out this resume with specifics for the previous decade, we feel his accomplishments and activities over past decades are more important, so we’ll save space and jump farther back in the past… Besides, for details you can always check out his blog trip reports for the past years. Do note, however, Lou’s ski descent of Denali in 2010, which was live blogged from the mountain via satellite.

— summer/fall/winter 2001 through winter/spring 2002
Wind River Mountains, Wyoming, (August 2001) 6-day backpack in Wilson Creek area. Sawatch Mountains, Colorado, fourteener hikes and Holy Cross City jeep trail 4×4 camping trip. Schofield Pass jeep trail, Colorado, two 4×4 trips with associated hiking and fishing. Elk Mountains, Colorado (winter/spring 2002), more than 30 days ski mountaineering. Western States, public speaking tour with lecture slideshow about Trooper Traverse and 10th Mountain Division. Utah, Snowbird, attended American Alpine Club annual meeting as presenter of Trooper Traverse multimedia show; Wasatch Mountains, 6 days backcountry skiing Buttler Fork and other areas. Sawatch Mountains, Colorado (spring 2002), several ski descents despite record drought conditions.

— summer/fall/winter 2000 through winter/spring 2001
Aspen, Carbondale area, Colorado, directed outdoor youth activities program for local church; (winter/spring 2001), more than 30 days ski mountaineering. Numerous days of winter backcountry skiing and alpine skiing. Sawatch Mountains, Colorado (spring 2001), “Trooper Traverse” re-creation of 10th Mountain Division ski route from Leadville to Aspen, 4 days.

— summer/fall/winter 1999 through winter/spring 2000
Authored Dawson’s Guide to Colorado Backcountry Skiing, released winter 1990/2000. Aspen, Carbondale area, Colorado, directed outdoor youth activities program for local church. Numerous hut trips and ski mountaineering days in Colorado.

Lou signing books at a Trooper Traverse presentation, winter 2001/2002.

Lou signing books at a Trooper Traverse presentation, winter 2001/2002.

— summer/fall/winter 1998 through winter/spring 1999
Aspen, Carbondale area, Colorado, directed outdoor youth activities program for local church. Elk Mountains, Colorado (May ’99), Meadow Mountain, Arkansas Mountain, ski descents and long loop exploratory ski tour); Cathedral Peak, 13,943 feet, first descent of prominent couloir on west side of north face, “Lisa Couloir” skied from exact summit; Leahy Peak, ski descent, north face (with Bob Perlmutter).

— summer/fall/winter 1997 through winter/spring 1998
Winter, 97-98, author of Wild Snow, Historical Guide to North American Ski Mountaineering. Toured country with slideshow and book signing, presented at more than 40 venues. Primary Sponsor: Black Diamond Equipment. Couloir Magazine, Masthead, feature writer and columnist.

Dawson family at book signing, around  2004.

Dawson family at book signing, around 2004.

— summer/fall/winter 1996 through winter/spring 1997
Utah, Salt Lake City (January ’97), attended Outdoor Retailer tradeshow as journalist; Wasatch Mountains, Mount Superior, South Face, ski descent (with Andrew McLean); Y-Couloir, ski descent (with A.M.), 11 days backcountry skiing in Wasatch Mountains, including Mineral Fork, Days Fork, and tour from Alta ski area to Brighton and back to Alta, solo. Vail Pass, Colorado (February ’97), talent for Fox Network television production covering backcountry skiing. Couloir Magazine, Masthead, feature writer and columnist. Published Dawson’s Guide to Colorado’s Fourteeners, Southern Peaks.

Lou leading a group of youngsters up Mount Bierstadt, Colorado.

Lou leading a group of youngsters up Mount Bierstadt, Colorado.

— summer/fall/winter 1995 through winter/spring 1996
Elk Mountains, Colorado (June ’96), Snowmass Mountain, west face, Siberia Couloir, first descent (with Bob Perlmutter), 40 – 45 degrees, started from summit ridge 200 feet north of summit. Reno, Nevada (February 1996), attended Outdoor Retailers trade show as journalist. Anchorage, Alaska (February 1996), Turnagain Pass backcountry skiing, rode Nordic Club ski train to Grandview, backcountry skiing at Grandview. Elk Mountains, Colorado (May 2), Marble area, Whitehouse Mountain, N. Face, ski descent. Grays Peak, Colorado, Ruby Gulch, ski ascent and descent from exact summit, with Russ Criswell and Alan Goldman. Tioga Pass, California, (spring 1996) numerous backcountry ski routes from Tioga Lodge. Mount Shasta, California, Hotlum/Wintun Glacier, summit ski descent, with Craig Dostie and Aeron Pope. Couloir Magazine, Masthead, feature writer and columnist. Canada, Columbia Icefields (spring ’96), Snowdome, multi-day glacier skiing trip.

Lou, Austria 2009.

Lou, Austria 2009.

— summer/fall/winter 1994 through winter/spring 1995
Front Range, Colorado, (April 4 ’94) Mount Evans from Guanella Pass, winter ascent and partial ski descent. Elk Mountains, Colorado (winter ’94), exploration of 4-mile park area for guidebook in progress. Pikes Peak, Colorado, hike/climb from Crags Campground. Sangre De Cristo, Colorado (Sept. ’94), Mount Lindsey, west ridge, ropless ascent of alpine rock arete, grade three, class 4. Couloir Magazine, Masthead, feature writer and columnist. Published Dawson’s Guide to Colorado’s Fourteeners, Northern Peaks.

— summer/fall/winter 1993 through winter/spring 1994
Elk Mountains, Colorado (spring ’94), Cathederal Peak, Pearl Couloir, ski descent with Jeff Hollenbaugh; Mount Sopris, ski ascent and descent; Marble Peak, numerous ski descents; Grizzly Peak (June 6 ’94), East Shoulder, ski descent; peak to north of Grizzly, classic couloir, ski descent.

Lou on the cover of Couloir Magazine, Feb/Mar '93, skiing Crestone Needle, South Couloir. (Glenn Randall photo).

Lou on the cover of Couloir Magazine, Feb/Mar ’93, skiing Crestone Needle, South Couloir. (Glenn Randall photo).

— summer/fall/winter 1992 through winter/spring 1993
Elk Mountains, Colorado, Sunshine (Shimer) Peak (June ’93), ski descent. Independence Pass area, Colorado, numerous ski descents including Blue Peak north west couloir. Sawatch Mountains, Mount Yale (14,196′), Colorado (May ’93), ascent of East Ridge, descent from exact summit down Silver Creek bowl approx. 2,000 vertical feet, then climbed back to summit ridge and skied couloir into Avalanche Gulch, then descended Avalanche Gulch. Mount Princeton (14,197′), Colorado (May ’93), summit ski descent via east face. Elk Mountains, Colorado, Marble area (spring 92-93), numerous peak climbs and ski descents, including Mount Daly, Marble Peak. Highland Peak, Colorado (May ’93), climbed Highland Bowl from road, descended from summit down continuous snow to road, last spring this would be a true backcountry run, as it was made into part of the ski area during the following years. Ouray, Colorado (late April, early May ’93), attended “Ouray Backcountry Ski Festival.” San Juans, Colorado, Mount Sneffels (14,150′), South Face, Birthday Chutes, complete summit ski descent
— summer/fall/winter 1991 through winter/spring 1992
Summer 92, Winter 92-93, orthopeadic surgery precluded ski travel, spent winter snow shoeing, snowmobiling and photographing mountains. One horse packing trip during summer.

— summer/fall/winter 1990 through winter/spring 1991
Sangre De Cristo Range, Colorado (summer ’90), Crestone Needle, Ellingwood Arete. Elk Mountains, Colorado (winter 90/91), numerous days ski mountaineering. Kit Carson Mountain, Sangre De Cristo Range, Colorado, (5-9-91) ski descent of Cole’s Couloir (south couloir from exact summit); this is completion of “ski the fourteeners project” skiing down all 54 of Colorado’s 14,000 foot peaks, first person in history to do so. Little Bear Peak, Sangre De Cristo Range, west couloir, first descent of peak and route. Crestone Needle, south couloir, second ever ski descent of peak and route.

— summer/fall/winter 1989 through winter/spring 1990
Fall, 1989, started ground-up restoration of 100-year-old home in Carbondale, Colorado, completed spring of 1990. Elk Mountains, Colorado (May ’90), Castle Peak (14,265 feet), first descent of East Face, from exact summit. Summit ski descents for “ski the fourteeners” project: Sangre De Cristo Mountains, Colorado, Mount Lindsey (14,042 feet), Blanca Peak, Ellingwood Peak. Longs Peak, Colorado (14,255 feet), third ever ski descent of North Face cable route. Summer, 1990, Crestone Needle, Ellingwood Arete with Jon Waterman.

— summer/fall/winter 1988 through winter/spring 1989
Couloir Magazine, Masthead, feature writer and columnist. Volunteer, Mountain Rescue Aspen, specializing in cliff rescue and winter rescue. Authored guidebook Colorado 10th Mountain Trails, published winter 1988/89. Highlights of summit ski descents for “ski the fourteeners” project (spring 1989): Humboldt Peak, Crestone Peak, Challenger Peak, Culebra Peak, El Diente Peak, Pyramid Peak (second descent, east face and north cirque).

— summer/fall/winter 1987 through winter/spring 1988
Mount Hood, Oregon (June 1988), attended national mountain rescue convention; two climbs and summit ski descents of Mount Hood, participated in rescue of injured climber on Hogback Route (made initial radio call, organized victim care. Mount St. Helens, Washington, climb and ski descent. Ski mountaineering guide (winter ’89) for Elk Mountain Guides, Aspen. Numerous trips to 10th Mountain Huts, Alfred Braun Hut System and Friends Hut. Pyramid Peak, Colorado (spring 1988), main west couloir system, first ski descent (not from summit). Highlights of summit ski descents for “ski the fourteeners” project: Handies Peak, Redcloud Peak, Sunshine Peak, San Luis Peak, Wetterhorn Peak, North and South Mount Eolus. Pyramid Peak, Elk Mountains, Colorado, first ski descent of “Basket Weaver” upper Keyhole Route combined with main west face couloir above Crater Lake (from 75 vertical feet below summit). Climbing Magazine masthead, Contributing Equipment Editor. Volunteer, Mountain Rescue Aspen, specializing in vertical rescue and winter rescue.

— summer/fall/winter 1986 through winter/spring 1987
Colorado, ski fourteeners project, ski descents: Mount of the Holy Cross, Grays Peak, Torreys Peak, Quandary Peak, Mount Lincoln, Mount Bross, Mount Bierstadt, Pikes Peak, Mount Sherman, Mount Democrat, North Maroon Peak, Mount Sneffels, Wilson Peak (N Wilson), Mount Oxford, Mount Belford, Missouri Mtn., Mount Harvard, Mount Columbia, Mount Evans, Mount Princeton. Mount of the Holy Cross, winter ascent and ski descent. Volunteer, Mountain Rescue Aspen, specializing in cliff rescue and winter rescue.

— summer/fall/winter 1985 through winter/spring 1986
Marriage, Sept 7, 1985. First book published, Colorado High Routes (winter 86/87). Full time carpenter and residential home building management, Roaring Fork Valley, Colorado. Numerous days backcountry skiing and alpine skiing.

— summer/fall/winter 1984 through winter/spring 1985
Full time carpenter in Aspen and Crested Butte, Colorado. Numerous days backcountry skiing and alpine skiing. Research for guidebook includes numerous trips to huts and hut sites, including multi-day ski of proposed sections for 10th Mountain Trail.

— summer/fall/winter 1983 through winter/spring 1984
Full time carpenter in Aspen and Crested Butte, Colorado. Numerous days backcountry skiing and alpine skiing.

— summer/fall/winter 1982 through winter/spring 1983
Recovery from avalanche injuries (summer spent in Dallas, Texas and Crested Butte, Colorado); site planning for Friends Hut. Sawatch Mountains, Colorado, Mount Elbert (14,433′), winter climb, bivouac on summit, ski descent. Winter of ski mountaineering and alpine skiing in Aspen area.

— summer/fall/winter 1981 through winter/spring 1982
Grand Teton, Wyoming, complete Exum Ridge, grade three, 5.8; Mount Moran, Tetons, Wyoming, South West Buttress, grade four 5.8 A1; also several short rock climbs in Jackson area, including classics Baxters Pinnacle and Irens Arete. Taylor Canyon, Colorado, numerous rock climbs. Black Canyon of the Gunnison River, Colorado, Hallucination Wall, second ascent, grade six, 5.11 A5; Elk Mountains, Colorado(winter 1982), 14-day winter ski traverse including winter ascent and first complete ski descent of Snowmass Mountain (14,092 feet); Elk Mountains backcountry, Colorado, caught in large avalanche, both legs broken.

— summer/fall/winter 1980 through winter/spring 1981
Elk mountains have lean snowpack winter of 1980-81. Utah, Fisher Towers (fall 1980), The Titan, Sun Devil Chimney, grade six, 5.10 A4, third ascent, six days. Utah, Zion Canyon, Cereberus, grade 5, 5.9 A3 (one-day ascent), also numerous short-hard free climbs in Zion.Elk Mountains, Colorado, Grizzly Peak (13,998 feet), ski descent of North Couloir; Mt. Rainier, Washington (May 1981), winter conditions ascent and ski descent. Mount Teocalli, Crested Butte, (spring 1981) summit ski descent and traverse to Pearl Pass area. Huscaran, Peru, attempt on Gaganta route, weathered off at 17,000 feet. Portillo area, Chile, month of ski mountaineering and backcountry skiing; Chile, southern, Villarica Volcano, ascent and ski descent.

In Snowmass after Elk Mountains Traverse, winter 79/80, clockwise from top left: Ted Keresote, Richard Compton, Frank Coffee, Louis Dawson, John Quinn, Peter Kelley.

In Snowmass after Elk Mountains Traverse, winter 79/80, clockwise from top left: Ted Keresote, Richard Compton, Frank Coffee, Louis Dawson, John Quinn, Peter Kelley.

— summer/fall/winter 1979 through winter/spring 1980
Crested Butte, Colorado, 40 days backcountry skiing, including ski descents of Red Lady mountain, Whetstone Mountains, Mt. Axtell, Teocalli Peak, Mount Augusta, Purple Mountain; Several ski traverses between towns of Aspen and Crested Butte. Elk Mountains, Colorado, 7 day winter ski traverse aborted because of record snowfalls. Washington State, Cascade Mountains, Okanagon area, instructor on 23 day Outward Bound ski mountaineering course. Oregon, Mount Hood, summit ski descent, Hogback route. Sawatch range, Colorado, instructor on 23 day Outward Bound ski mountaineering course. Ski descents of 30 major peaks in 30 day period, including Mount Elbert, French Mountain, Casco and Frasco peaks, Mount Champion, first ski descent North Face Star Mountain, and first ski descent of North Face La Plata Peak (14,336 feet).

During the 1980’s, Lou had a brief stint as an un-paid ski model for Micheal Kennedy, in return for lift rides. That’s him in dubious distinction on the Aspen ski resorts brochure.

During the 1980’s, Lou had a brief stint as an un-paid ski model for Micheal Kennedy, in return for lift rides. That’s him in dubious distinction on the Aspen ski resorts brochure.

Winter, Elk Mountains Ridge, Colorado, 8 day ski traverse. Sawatch Mountains, Colorado, 7 day winter ski mountaineering trip in Mount Champion area. Colorado, taught 4-day ice climbing seminar for Outward Bound staff. San Juan Mountains, Colorado, taught 12 day Outward Bound winter ski mountaineering course for O.B. semester program, including winter ascents of Wetterhorn, Uncompahgre and several associated peaks. Colorado, Taylor Canyon, taught 12 day rock climbing camp for Outward Bound, led and guided numerous climbs through 5.10 rating.

— summer/fall/winter1978 through winter/spring 1979
After recovering from broken leg, attended June 1978 Outward Bound instructor training in Sawatch Mountains, then worked 3 23-day mountaineering courses in San Juan Mountains, with Ted Kerosote as program director.

Sawatch and Elk Mountains, Colorado, Mount Sopris, Crystal Couloir, ski descent, also descents of Mount Hayden, Mount Massive (complete summit ski descent), Mount Tucker, and numerous other peaks. Elk Mountains, Colorado, 11 day ski traverse with John Quinn; numerous winter ski descents; Mount Teoocalli, nighttime solo ski descent, south couloir. Sawatch Mountains, Colorado, taught 23 day Outward Bound winter ski mountaineering course. Needles, South Dakota, taught 20 day NOLS autumn rock climbing camp, led 43 routes varying in difficulty from 5.5 to 5.11. Washington state, Leavenworth region rock climbing, numerous climbs. Sawatch Mountains, Colorado, taught 23 day Outward Bound mountaineering course (autumn). Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado, mixed ice and rock climbs, Taylor Powell Couloir and Y Couloir on Ypselon (ropless tandem-solo) ascents and descents, with Jon Waterman (autumn). Grand Teton, Wyoming, Enclosure Couloir ice route combined with West Ridge to summit, with Jon Waterman (autumn).

— summer/fall/winter 1977 through winter/spring 1978
Aspen, March, 1977, broken leg while backcountry skiing on Aspen Mountain, rescued by Harvy Carter and friends, non-healing fracture causes severe disability until beginning work for Colorado Outward Bound in June of 1978. Eldorado Canyon, Colorado, spring 1978, Super Slab, Outer Space, and other rock climbs up to 5.11 rating. Jackson Wyoming, American Avalanche Institute professional school certification; Aspen area, Colorado, numerous ice climbs and ski mountaineering routes. This was a drought winter, without much opportunity in ski mountaineering.
Climbing Magazine cover with Lou Dawson ice climbing Hidden Falls

— summer/fall/winter 1976
Aspen, Colorado (summer ’76), mountaineering guide, climbing instructor for Aspen Climbing School; numerous rock climbs on Independence Pass. Telluride, Colorado, two ascents of Bridalvail Falls ice route. Ophir, Colorado, Ames Falls, first ascent with Steve Shea and Michael Kennedy. Breckenridge, Colorado, taught two 4-day ice climbing seminars for local outdoor equipment store. Glenwood Canyon, Colorado, ice climbs: Hidden Falls (first and second ascents), Glenwood Falls, Ramp Route (first solo ascent), Glenwood Falls, Left Pillar (first ascent and first solo ascent). Provo Canyon, Utah, Stairway to Heaven ice route (first ascent to include final pillar, claimed as first ascent as much to anger locals as anything else .) Elk Mountains, Colorado, taught more than 20 days of winter mountaineering courses for Aspen Climbing School. Pyramid Peak, Colorado, West Ridge, first winter ascent of route (Fritz Stammberger did first winter ascent of Pyramid via East Ridge several years prior.)

— summer/fall/1975
Alaska, Alaskan Range, (summer ’75) Mooses Tooth, East Face, attempt to 1,300-foot level, forced to retreat by avalanches. Longs Peak, Colorado, Diamond Face, Dawson/Jack route, first ascent, grade four, 5.9 A5 (with Rich Jack); Longs Peak, Diamond Face, D1, one day speed ascent, grade five 5.9 A3. Aspen, Colorado, rock climbing and mountaineering guide and instructor; Independence Pass rock climbing, teamed with Steve Shea, Micheal Kennedy, Larry Bruce, Rich Jack, Bruce Gordon and others for 23 first ascent rock climbs including first ascent leads of Mind Parasite, Trylobite, many others. Crested Butte, Colorado, Taylor Canyon, numerous rock climbs, several first ascents. Sawatch Range, Williams Mountains, Peak 13203 (Williams Mountains South B), East Face, first ascent Dawson/Jack route, grade three 5.9, 3 pitches roped (we camped in the area and sought out the better more continuous rock) during July of 1975. Elk Mountains, Colorado (fall ’75), led 30 teens on 12 day mountaineering backpacking trip. Yosemite Valley, California, El Capitan, West Face, grade six, 5.9 A3 (guided the route, with Larry Bruce as co-guide); El Capitan, Salathe Wall, grade six (with Michael Kennedy), 5.10 A4; numerous short hard free-climbs in Yosemite.

— winter 75/76
Partner with Steve Shea in Aspen Climbing School & Guide Service; taught 10-day winter mountaineering course, taught technical ice climbing. Elk Mountains, Colorado, North Maroon Peak, North East Ridge (third winter ascent); Pyramid Peak, North Face Right Hand Couloir, first winter ascent. Glenwood Canyon, Colorado, Glenwood Ice Waterfall, Direct Route, first ascent. Sawatch Mountains, Colorado (spring ’76), New York Peak, North East Couloir, ski desecnt; Anderson Peak, east ice gully, solo ascent. Utah, Canyonlands, Sewing Machine Needle, led first ascent (with Fred Becky and Eric Bijornstadt), grade two, 5.8 A2. Colorado, Dinosaur National Monument, climbing instructor to group of 8 -13 year old school students. Yosemite, California (spring ’76), Half Dome, North West Face, speed ascent, 15 hours, grade six 5.10 A3; Middle Cathederal Rock, Direct North Buttress, one day ascent, grade five 5.10; numerous short 5.10 and 5.11 free climbs.

Winter of 1975/1976, began working for ski gear distributor Company 3 in Aspen, Colorado. Worked as a carpenter building their offices, and worked as a ski tech with the first production model of Ramer Bindings. The first Ramer’s had weak vertical heel retention in alpine mode, to solve this problem Lou invented a leaf spring that stiffened the heel unit. He made the first of these out of paint scraper blades, in the workshop at Company 3. The idea was noticed by Paul Ramer and soon included in production model Ramer bindings, and continued in use throughout all the iterations of the Ramer Universal backcountry skiing binding.

Ramer binding heel unit, circa 1980. In 1975 Lou Dawson invented the spring configuration used to increase vertical release tension in the heel unit, as shown in this photo.
Ramer binding heel unit, circa 1980. In 1975 Lou Dawson invented the spring configuration used to increase vertical release tension in the heel unit, as shown in this photo.

— summer/fall/winter 1974 through winter/spring 1975
Yosemite Valley, California, (autumn 1974) 21 pitches 5.10 on short-hard free climbs, 3 pitches 5.11; first free ascent of The Folly, Center Route, grade four, 5.10. Elk Mountains, Colorado, led 21 teenagers on 12 day mountaineering trip. Wind River Mountains (autumn), Sulfur Peak, Cut Throat Spire, first ascent, grade four 5.9, six pitches ice, six rock. Estes Park, Colorado, Lumpy Ridge, Crack of Fear (5.10), Twister (5.10). Longs Peak, Colorado (summer), Diamond Face combined route, first half Christopher Robin, second half Hess McClure, grade five 5.9 A4. Elk Mountains, Colorado, Pyramid Peak, West Ridge, speed record ascent, 2 hours 7 minutes from parking lot to summit. Aspen area, numerous rock and peak climbs. Fischer Towers, Utah (spring 1975), The Convent, Carter Route, first free ascent, grade four 5.10. Canadian Rocky Mountains (winter 1974), Mt. Kitchner, Central Couloir, attempt to mid-point on unclimbed route. Aspen, Colorado, cross-country ski guide and instructor.

— summer 1973
Longs Peak, Colorado (summer ’73), Diamond Face, Curving Vine, grade five 5.8 A2. Aspen, Colorado, numerous rock climbs, rock climbing instructor. Yosemite Valley, California (fall 1973), El Capitan, Dihedral Wall, grade six 5.9 A3; Rostrum, grade five 5.10 A2; Washington Column, Prow, grade five 5.8 A4; numerous 5.10 free climbs. Fischer Towers, Utah, Titan, West Face, first ascent, grade five 5.9 A4. Yosemite Valley, California (spring ’74), More than 30 pitches of 5.10 on short hard free climbs. Partnered with Ray Jardine with our goal to climb every 5.10 pitch in the Valley, which we did. With Jardine and Kris Walker attempted the first one-day ascent of El Capitan, via the Nose route, grade six, 5.10, A3, caught in weather, made fastest ascent to date, first overnight ascent, in 28 hours with unplanned stop in rain and bivouac, 20 hours total climbing time (times coordinated with Jardine records 2021). Glenwood Canyon, Colorado (spring ’74): Third Buttress Direct, first ascent, grade three, 5.10; Lurking Fear, first ascent, grade four, 5.10. Eldorado Canyon, Colorado, numerous grade three rock climbs.

— winter 1973/1974
Elk Mountains, Colorado (winter 73/74), Pyramid Peak, East Ridge, second winter ascent of route; North Maroon Peak, North Face (winter ascent); Capitol Peak, North Face, first winter ascent of Slingshot Couloir direct with Michael Kennedy (January 1974). Aspen, Colorado, ski touring instructor and guide. Marble Redstone area, Colorado, ice climbs, Redstone Ice Pillar, first ascent, West Redstone Ice Pillar, first ascent, Marble Ice Waterfall (Milton Creek), first ascent.

— summer/fall/winter 1972 through winter/spring 1973
Wind River Mountains, Wyoming (summer 1972), instructor on 3 wilderness mountaineering courses; Knife Point Mountain, first ascent, North East Buttress from Indian Pass. Yosemite Valley, California (fall 1972), Leaning Tower, grade five 5.8 A4, Washington Column, South Face, grade five; numerous short-hard free climbs. Crested Butte, Colorado (winter 1972), attended first ever USSA ski touring instructor’s certification (received certification), traveled to clinic via ski traverse from Aspen to Crested Butte via Conundrum Pass. Aspen, Colorado (winter 1972/73), cross country ski guide and instructor. Elk Mountains, Colorado, Capitol Peak, third winter ascent* February 1973 (with Kristina Thorpe); Pyramid Peak, West Ridge, third winter ascent. Alaska, Denali, Mt. McKinley (spring 1973), Muldrow Glacier from Kantishna with no external support, using skis, only second or third time this had been done to date, summited on June 8, 1973.

– winter/spring 1972
Aspen, Colorado (winter 1972), numerous days of backcountry skiing and alpine skiing. Yosemite Valley, California (spring ’72), Sentinel Rock, Steck Salathe Route, grade five 5.9 (with Steve Kentz); numerous other rock climbs in Yosemite.

— summer/fall/winter 1971
Wind River range, Wyoming, (May 1971) attended second ever NOLS instructor certification course, hired as assistant instructor then as instructor, taught several 30 day wilderness mountaineering courses in Wind Rivers. Many climbs during NOLS courses: Sulfur Peak, West Face, first ascent, grade two; Stroud Peak, Northerly Northwest Face, first ascent, grade three, 5.8. In September after summer of work for NOLS, did self-organized expedition to Gannet Peak area with Yosemite wall climber Don Peterson: Mount Warren, first ascent Southeast Face ice, eight pitches alpine ice. (For Wind River ascent details see notes at end of this document.)

— summer/fall/winter 1970 through winter/spring 1971
Wind River Mtns, Wyoming, (June 1970) attended first ever NOLS instructor certification course, taught by Paul Petzoldt and his top guides. Hired by NOLS as assistant instructor, worked one 30 day wilderness mountaineering course with Nancy Westerlund Pallister. (See Wind River Notes at bottom of this document). Tetons, Wyoming, Garnet Canyon, Guides Wall, regular route with NOLS instructor who mentored me. Yosemite Valley, California, (fall 1970) first trip to Yosemite Valley, with Hank Barlow and Kristina Thorpe, did small amount of rock climbing in Yosemite.

— summer/fall/winter 1969 through winter/spring 1970
Elk Mountains, Colorado, summer of back packing, hiking and bicycling and peak scrambling. Capitol Peak, Colorado, (autumn) attempt on east face route, caught in snowstorm. Worked as carpenter for father on our home he was building. Aspen, Colorado (winter), alpine skiing. Tetons, Wyoming, (winter 1970/71), attempt on Grand Teton with Paul Petzoldt NOLS group. Student at Aspen High School.

— summer 1968 through winter 1969
Wind River Mountains, Wyoming, (summer) National Outdoor Leadership School, graduated as student, 16-years-old. Paul Petzoldt, Tom Warren, are instructors. NOLS Alumini Coordinator Diane Shoutis is student on the same NOLS course. Aspen, Colorado, numerous days of alpine skiing and snowshoeing.

Lou, Aspen High School 1967.

Lou, Aspen High School 1967.

— summer 1967 through winter 1968
Aspen, Colorado, attended Ashcrofters boy’s mountaineering school, Castle Creek Valley. Ashcrofters includes 2-week backpack in San Juan Mountains with ascents of 14ers Windom Peak, Sunshine Peak, Wetterhorn Peak. Ashcrofters also includes a rock climbing camp at Independence Pass, and a week-long backpack in Maroon Bells Wilderness, with ascent of Pyramid Peak, West Ridge.

— summer 1966 through winter 1967
Aspen area, summer camping and winter alpine skiing. Small amount of peak scrambling and general backcountry hiking.

— summer 1965 through winter 1966
Colorado, mountain travel and car-camping with boy’s camping group, small amount of peak hiking and backcountry hiking. Camping in mountains near Aspen, Coloradoo. Utah, Lake Powell, in shallow draft boat, traveled length of lake after it had just begun to fill up after dam completion, saw backcountry that is forever lost due to the lake. Backpacked into Havasu Canyon, Grand Canyon. Moved to Aspen, Colorado in late summer of 1965.

— summer 1961 through winter 1965
Climbed first mountain in July of 1961, in Collegiate Range, Colorado, 9 years old. Backpacking and backcountry hiking with Boy Scouts in Texas. Summer camping and travel with family in Colorado. Backcountry hiking and car camping in Big Bend National Park, Texas.


Capitol Peak note: First winter ascent was done by a group from Boulder, Colorado in 1966. Fritz Stammberger and Gordon Whitmer did the second, in 1972 by a futuristic direct line up the north face.


Selected First Ascents in Wind River Mountains, Wyoming.
I recorded the following first ascents in my journal, but neglected to note the exact dates for some. Most occurred during the summers of 1970 to 1973. I enjoyed many other climbs in the Winds, including a number of other first ascents. I regret not recording most of those climbs in my journal, here are the ones I did write down:

Les Dames Anglaises #1, small but well known feature between Warren and Doublet peaks, first free ascent (5.9). This little gem is not a big deal these days, but back in the early 70s, doing 5.9 rock on a Wind River peak was something, so it made it into my notebook.

Stroud Peak, North West Face Direct, first ascent (with Kristina Thorpe), 5.8 grade three, 13 pitches. Start at small snow patch just before N.W. buttress. Wander up crack systems and couloir, then behind prominent giant flake about 2/3 way up at about 9 pitches. From here traverse 1 pitch east then go 3 pitches to summit. A nice alpine rock climb of moderate difficulty.

The Right Bosom (Dinwoody region), east northeast face, first ascent, 5.8 grade 3 (a classic practice climb I did with 3 NOLS students). Walk north along base of Bosom until you’re about halfway along the base of an obvious apron that ends at the north end of a permanent snowfield. Follow the most logical route up a few flakes, then wander up 9 pitches, keep to the left of the dome on northeast ridge. After passing to left of dome, do another pitch after grassy ledge system to the end of the climbing. From here you can contrive more pitches or scramble to summit. Descend the couloir between left & right bosoms (third class).

Knife Point Mountain NE Buttress (12,838), first ascent with 2 NOLS students, 5.6 grade two. This is the prominent NE face seen on the approach to Indian Pass from the east side of the Divide. Third class scramble about 1/2 way up the face, then take 4 fifth-class pitches direct up face to summit.

Sulfur Peak, SW Face, grade two, 5.3, first ascent with 9 NOLS students (another good climb for learning alpine rock climbing). Start from saddle below southwest face, do one 4th class pitch up and left on ledge systems, then one 5th class pitch to dirty ledge on regular route.

Mount Warren, “upside down Y shaped couloir”, obvious ice route, first ascent with Don Peterson, Sept. 1971, 50 to 55 degree technical water ice, 8 165′ pitches then exit from couloir and third class to #3 Les Dames Anglaises, then take ridge to summit.

Sulfur Peak, Cut Throat Spire, first ascent, grade four 5.9, six pitches ice, six rock (with Michael Kennedy, fall 1974). Obvious spire as seen from valley. During a NOLS course a few years previous I soloed another of the couloirs on this part of Sulfur, that also being a first ascent.

Also related to the Wind River, in Sinks Canyon out of Lander: Soaring Eagle Crack, first ascent, 5.9, 1971 with Richard Compton. Obvious lengthy crack and chimney system on the north wall (Rise Wall?) of the canyon.

Following images of Lou Dawson are copyrighted and for media use only. For publication, in the case of an image with credit other than “Lou Dawson Collection” or “Craig Dawson Sr.” you must obtain permission from the creators.

download high-res print tif version of Dawson ski photo, credit Brian

download high-res print JPEG version of Dawson ski photo, credit Brian

download high-res print version of Lou portrait, credit Brian Litz.

download high-res of Lou portrait, Denali 1973 , credit Lou Dawson collection.

download high-res Lou portrait, Denali 1973, blue parka, credit Lou Dawson collection.

download high-res shot of Lou’s first peak, age 9, credit Craig Dawson Sr.

download high-res shot of Lou skiing Crestone Needle , credit Glenn Randall.

download shot #2, Lou on Crestone Needle , credit Glenn Randall.

download high-res shot of Lou skiing Longs Peak, 1990
Longs peak image info:
– Lou Dawson skiing fourteener Longs Peak, 14,259′ Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado.
– Ski descent May 14, 1990.
– Route: North Face.
– Number 49 during Dawson’s project to ski all 54 Colorado fourteeners.
– Photo credit: Glenn Randall, use or publication by permission only.

download high-res shot of Lou during Elks traverse 1979 – 8 MB Tiff version, credit, Lou Dawson collection.

download high-res shot of Lou powder skiing in 1980s, credit Michael Kennedy.

download high-res shot of Wild Snow history book cover, no credit required.

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Welcome to Louis (Lou) Dawson's personal website. Lou's passion for the past 50 years has been alpinism, climbing, mountaineering and skiing -- along with all manner of outdoor recreation. He has authored numerous books and articles about ski touring and is known as the first person to ski down all 54 of Colorado's 14,000-foot peaks, otherwise known as the Fourteeners.

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