The Fifty: Castle Peak

In year three of Cody Townsend’s “The Fifty Project,” we’ll be giving you an episode-by-episode breakdown of the lines he skis, the tools that make it happen, and how you might be able to score a similar adventure yourself.

The Line

In the steeps of Idaho’s White Cloud Mountain Range lies a summit that’s a classic in its own right—Castle Peak. The 10-12 mile approach can be expedited using a snowmobile to access Fourth of July Lake where the boundary of the Cecil D. Andrus-White Clouds Wilderness begins. From there, crest the ridgeline to the east to drop into the Chamberlain Lake basin to access the base of Castle Peak. Here is where you’ll notice the two iconic couloirs that gave this mountain its notoriety. 

It’s described as classic steep couloir skiing. The two south-facing lines lie between 35-45 degrees and act as more of a gully that collects snow. The whole pitch is avalanche terrain, including the approach ridgeline, so considerations and good decisions must be made to stay safe. Without many good places to hide from hazards, it’s imperative to keep your eyes peeled on the terrain above and find safe spots. 

Why It Made The Cut

onX Backcountry Ambassador Chris Davenport describes the line as one that “just catches your eye and draws you in. Beyond that, you can see three or four of the other classics from its summit.” Davenport is one of three co-authors of “Fifty Classic Ski Descents of North America,” which is the inspiration for Cody Townsend’s “The Fifty Project.” During the drafting of this book, each of the three well-connected authors reached out to their extensive network of contacts in each of their target zones. For the Idaho and Montana region, that person was Pete Patterson, a Ketchum local, guide, skier, Olympian, and “general badass” according to Davenport. Patterson was the one who nominated the line for inclusion.

This line made the cut not for its challenge or difficulty, but because it’s just so darn aesthetic. Davenport goes on to illustrate its characteristics, “Castle Peak is not only the highest mountain in the White Cloud Range, but it sticks up and can be seen from all around. It’s also remote and hard to get to, so it’s like this beautiful person that you’re interested in, but is kind of playing hard to get.” He goes on to describe the technical components of the descent, “It’s a wide couloir or a gully that catches lots of snow. It’s got a bunch of variations and options in the upper part that could spice it up to ski some more difficult things. And its got a gorgeous lake at the bottom and perfect place to camp.”

Co-author of the book “50 Classic Ski Descents of North America,” Chris Davenport poses in his comfort zone—the mountains.

Cody and Chris

Born on the “Ice Coast” within White Mountains of New Hampshire, Chris Davenport grew up in the outdoors, specifically sliding on snow. As a successful ski-racer-turned-ski-movie-star, he began setting his eyes on more alpinism-oriented ambitions in the backcountry. What resulted was a project in which he skied all 54 of Colorado’s 14,000 foot peaks. In conjunction with his sponsor Salomon, he began a nationwide book tour in which an “up and coming” athlete of theirs was going to join him and learn the ropes. That athlete? Cody Townsend. 

Fast forward to the summer of 2019 in Portillo, Chile, where Townsend now coaches at Davenport’s ski camp and Townsend looks over to Davenport and says, “Dude, I gotta ask you something. I haven’t told anyone this, but I think I’m going to try and ski ‘The Fifty.’ What do you think?” Without hesitation Davenport’s stoke level skyrocketed and recounts his response, “It’s an amazing project and you’re the guy to do it.” Davenport goes on to say, “I love Cody. I have huge respect for his skills and decision-making.” The duo, now longtime friends, are optimistic that they’ll be able to ski some of the classics together this winter. After all, Davenport isn’t going to let Townsend have all the fun.

To follow along on Cody’s The Fifty Project, check out our page that includes background on him, 3D looks at the lines he’s skiing, and other episodes from the season.


Mitch Breton

Mitch Breton was raised on the shores of Maine's coastline chasing fresh snow, trout, grouse, and the best darn mosquito repellent money can buy. Covering topics from fly fishing, car camping, and beyond, he thrives on a story well-told.