| Last But Not Least--Bells via Traverse
It's hard to find the words to describe this trip.
We started hiking the 14ers in September 2004. When we started, I never thought I could do the hardest 14ers (Ben reminded me yesterday that when I first saw the Bells, I said, "I'm never doing those.") Over the years, we've worked our way up in difficulty level to where we were able to finish the 14ers yesterday via the Bells traverse.
Last summer, we really got into it, and came within 2 summits to finish; we were disappointed but figured we could do the Bells this summer when the snow melted. Given the amount of snow this year, we had to keep pushing back our summit attempt. While we waited, we spent most of our time rock climbing at Eldo. We had meant to summit some other peaks first to get accustomed to the altitude but ended up running out of time and just going for the Bells.
Friday afternoon, we parked in the lower overnight lot and packed in to look for a campsite. When we got to Crater Lake, the designated sites were full. Luckily, one of the campers offered to share his site with us (Thanks, Jay!).
We got up at 3:30 am Saturday morning, quickly got ready and started hiking. As we were heading up South Maroon, we noticed that it was drizzling. Hmmmm. The weather forecast had called for increase in pressure over the weekend, so we hoped for the best and kept going.
Clouds thinned as daylight arrived.
Although parts of the route were loose, we found some nice solid scrambling on South Maroon.
Past the false summit on South Maroon.
It took longer than I had hoped, but we made the summit.
Summit of South Maroon.
While on the summit, we made a friend (a pika):
We also evaluated the weather and decided the traverse looked doable. While on the traverse, the locals kept an eye on us:
We were trying to go fast, so we didn't take many photos, but here are a few:
Looking down the Bell Cord.
Although we took a rope, we only used it once on the traverse (when we climbed directly up the tower of the third crux). Here is an example of some of the rock we scrambled up. (It's alot more solid than it looks in the picture).
Overall, we found the scrambling on the traverse to be pretty solid, while the "easier" sections seemed sketchier given the loose scree. (Ahh, what a summer of Eldo climbing will do for you! )
Finally, we reached the summit of North Maroon. Celebration time!
Can you tell who has been taking the pictures?
Neither of us had ever done North Maroon before, so we only stopped briefly on the summit before starting down. The trail was fairly obvious in places, but in others we lost the trail and ended up doing some extra scrambling.
It took longer than I had hoped to get down (Looking down at Crater Lake and Maroon Lake--are we still that high up?!), but the weather held and we made it.
The wildflowers were past peak but still beautiful:
Plodding back to the campsite at the end of a very long day (~14 hours):
Tough to backtrack at the end of the day.
The 14er quest has been a great adventure, with the Bells Traverse being a fabulous way to finish. We appreciate all of the condition updates and trip reports on this site, as they have been very useful in our quest. Thanks for reading and happy summits!
Hiking out this morning.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):