| Maroon Traverse S->N: Picture Heavy!
The plan for a long time has been to climb the Bells with the traverse ... ever since having come to Aspen to photograph the colors and reflections in the fall. In any case, I was in town from CA for a few weeks and JFaust and I decided to give it a try. Prepare for picture heavy fun time!
***My Warning: In the traverse description, the three 'difficulties' really are difficult. If you're reading up thinking about trying the traverse never having done class 5 climbing, I highly recommend finding someone experienced with the route to go with you. Make sure weather will be cooperating!***
We left Colorado Springs at ~4:30pm Friday night and camped just N of Buena Vista, sort of sleeping from ~8:30pm-12:15am (sort of sleeping because other groups camping had music going and were setting off firecrackers all night...). We made it to the trailhead at 2:15 and were hiking at 2:30am. About 3:00am JFaust came within inches of stepping on a porcupine, but wasn't quick enough to get a picture.
The trail up was easy to find and easy to follow. The 'bent' tree described in the route description for Maroon Peak is super obvious.
Following the ridge to Maroon peak was very easy (class 2-3) with no major difficulties.
First ridge, south of maroon peak
After about 5 minutes of resting on Maroon peak, 2 climbers coming from the traverse joined us for the summit views. They completed the traverse N->S with no ropes, in about an hour.
Looking at the traverse from S->N
Luckily for us, even with a 30% chance of precipitation, the weather was perfect and beautiful until we were ~half down N Maroon.
On the traverse, the down-climb on the NW face of Maroon peak had a slight coating of ice. Some rocks were frosted over, some were coating with frozen runoff, some were fine. Overall, it took us ~45 minutes to slowly and safely work our way to the Bell Coulier. We had no ropes, so slow and safe was our goal.
One of the difficulties where a fall would be catastrophic
Notice the remaining frost on the NW face of Maroon Peak
Along the traverse
The 'difficulties' were several sections of essentially vertical wall, with BAD exposure. It's no wonder people get into trouble quite frequently on the bells.
We made it to N Maroon Peak after about 3.5 hours, including a couple rests along the traverse. I definitely think it is easier to go S->N instead of N->S. The cracks and climbs are a lot easier going up than going down (without ropes, that is).
On the top of N Maroon, we met some new friends: Bob, Jack and Larry. These are super nice fellas who showed us the route down on N Maroon and a couple tricks through the little class 4 stretch. To you three, if you're reading this, thank you
Also on the way down, we had a mountain goat come right up to say hello, and even had a golden eagle fly right by our noggins. About halfway down N Maroon, a 10 minute snowstorm hit, and I can say, if the weather turns, you do NOT want to be anywhere near the traverse or N Maroon. The rocks get slippery and it gets dangerous fast.
Our curious goat friend
Had just begun to snow ... notice the wet rocks
Mr. Goat again.
Mr. Goat just wandered up to us (w/in ~10 feet or so). I can't imagine meeting him in a bad mood on some of the slopes. Luckily, he was just looking for something salty to eat.
Mr. Goat again.
All in all, a very beautiful day. It took us over 14 hours all said and done, car to car.
First time on the bells and first time on class 5, and a success!
The Deadly Bells
Time for food and beer.
And finally, here are a couple panos JFaust put together:
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):