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Peak(s):  Maroon Peak  -  14,156 feet
North Maroon Peak  -  14,014 feet
Post Date:  09/14/2011
Date Climbed:   09/10/2011
Posted By:  alanonymous
Additional Members:   jfaust

 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.

Good morning

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):

  • Comments or Questions

Congrats!     2011-09-14 04:19:44
Nice job on a tough traverse (I doubt I'll be trying it anytime soon, and certainly not without ropes!).

I believe we met you guys back down by the TH (I was with my hiking partner and her dog) and I think I took that last pic of you guys by the lake


great pics     2011-09-14 06:13:33
Good job fellas...that looked awesome. When do the aspens turn?

Brian C

Nice work     2011-09-14 06:20:02
Certainly a great report. I remember standing at the base of image #3 thinking ”this is the way?” Certainly one of the best ”standard” routes on a 14er.


BS Flag     2011-09-14 07:14:42
I am not one of the two climbers who you met, however I can tell you that when I did the traverse I witnessed a guy do the double traverse (N->S, S->N) in two hours, with no rope, barefoot. Obviously conditions on your climb may have been different, but I can say with confidence that a 1hr traverse can be done N->S (but not by most people). Congrats on an awesome climb!


BS Flag     2011-09-14 07:43:50
ChrisinAZ, thank you! Even with the dog in the pic (gotta love dogs), the pic turned out perfect!

Apasquel, I'd guess in about two weeks it'll be pretty spectacular.

COBuckeye, I believe it's possible as there are some incredible athletes and climbers out there (just not us!). We had 2 headlamps 30 minutes behind us when we started that disappeared a little after we started up the ridge on maroon peak. I assumed they went up the bell cord coulier and up maroon peak from the N side and met us up top, though I could easily be mistaken. If we did it again though, we'd be a heck of a lot faster!


Been a while     2011-09-14 07:45:54
since a Bells Traverse been documented on here. Nice report and what seems to be non-photoshopped pics (that are solid as well).

As for Bells Traverse times, there is a class 3/4 ledge system to the West that would make it quite feasible to complete in a hour. Given the insanity of people's stamina and ability to travel fast and light in the mountains these days (especially in the Aspen region), 1 hour isn't surprising.

Now doing it barefoot is simply a ”1-up” tactic in my book, is the human race tired of modern footwear and resorting back to the days of the primitive caveman??


BS Flag     2011-09-14 09:16:22
I'm one of the 2 climbers. It took us 65 min to be exact. We left the parking lot at 3:02 am we reached the summit of N. Maroon at 7:15 am. We left the summit of N. Maroon at 7:34 am and as you know we reached the summit of S Maroon at 8:39 am. We down climbed each of the cruxes, route finding was cake and we took no breaks. From the Top of Bell Cord to the Summit of S. Maroon took 17 min. From the summit of S. Maroon we made it back to Maroon Lake at 12:15pm. It was really cool to meet you guys and I'm glad to hear you made it safely across and down. I'm sorry if I gave you any false pretenses to the difficulty of the route. If you have any questions regarding our exact route let me know. Oh and we had a rope we just did not feel the need to use it.


BS Flag     2011-09-14 09:53:56
I have to agree with you.... it really irritates me when my brother is more awesome than me too. Sadly I've just had to get used to it. (No offense intended, I just thought this was funny that he found it and I had to comment.) Peace


thanks for the beta     2015-04-02 13:45:58
Contemplating this route in a couple of weeks. Great photos!


BS Flag     2011-09-14 11:08:52
skierjls: I stand corrected, and am way impressed! I'll change some of the text above to lessen my written doubt too I think I was just surprised at the climb difficulty, and you and your climbing buddy made it sound super easy. Also, one of the climbers we met on N Peak told us you couldn't possibly have done it that fast I suppose he's impressed too.


No BS     2011-09-14 11:15:01
skierjls: Just updated that paragraph to show your speed!


BS Flag     2011-09-14 11:38:59
You don't have to change your report on account of us. I enjoyed reading it. We were surprised at how quick we did it as well, but I'm sure that there are people who can cut our time in half. We didn't waste anytime on the traverse and we quickly found the easiest path at each crux. On our way down S. Maroon I was thinking we should have joined you for the S-N traverse and skip being on that E Face between the ridge and the basin.


Way to get it done.     2011-09-14 13:59:02
Thanks for posting the report. I did the traverse back on 9/3. Funny to hear about the porcupine...the exact same thing happened to me on my hike in.

Always good to get others perspectives on a climb. I thought the traverse was fairly cruiser, but the descent off N. Maroon was a nightmare!

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