This was a long considered and then anticipated hike.
I lost a very close friend and hiking partner, to a rock slide on Capitol a long time ago; he had a wife and 3 young children. I was not on that hike but it led me to decide that I would skip doing the most dangerous peaks, if for no other reason than consideration of my family. So I am now closing on 50 peaks and so I have been evaluating if I would do a Maroon or not for the past couple years.
As usual, with increasing experience on the 3+ climbs my confidence has climbed, but alas now reduced agility and strength from increasing age is counteracting that advantage. But I decided to give it a try and be willing to turn back if it seemed too dangerous.
My 3 sons were excited to give it a try with me; one visiting from Texas and another one from Vegas. What a blessing to have my sons with me! Yet how crazy to have us all risking the same thing at the same time! My oldest, with 30 plus peaks bagged, and I each privately thought our chances were about 60/40.
So off we go!
We hit the trail about 4:30 with a prayer for safety and thanks for the opportunity to marvel at this piece of God's creation. Surprisingly, we missed the first trail split and ended up losing 30 min and a mile doing the upper scenic loop...which is not so scenic by headlamp.
What to say about the 2800' on the east slope to the south ridge? Besides the obvious four letter words, I would add that it is steep enough in places that a roll might be just as deadly as a fall off the west slope. Certainly the descent is misery and requires vigilance for a long time; as evidenced that I actually did a face plant on some loose rock (recall that comment about agility).
perspective on the slope up to the ridge
I firmly agree with the route description that this saddle is the natural place to assess whether you are comfortable continuing given the formidable looking west side and whatever the weather looks like. It took our group about 1.5 hrs to get to the summit, and the return is not much faster. Considerable time is spent looking for cairns and picking a path. But in my opinion there probably many, many ways that would work out fine as there are very few rock faces or steep gullies.
from the notch on the ridge
My perception of the risk and difficulty of the west side is that it is much more solid and less exposed than I thought it would be. The chimney was really easy both up and down
Yet another chimney picture. If this makes you quite nervous then you are not ready for the rest of the route. For the first gully I was expecting something as steep and loose as the north face of Lindsey or maybe the crux of the sawtooth over to Evans from Bierstadt. Instead I found it to be very stable and not very steep because you have so far to travel north anyway. Picking out the exit at the top of the gully was indeed a point of careful consideration. But we watched a team choose the wrong exit and the backtrack was no big deal. After that gully the ledges are fun because they are broad, solid and the slope below is not too daunting. Take time to enjoy it...even noticing the life on the rock!
any help with a butterfly id? There were only a couple places on the rest of the ascent where you need to hold on for protection, but the ledges are wide enough and solid enough that you don't need your hands to pull across.
the usual photo from the ledge on the corner
deceptive picture...it's not as bad as this looks
Unfortunately after the gully the bulk of the west side and climbing up it still lies ahead. Your GPS will be telling the truth that you have 500+ vertical left, but your mind will be denying that as it looks like it is just up a bit. Personally I found the dirt gully to be every bit as steep and risky as anything previous...and of course more demoralizing.
We reached the top in a total of 5.5 hrs (discounting our wrong turn at the start). The weather was awesome all day and so we were comfortable hanging out on top for about 40 minutes, being entertained by the goats.
A male (I presume) stood above and watched us at various points on the ascent. When we reached the top the female and her very young kid joined us. We were astonished at the nimbleness of the kid.
this kid is even cuter than my kids were
The descent was only remarkable in my face plant. Note to self....if using poles to ease a descent on a steep slope then yes take the 15 seconds to adjust the pole length to be sufficient so that your center of gravity is not pitched forward as you plant the pole for the next step.
All in all a day for the family legends!
with my sons!