| NE Ridge-Bagging a Beauty
I've been dreaming and obsessing about climbing one of the Maroon Bells for quite some time, but knew I needed some experienced help on the climb. Through this site, I found Keifer Thomas and he agreed to accompany me. So much thanks to Keifer and to God for providing strength and protection.
We started from the trailhead at 5:30am and went the first few miles in the woods in the dark. It was light by the time we reached Minnehaha Creek. Just past the creek, we saw the Rocky Mtn Youth Corp doing trail work and improving the trail. It was also adjusted higher on the hillside to avoid some tough terrain the trail previously traversed.
After working our way across the rock glacier, we then moved across the base of the NE ridge until we reached the first gulley. The trail dropped down under the small cliff band but we chose to crawl up over a rock at the corner to cut off some distance. We zig-zagged up the first gulley which was easier than straight up as we somewhat followed a trail and cairns.
At the large whitish cliff band, we turned left/south and traversed over to the second gulley.
What a sight! The tall steep rocky gulley and South Maroon Peak come into view in addition to some serious exposure! I had seen the picture of this scene so many times from a computer and it was surreal to be finally seeing it in person.
The ascent up the second gulley was steeper and rockier than the first just as the route description detailed. Many times we were climbing with hands, feet, and knees up and over rocks, ledges, and boulders. It was Class 3 scrambling at its finest.
The top of the second gulley where it transforms to the ridge was the toughest part for me. It was rocky scrambling over endeless rocks and boulders. Attention and balance are of prime importance here. Keifer was great in recommending the right route and advising me on hand and footholds.
Eventually we gained the ridge where things were less steep for a brief portion. Then came the Class 4 chimney. We had a rope and harness, but after Keifer studied it, he felt I could do it. It helped that it was all dry. Keifer showed me the right holds and up I went. I was surprised how "easy" it was as I was anticipating it being very tough. Its basically two moves with good holds and you're up.
We passed the precipice and admired the awesome exposure-from a safe distance. Closer to the summit was more Class 3 scrambling that was routine at this point. A bit further and I was standing on the summit with fists in the air- what a feeling! It was 1:30 pm, kind of slow, but I'm in my 50s and from Georgia so cut me some slack.
After pictures and signing the summit register, we saw a storm coming from the west so back down we went. The descent went smoothly as I was informed by Keifer that 65% of accidents occur on the descent. It seemed easier to me, and we got back to the trailhead at 6pm, over twelve hours of hiking/climbing. (The storm moved to the south and missed us.)
A great climb on a classic peak, tiring and very satisfying.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):