I was told of this wonderful scheme last week, wherein you recruit 2 people to climb Pyramid, those two people recruit two each and so on and with sufficient luck and enormous foot traffic, in a few years, hiking Pyramid peak will get as easy as Sherman. Better still, it will stop being a 14er and 14er enthusiasts needn't bother with it. I think I've done my part of the scheme. Anyway ....
Mountain and Route: Pyramid Peak via North East Ridge (Standard Route)
RT Mileage: 8.4mi
Vertical Gain: 4544 ft
Party: Jason (jblyth17) and Karthik (theotherindian)
Wildlife: Mountain goats, raven, pika
Note: Not much route info here. 14ers.com route description covers it all and I'm too scared to take pictures when I'm holding on to dear life.
Jason wanted to get down to the Sangres this weekend. While I've been planning on doing Kit Carson/ Challenger for a few weeks now without any real effort on ground, the thought of the scree slope up Challenger did not make it very appealing, at least for a weekend when the aspens were supposed to be peaking in Aspen. Having convinced Jason to give the Elks a go this weekend, we drove into the Maroon Bells overflow lot a little before 11.
Next morning, we began hiking in the dark and soon found ourselves missing the turnoff to Pyramid. But luckily the GPS made us realize this soon enough and we were able to get back on trail after some blind walking in the dark. The mile or so going uphill was quite steep but not too strenuous with a lot switchbacks. There was a solo hiker ahead of us and a group of 5 who were keeping a good pace. At twilight, we reached the start of the boulder field/amphitheater (?) After some groping around in the dark for the cairns, Jason decided to take the straightest line possible and I kept trudging behind him trying in vain to close the gap. To add to the mix, another Jason (jasayvert) showed up with his friend and eventually we were all the end of the amphitheater heading towards the 1000 foot wall ahead of us. We took a short break here while the other Jason and Zack continued up towards the saddle.
Getting excited for Pyramid
Pyramid - the name sounds right
Starting up the fun part
Looking back at the saddle
The climb up to the saddle was tedious with occasional slipping on the scree but was not infinitely long. I was particularly not looking forward to coming down this slope later in the day. We soon found ourselves at the saddle. After a quick bite to eat and stashing our poles and some of water, we continued towards the fun part of the climb. Jason2 and his partner were already halfway to the peak. Climbing on the side of the gendarme and traversing the ledges were the easiest part of the day. The exposure is definitely there, but the rocks that make the ledges are very flat and have good handholds. The leap of faith felt intimidating at first but was easily done. When we found ourselves at the green wall of rocks, Jason went straight up the wall making a few tough moves while I investigated around to find a class 3 route to top it from the climber's left. The climb from this point was fairly stable rocks with occasional scree. Jason went straight ahead with any rocky walls he could find while I tried to keep the climbing Class 3 by searching for other routes.
Leap of faith!! (photo credit: jblyth17)
What lies ahead
Lets start climbing already
The recent tragedies were looping in my head and I felt uneasy every time I had to grab a rock and pull myself upward. This coupled with exposure for some moves made me feel less than confident on the ascent. I found myself trying to avoid certain moves which I wouldn't have thought much of on any other day. Jason, being a great partner was super patient during those times and eventually we found ourselves on the summit of Pyramid! We had the summit all to ourselves on a hazy but bluebird day. The views of the bells and the bell cord, snowmass, capitol to one side, aspens, maroon lake and the valley on the other side were rewarding. Rest, water, food and mandatory photo session ensued. After close to 40 minutes on the summit, we began our journey back.
Another perspective of Bells and the Bell cord
Summit team shot (photo credit: jblyth17)
The downclimb was surprisingly easy. It was nowhere close to what I was dreading. There was one move near the top where I took a different path and found myself at the edge of a overhanging rock. I had to give my backpack to Jason waiting below and make a 'jump of faith'. But other than that most of the downclimbing was easy and could be made facing out. We met a few people coming up the mountain and waited briefly at a couple of spots to let them pass without knocking any rocks on them. Most of the rocks and walls I didn't want to climb on the way up seemed like an easy descent on the way back. Sure, there were minor annoyances with loose scree on top of solid flat rocks, but it was an enjoyable and quick (by my standards) downclimb to the saddle. A few flat narrow ledges, a short leap and a few more ledges later we were at the saddle. We found out poles and water intact but were harassed by this very inquisitive guy soon after and had to rush down the saddle without much of a break there.
Cliff traverse again (photo credit: jblyth17)
We were just there ..
What you got gentlemen? Anything tasty?
While Jason raced down the scree slope, it took me close to an hour to get back down to the amphitheater. The talus hopping began and I set off a small rockslide on a small slope. It was nothing bad but big rocks tumbled down and was a good reminder to mind my steps. In the Longs peak boulder field, I've found that if one spots the cairns and keeps to the path between them, one is generally led on stable, mostly flat rocks and makes the Boulder field journey more pleasant than taking a random straight line. However the cairns on Pyramid trail were a cruel joke, they didn't really provide much relief from the talus hopping. Near the end of the boulder field we encountered a goat and his/her kid and they provided the first real obstacle of the day. They blocked the trail and went further down the trail when we tried to shoo them away. While they weren't too perturbed by our shouts, they seemed to fear the clanging of the poles together and we were able to eventually get them off our back after some distance.
Close to the lake, you dont have to get up Pyramid for this view
The hike down the great trail was quick with pleasant views of the aspens, maroon lake and red slopes around it. We hit the Crater lake trail and joined the masses on my third trip down the Crater lake trail in the past month. We strolled leisurely taking fall color pictures and walked into the parking lot - happy and satisfied!
My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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