August 05, 2013
~9.6 Miles, ~4,400 Gain
TH: Maroon Lake
Max difficulty: Class 4
The forecasted weather for the next week looked horrible so an early start was going to be mandatory. I hate monsoon season as it is such a tease. As I drove up to the Maroon Lake the afternoon prior, it was a constant bombardment of rain. I think the dude working the toll booth felt sorry I was “overnighting” in the rain and let me proceed to the trailhead for free. Thanks! I was pretty stoked.
I slept in my car in the overnight parking lot as I listened to the rain. My alarm went off at 3:30 AM and I was hiking up the Crater Lake trail at 4:00 AM. It's funny how perspective changes over time as years ago, Crater Lake seemed like a long hike. I reached Crater Lake and continued to follow the trail towards Buckskin Pass.
After the trail crossed the creek at ~11,080, I followed the trail for 100 more feet before departing the trail in a grassy meadow heading for an obvious avalanche gully to the right of Sleeping Sexton's east ridge. Hardly any bushwhacking was required as I climbed up the avalanche gully to ~11,600. I left the avalanche gully scrambling through a minor cliff band and then did an ascending traverse on grassy slopes to the base of Sleeping Sexton's east ridge.
Once on Sleeping Sexton's east ridge, I climbed directly up the ridge until the climbing became class 3-4. At that point, I traversed left on some grassy ledges into an obvious white gully. I climbed up the white gully for ~200-300 feet as it re-intercepted Sleeping Sexton's east ridge. Near the top, I departed the white gully to the right where some class 3 scrambling was required.
Reaching the white gully.
White gully (taken on the descent)
Looking down the white gully.
Now that I was back on the east ridge directly, I climbed upward. The first set of tricky cliff bands I encountered, I bypassed on the right. After this initial cliff band (light/white colored), every other cliff band/step in the ridge I bypassed on the left. A darker red colored band was the only other “problematic” cliff band which I had to traverse ~200 feet to the left before I found a reasonable path upward. Short sections of class 3 were required through each cliff band.
Alpenglow on North Maroon.
Looking towards Buckskin pass.
The first initial cliff band after the white gully. Bypassed on the right.
Making my way upward, I enjoyed excellent views as I watched the sunrise on Pyramid and North Maroon. The east ridge difficulties eased as I neared the first false summit, the Crown, of Sleeping Sexton. From the summit of the Crown, I headed north and then down some ledgy terrain to a notch between the Crown and the Eyebrow. From this first saddle/notch, I should have descended a talus gully for 150 feet and then traversed to the “secret ledge” but instead, I climbed out of the notch and then down some loose class 3 ledges on the other side of a buttress. I went too far and peered down into the second notch. Only a 100-200 foot cliff blocked easy progress.
Looking down the east ridge higher up.
Looking at the upper section of the east ridge (taken on the descent)
First good view of the true summit. Bells in the background.
Typical cliff bands on the east ridge.
The Bells and the true summit from the Crown.
The gully at the Crown-Eyebrow notch I should have descended.
Once I was ~150 feet below the first notch between the Crown and Eyebrow and level with the second notch, the Eyebrow-Nose saddle, I looked for the “secret ledge.” The ledge isn't so secret as the ledge is the only possible/reasonable way to gain the Eyebrow-Nose saddle.
As I started across the ledge, I was impressed at the exposure the ledge offered. Although only class 2 to cross the ledge, the consequences of a slip would be fatal. I traversed the 4 foot wide ledge until the ledge petered out and I peered down a chimney like drop. Other reports say class 3 for this down-climb but it sure felt like class 4. It's short but exposed. EDIT: As I have learned, I should have continued to follow the ledge around a small, not very distinct, buttress which would have kept the climbing at class 3.
Starting across the “secret ledge”
Looking at the start of the “secret ledge”
Exposure from the ledge.
I descended this 20 foot class 4 section and then traversed on talus to the Eyebrow-Nose saddle. To bypass some cliff bands from the saddle, I traversed left and then up to the true summit, the Nose. Short sections of class 3 scrambling were required as I crested the ridge to the summit where I arrived at 7:40 AM.
Looking back up the class 4 section and ledge.
Looking down the short 20 foot class 4 section.
The secret ledge with the class 4 down-climb and class 3 alternative (which I did not do).
Views from the summit were outstanding. North Maroon towered to the south and Capitol and Snowmass dominated the view to the north. I took a short break before I returned via my ascent path. Travel went quickly since I knew the way and I quickly regained the trail towards Crater Lake. The crux for me was dealing with the 100+ people I encountered hiking back to Maroon Lake. It was truly baffling how many people were out on a Monday!
Bells from the summit.
Looking north from the summit.
Zoom of North Maroon.
Pyramid from the summit.
Snowmass and Capitol from the summit.
Clouds were starting to build and I knew it was going to rain. I arrived back at my car at 10:00 AM and then enjoyed dodging the numerous bikers on my drive back to Aspen.
Route to reach the east ridge from the trail. The dotted line is around the corner up the white gully.
Sleeping Sexton. The white gully can be seen on the lower east ridge.
My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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