| Beyond the Bells
PT 13140 A - 533rd highest
PT 13180 B - 503rd highest
Belleview Mtn A (13,233') - 450th highest
PT 12489 - 1,012th highest
East Fork/ West Maroon Pass (10,400')
Access from Crested Butte, follow Gothic Road past town and over Scofield Pass (rough 2WD) to trailhead on north side of pass by appx 1 mile.
Appx 16 miles, 6750' vertical (from TOPO!, I forgot to turn on my GPS)
Some short 3rd class, about 10 hours
Belleview and Maroon from early on ridge
It was time for another visit to the Elks, a range that so far in 2013 I had not visited. Spring work schedule kept me from getting in there during snow climb season when the notorious loose rock is buried behind much more pleasant snow travel, so I would have to deal with the dry conditions and hope for the best. In researching what peaks to climb dry, I decided something that was predominantly a ridge traverse would the best way to go. Seeing a few long days on spring reports of these peaks, it seemed that maybe dry was even preferred for this particular group and a plan was set. I drove over Kebler Pass and through Crested Butte to the trailhead and headed to sleep in the car. It seems most people climb these from the Aspen side, but the Crested Butte side is a great alternative to the crowds and porcupines of Maroon Lake, so I thought I would share.
With sunrise starting to move a little later, my usual start time became a predawn start, but the trail was easy to follow by headlamp and quickly opened up to pleasant meadows. In prime wildflower season, this meadow is a sea of color, but most of them were past prime save a few pockets of brilliant purple. The trail is not too difficult, rising gently as it makes it way to West Maroon Pass with only a few shorter steep sections along the way, mainly near the pass. I reached the pass at 7am for breakfast and was treated to some amazing early morning views of the Bells and Pyramid groups towering over the valley beyond.
Early terrain on ridge (taken on return trip)
The 13er points looked far away, with a long undulating connecting ridge, that unfortunately I would have to traverse twice. I thought bypassing the initial bump would be a good idea, but this ridge is best kept nearly to the ridge crest the entire way. The initially rocky ridge gave way to a grassy section and soon I was halfway to my first peak. The ridge steepened and then traversed a rough section, but surprisingly the difficulty remained class 2/2+.
Little bit rougher section
I was heading straight at the rising sun, and the glare made it difficult to see much ahead, almost the way a fog would yet it was clear.
Rugged up climb
Easier than it looks
Cresting the final false bump along the ridge, I started the ascent up to PT 13130, which is marked on the map and listed on this site and a few other sources as the summit. This is not the highest point on this peak, however, that lies slightly to the southeast and is a good 10' higher. Lists of John indicates this peak at PT 13140 A, having more prominence than the unnamed 13140 point in the Sawatch with that name here. These unnamed 13ers can get confusing and hard to keep track of sometimes!
Eases up towards summit area
The views from the summit were great in every direction, and it felt good to finally be on the first peak of the day, nearly 6 miles away from where I began.
Maroon Bells zoom
The second peak is much closer, but connected by a slightly ominous looking ridge. I noticed several potential steps on the ridge and a rugged looking summit tower beyond. The ridge steps were easier than expected, however. The first was right off the 13130 point and a little loose buy easily traversed on the right, the second traversed on the left on a climbers trail.
Starting towards 13180
The third had a small notch that some easy but slightly exposed 3rd class moves overcame before traversing a classic Elk “hidden ledge” across the small tower.
"Secret Ledge" bypass
The next on was easily taken head on and the rest of the way to the saddle was smooth sailing, as was most of the ascent up the other side.
Route up PT 13180
Nearing the summit area there was a funky white rock cluster I bypassed on the right on a narrow ledge and then I traversed to the final class 3 chimney to the summit area.
Looking at PT 13631 and seeing how close it was, was certainly tempted, but I know people who said once was enough on that ridge and I would have to do it twice. The complicated ridge looked, well, complicated! I spied potential lines through the first half, then it started to lose its appeal. Besides, climbing the other side in snow season is probably more pleasant.
13631 - not today
I reversed the ridge off 13180, and along the way crossed paths with Terri Horvath. I had met her once before on a winter Huron ascent, but hadn’t seen here since. Its amazing the amount of times on obscure lessor climbed 13ers that you will cross paths with people you know!
Along the way the views I could not enjoy in the early glare were opening up nicely and I took advantage to have a short break along the way before reaching the pass.
Precarious, Cassi, 13260
I continued over the final bumps in the ridge towards West Maroon Pass, which now that it was nearing 11.30 was becoming quite the hangout spot and made me glad I took my break early. I counted at least 30 people on either one side of the pass or the pass itself as I approached and crossed through! Most don’t bother with the peaks though, and soon I was starting up Belleview’s ridge alone.
There is a climbers trail from the pass around some initial towers to a steep class 2+ gully on the left side. Above this point the peak gets a familiar Elk feel to it of stepped ledges that peaks like the Bells and Pyramid are famous for. As you reach a steeper step, the route traverses left below the cliffs to easier terrain and Belleview’s false summit.
Ledges below tower
From here the route drops slightly and follows the unique sort of double ridge to the imposing summit tower. While the peak can be intimidating in looks, the route can be kept to class 2+ through the earlier gullies and ledges, and by going right on the summit tower. Follow the scree slope to a steep gully, then up the ridge to the summit.
Access gully to keep it 2+
The views are indeed “Belle”, including views of the peaks and of the impressive valleys below. When I climbed Maroon I was particularly fond of Fravert Basin, and this peak rekindled those feelings.
The weather was looking good and I had my eyes on a 12er above the trail, so I decided to give it a shot. I headed for Frigid Air Pass and found that this part of the ridge is easier than the part from West Maroon Pass, although loose and not something that would be too appealing to ascent.
Long way to 12489
The ridge parallels Fravert Basin, and the views along the way of Maroon were particularly impressive, I wonder if there is a good climbing route from this side? I have some ideas that seem to meet up with the standard route, might have to try it some day.
Maroon over Fravert Basin
The route became grassy and I was soon at Frigid Air Pass where I descended slightly on the trail, and picked up a different trail to bypass unranked PT 12648 and followed the ridge crest over a few bumps towards PT 12489.
Long way from Belleview
I could have bypassed them in the valley to the left, but it was full of sheep. Not wanting to irk a sheep dog, I stayed to the ridge.
Lots of sheep in basin
The summit was grass and not even a cairn existed. Sometimes that is how it goes with 12ers, as the 13ers gain in popularity, the 12ers still remain reasonably untouched. My original descent route was to go back down the ridge I had come up and pick up the Hasley Basin trail, but the trail went right through the sheep herd so that was off!
No thanks, don't feel like getting mauled by a sheep dog today
I continued down the southeast ridge until I was clear of the herd, descending grass and some loose talus to a plateau near 11,800, and then down the steep slopes back to the main trail.
Descent with no sheep
This was a nice basin full of tall grasses and flowers, although most of the flowers were past peak. There were some pieces of trail here and there, probably from the sheep herding?
Back on the main trail I made quick time back to the car, enjoying the pockets of beautiful purple flowers that hadn't wilted away yet. Then it was off to town of dinner and on to another campsite to read and do it all over again tomorrow.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):