| South Maroon via Bell Cord
Here is a quick TR for route information, elevation gain, times, a FEW photos, etc. If you would like a more personal "story" with more detail on our trip, feel free to visit - or send me a PM. The blog post should be up in a day or two.
I picked my brother up in Arvada at 12:15 and we were on the road by 12:30. After a stop to pick up dinner, we were at the trailhead by 5:00. We got some route beta from a few climbers and quickly decided on Bell Cord being the route. After waiting out a rainstorm, we were on the trail and quickly arrived at Crater Lake by 6:30. We immediately stashed our gear and headed up the trail another 3/4 mile as we wanted to mark the turnoff and get a quick glimpse at the route. We would be doing the initial part of the route in the dark.
The turnoff we took is about 1/4 mile from the north - northeast of the garbage chute. Basically it is below the large waterfall that is to the climbers right of Garbage Chute. We headed back to camp and were in bed by 9:00.
The alarm woke us at 3:30 and we were on the trail 20 minutes later. It is about a 30 minute walk from the east end of the lake (we camped in campsite #1) to the turnoff. We easily found the turn off and started up. We had planned on climbing up and to the right of the large waterfall and we followed a route that took us up parallel to a smaller waterfall that is climbers right of the large waterfall. Both of these are to the climbers right of Garbage route by about 1/4 mile. That turned out not to be the shortest or easiest route. It would have been better to follow the snow field up climbers left the large cliff band that is immediately next to the small waterfall. That would have saved us bout 30 minutes. Regardless, we made the apron of Bell Cord by about 5:30.
We then started up Bell Cord. The route finding is easy. Just follow the snow up. The route is not easy even though the couloir does not exceed 45 degrees. The couloir is sustained. The snow was in excellent shape and should be for another 2-3 weeks (depending on weather). We also heard and saw numerous rocks fall near us and into the couloir. I highly recommend a helmet, crampons, and an axe. A second axe would be helpful but not manadatory (I wish I would have had one with though). The couloir tops out at around 13,600 to 13,700. We made the top of the couloir a little after 8:00.
We took a quick break and began climbing up again. The route finding here is much more difficult. In hindsight, the best way to go is to stay to the west of the ridge and head toward another "couloir" or gully. After finding this, climb up parallel to the gully all the way to the summit ridge. After gaining the summit ridge, take the summit ridge the final 100 feet to the summit. We made the summit by 9:00. I wish it was as easy to find the route as it was to type it here.
After 30 minutes on top enjoying the views and weather (no clouds and NO wind), we headed back down. It took another 30 minutes to downclimb back to the top of Bell Cord. We had originally planned for the traverse but due to a minor ankle "twist" and the delays that caused, we decided to leave North Maroon for another day. We met another climber at the top of Bell Cord (the only one we saw all day) and chatted for another 15 minutes.
We began the downclimb of Bell Cord at 10:15. The downclimb was a mix of "down" kicking steps, plunge stepping, and glissading. The DEEP runnels and the fallen rocks they held gave us the biggest headaches during the downclimb. We made the trail just a little before 12:00. We hit the trail and were back to camp at 12:30. After quickly packing up, we were back at the car by 1:45. The crater lake trail was BUSY with tourists.
Speaking in generalities, it was a 9 hour trip (10 to the car). 4,000 vertical, less than 6 hours up, and 3 down. We could not have asked for a better trip. Excellent weather, excellent conditions, and solitude. Especially suprising given the holiday weekend.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):