| Maroon Traverse - Bell Cord
My buddies Chris and Nate from Golden and I decided to take a crack at the Bell Cord Saturday and had also planned to do Pyramid on Sunday. We met up around 6:00pm in Golden, picked up some food and supplies and Subway in Leadville, went over Independence Pass and arrived at the Maroon Lake TH around 11:00pm. After filling up the packs, we hit the trail soon after and found a camp around Crater Lake (campsite #3). We setup camp quickly and hit the sac around midnight. Chris and Nate apparently got a goodnight's rest but I didn't close my eyes, it might of had something to do with the fact that one of their snores is reminiscent of a dying wildabeast. Thats neither here nor there, we got up @ 3am, snoozed for about 30 minutes and hit the trail at 4am.
The hike up to the drainage cutoff was simple and relatively flat. We found the trail pretty well in the dark, Roach's description was relatively helpful, we exited the trail around 10,290 feet, give or take. As the sun came up, we were able to view what we thought was the couliour. We saw a bunch of dudes to the right of us about 100 yds up, they all had their headlamps and as we stared at them longer and longer, it seemed like they were walking towards us, headlamps bobbing up and. Since the 3 of us hadn't had much sleep, the moment was kind of weird, kind of like 4 government agents pursuing extraterrestial lifeforms. After we realized they were just ascending the "correct" route up to the Bell Cord, we continued the wrong way to what we finally realized was just another SE Couliour route. We quickly traversed over a couple hundred feet to the base of the Bell Cord and put our crampons on soon after. Now the fun begins....
The Bell Cord, in so many words, was a sweet climb. After doing the East Gully of the Needle, the snow filled Red Gully of Crestone Peak the two weekends before, this one definately took the cake. Its a real snow climb and it gets better and better as you go up. As far as conditions are concerned, the weather had not been cold enough the night before, so the snow was kind of shitty for a couliour climb. There was a soft layer on the top and then pretty hard under. At numerous times, crampons were not able to grip into the snow and there'd be a lot of 2 steps foward, 1 step back type stuff. We had to constantly kick in pretty hard to push foward. Either way, we were making decent time and finished the 1800' foot couliour in 2 hours, give or take.
Once at the saddle, we quickly traversed over to Maroon Peak and 40 minutes later, we were on the summit. We met a guy named Aaron Ihinger, from Telluride, who, with his summit of the Bells, had finally finished the top 100 peaks in Colorado. This was his 5th attempt at the Bells and was real pumped to have finally gotten his wish. We shared some champagne with him on the summit and he joined us on the traverse over to N.Maroon. After an hour on Maroon (and a quick doos drop) we began the traverse and decided, since Nate didn't have much experience with class 4, low class 5 moves, to stick to the left (west side) of the ridge to avoid the exposure and difficulties of the middle. We were able to do just that for about 75% of the time and finally grew some gonads towards the last part, upclimbed to the middle of the ridge and did some fun, manageable class 4 scrambling. After an hour and 20 minutes, we reached the summit of N.Maroon, had the summit to ourselves and made for the descent around 11:30.
Now for the descent and I'll try and make this short, even though I spent so much time thinking how much my life absolutely sucked during this whole ordeal. We looked over at Pyramid thinking how much of a great climb it'll be tomorrow morning and our energy level and legs at this point felt phenomenal. This would not last. To make a really long story short, the descent down North Maroon Pk. is hurrendous in every sense of the word. The beginning is fine, with a few class 4 moves to downclimb, including the easily noticed dihedral (one of the harder parts of the downclimb, but with the presence of strong rock, it was doable.) Once you reach the switchback gully, everything turns to s**t and you have to descend the most miserable, loose rock on a steep slope, your feet turn to hamburger and your legs take a beating. Expect on this slope to slip a bunch of times and test every single step and handhold, its so annoying and seems to go on forever. 3 hours later we made it back to camp spent, we had close to nothing left, atleast that was the case for me. We met back up w/ Aaron, headed into Aspen after some much needed beers in the parking lot, got some mexican at the Cantina and then assessed the situation.
After a pitcher of margaritas and a look at the blisters on my feet, we decided to walk back to the camp at Crater Lake, pack everything up and head home, it was a 14 hour day of climbing/hiking and I had been up for 48 hours straight hours. Pyramid will have to wait till later in the summer.
On a side note for anyone attempting the Bell Cord while there is still snow. Roach recomends that an ice axe and crampons are useful for this route. Word to the wise, they are essential, and I'll leave it at that, unless you enjoy glissading 1500+ feet w/o protection cause it will happen, the slope is too steep and the snow isn't ideal, so bring them both, a helmet might be useful as well, esepcially for the traverse. Anyways, here's some pics :
shot of the sunrise as we ascend towards the base of the Bell Cord
Ascending the Bell Cord, about halfway up
Looking up at Chris and Nate as we enter the narrow section of the Couliour
Looking down the Bell Cord
The middle of the ridge along the traverse
Aaron making one of a couple class 4, exposed moves along the traverse
A look through the notch at the summit of N.Maroon's summit
Group shot on the summit of N.Maroon
Making a short 4th class move right below Maroon Pk's summit
Aaron celebrating his 100th peak w/ a bottle of Cook's chamapagne
Group shot on summit of S.Maroon
Dihedral, class 4 crux of the descent from N.Maroon
Nate descending down N.Maroon, this looks like a sweet pic, don't be fooled, this was after all the bulls**t
I had to post this, marked the end of a really really long day
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):