| North Maroon Peak – Standard Route
I was a bit skeptical about climbing this peak since I disliked North Maroon's twin (South Maroon) so much, but I heard it wasn't too bad, and I was eager to hit another "difficult" peak before the weather turned for the year, so North Maroon it was. Keeping with our Elk/Maroon Bells tradition, Steph (14ers.com name Slynn4_13run) picked me up at 3am in Denver and we arrived at the Maroon Lake parking lot a little after 6am. We hit the trail and maintained a decent pace the first mile or so. We arrived at the junction at Crater Lake and started gaining a bit of elevation:
After half a mile or so we located the small cairns on the left that marked the beginning of the North Maroon trail. About this time I started feeling like absolute crap…I had taken the prior week off work and hit 10 San Jaun 14ers in 5 days, and then rested for 2 days before I decided to do North Maroon. My body felt fine, but my lungs just couldn't get enough air. It was strange to me, as I've never really experienced altitude problems or running out of breath quite like that. I struggled and pressed on, feeling like a fat Ohio State cheerleader climbing her first 14er. We crossed the Boulder glacier at 7 or so:
We aimed for a ridge at the far end of the boulder field, after which the trail is more defined and easier to follow. The trail winds its way up to some ledges below a series of cliffs, which as far as interesting terrain and views go were some of the best trail sections I've encountered on a 14er:
We arrived at the base of the first gulley and met a mountain goat that seemed to ask me "what the hell are you doing on my mountain?":
He seemed confident and I started to wonder if these things ever charged climbers:
We were sitting on an exposed ledge and he was getting closer and closer. This wasn't the place I wanted to wrastle a mountain goat, so I picked up a big rock incase he charged. I stared him down and told him I was ready for his smelly ass, but he eventually passed me and made his way down the mountain:
I've never heard of bad encounters with mountain goats…I guess I shouldn't doubt the intentions of such a nice looking creature, but you never know what a wild animal will do. After talking smack to a mountain goat, I made my way up the gulley:
I was still feeling awful, and at one point I slipped on a ledge and almost lost it. My head wasn't clear and I told Steph that I wouldn't go on to the summit if I didn't start to feel better. I sat down and chugged a Starbucks double shot, downed a pound of beef jerky, and instantly felt better. After the break we started making better time. About three fourths of the way up the first gulley there is an exit on the left that avoids the class 4 wall at the top of the gulley.
We followed some cairns around a series of ledges and found ourselves at the base of the second gulley. This probably saved a lot of time, but I was a bit disappointed we missed the fun class 4 wall.
After ascending the second gulley, the terrain became very similar to Pyramid Peak. Basically we had to negotiate a series of class 2 trails on ledges intermixed with lots of fun class 3 and 4 walls and chimneys:
Here I am with Pyramid in the background:
I was feeling great and having a blast climbing on this part of the mountain:
Steph was enjoying herself too:
We arrived at the summit at 10am and relaxed for 45 minutes or so. We chatted with some climbers who had traversed from South Maroon; they all said it wasn't that bad and none of them used ropes…I guess I'll have to return to hit this traverse someday:
As usual, the views of the Elks were astounding:
We took our time on the descent and didn't push it too hard since the weather wasn't threatening. In fact half way down we met a climber going up that said he was going to do the traverse. He was one of those crazy looking Unabomber dudes with neon green clothes and gear from the 80's…he didn't seem to care that he would be crossing an exposed ridge with no bail out at 4 or 5 in the afternoon, but I figured he knew what he was doing so I didn't ask him what he was thinking. We arrived back at the Maroon Lake trail early that afternoon and relaxed and chatted with all the tourists for a bit. After climbing both Bells and Pyramid I finally decided to read the warning signs at the lake:
This little blurb is rather ominous, but I guess respect and knowledge of the mountains can't be understated:
North Maroon turned out to be one of my favorite climbs. I highly recommend this mountain just by itself.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):