| North Maroon Summit Ski - North Face
North Face Summit Ski
Maroon Lake Basecamp
crew: mtnbikerskierchick, adimmen, doumall
MBSC, Adimmen and I decided we should go play in the Maroon Creek area for the weekend. Andy agreed to ski North Maroon again (he skied it a week earlier) with us as long as we added something fresh for him on Sunday. This was a big plus for the trip since Andy knew the ski route, allowing us to climb the north couloir to the NW ridge and then follow the ridge to the summit. If you haven't skied this route before, it's a good idea to climb the face so you can find your way down. It's tricky and difficult to make sense of from above.
After work Friday we all headed to Aspen. I brought my snowmobile for a quick approach to Maroon Lake. The tow in was rough behind the sled, a fine tradeoff for a hard freeze. The road is holding a ton of snow from well below the welcome station.
A forecast for cold temps had us appreciating a late start the next day. By 7:30 am we were skinning below neck bending views.
Our route to get into the upper basin below the north face required some booting up refrozen slide debris on the sparsely covered lower slope and then we used the narrow couloir to get through the cliff band. This coulie was a nice beginning to what would be a day full of fun climbing.
Skinning was good from here to the base of the North Couloir.
Some spindrift made for a neat show on the North Face.
Back to booting… the snow conditions were almost perfect for making a staircase. Some deeper loose snow was found but generally conditions were optimal.
The couloir maxed out in the high forties near a bend 2/3 of the way up and is a shooting gallery for an east trending face on climber's right. Climb it when the snow is still cold.
After the bend it mellows a bit to the ridgeline.
Where it gets rocky:
Some killer place to eat a snack:
By moving out onto the west face a bit, we found some more snow to climb.
However rock was unavoidable.
I scouted ahead to find a way through the maze. MBSC and Adimmen turning the first rock crux of the ridgeline.
Snow is so nice!
After going around a vertical wall by traversing slightly onto the North Face, we were faced with a spooky move. It involved a 20' traverse across a 12" wide snow covered rock ledge and then a low 5th class move over a rock step above an intimidating snow slope. A fall here would probably result in a fall over multiple very large cliffs to the bottom of the face. If a rope was above me, I would have called for it. MBSC had the choice:
I was actually able to find some decent pro for the anchor in this miserably rotten rock with a few small tri-cams.
South Maroon looked good from the belay station:
A bit more 3rd class rock had us up onto the top snowfield. MBSC and Adimmen spent some time taking pictures and scoping out the west face while I headed to the summit. I got a good bit of solo time up there with a snowy Elk mountain vista. Adimmen and MBSC finishing the summit ridge with Capitol and Snowmass behind:
The traverse looks sporty in its winter coat! I couldn't help but think of Aaron Ralston completing these two giants in calender winter solo via the bell cord and traverse route.
The East face of Maroon:
MBSC up top looking into the future:
Looks like I just ate some shit:
Congrats! to Frank Konsella, Pam Rice, Pete Saur and Chris Webster (Pam is the first women to ski the peak) on a new descent route of Capitol two days later:
Andy knew the way, which was very helpful. "We go over here" he said:
Recognize that from the summer route? We were able to make a few fun turns up here before the punk rock band. The exposure down the fall line and to skier's right creeps up your pants.
Getting below the Punk Rock band without removing the skis is not for the faint at heart. If not up for a 25'+ huck to uber steep exposed questionable snow above deathfalls, your choice is to sideslip toward the ridgeline edge of the cliff.
And then use rock holds to slide out beyond the cliff using a small ledge gaining purchase on a cornice which overhangs the east face.
You then ski backwards a bit away from the cornice down some steep stuff.
A look at MBSC completing the move from below:
A little traversing under the punk rock…
… leads to the second solution to the route, a snowfield ski down through a break in the first cliffbands. I 'got' to ski first. The snow was good but strange. Slabby powder which would either support your turns or cleave off in briefcase sized chunks which would then accelerate with help from gravity down the face. A few of these turns will be swimming in my mind for a while.
After finding a pseudo safe zone beneath a cliff, I waited for MBSC and Adimmen to ski through the section. It seemed to take forever, as is the norm when standing on steep ground above vacancies below. Ice chunks went flying down past me through the chute, the only sign of anything happening above. Then MBSC came round the bend:
With Andy in tow:
The next step was to traverse out right:
Where a few more fine turns were had. Andy taking the reins:
Traverse back skiers left….
To a nice coulie with some narrow sections. Skiing in control is mandatory on this route, as well as managing your sluff. Andy getting it done:
A solid view:
The next route finding decision would probably be missed by anyone who didn't ascend the route or have previous experience with it. You traverse again out skier's left, but this time it doesn't look like a viable path. Andy captured these moves well with this shot…
We lost most of the light on the face at his point. Perhaps this should be coined 'sluff rock'?
(Adimmen) great shot man!
Adimmen takes some amazing pics.
And then we were on the large snow ramp above Miner's Ski Jump, the largest of the cliff bands on the face and also the lowest. With yet another traverse…
… we were finally above some terrain without serious fall consequence. You can tell in the change in aggressiveness of Adimmen's turns.
The apron was either trap crust or milky powder:
You can ski that?
Some perfect corn turns down the amphitheater brought a close to an amazing day. Thanks for making this one so special crew!