| Scaling the Pyramid!
Pyramid Peak (14018 )
July 6, 2008
Route: NorthEast Ridge, NorthEast Ridge Descent
Round Trip: 6.5 miles, 9 hours 25 Minutes
Elevation Gain: 4500 ft.
Hikers: KirkT -Solo Hike
After completeing Holy Cross on Saturday, I made the 80 mile trip to Aspen to finish the second part of my planned weekend climbs. I arrived in a wet Aspen around 6pm. It had been obviously raining for some time but the skies were clearing. I grabbed some grub and started off down towards Maroon Lake Road. Paid my $10 car fee....ugh and parked in the overnite parking lot. The Bells looked pretty incredible with the combination of clearing clouds and sunlight. I walked down the trail aways and snapped some very nice photos of the Bells. After returning to my car and setting up my in car sleep quarters, I retired around 8:30pm for a scheduled 4:15am alarm.
After my usual 2 snoozes I ate breakfast and geared up and was on the trail at 5:05am. I have to be honest, I approached this hike with a little anxiety. Noy overly sure of the trail conditions up high, and the actual route complexity, throw in the fact I was also hiking solo caused me to be a little anxious. Nevertheless, I started off down the Maroon Lake trail. I arrived at the trail junction in about 40 minutes. This junction is right at 1.2 miles into the hike located on the left of the trail. It could be easily missed if your not looking for it. The cairn is about 3ft tall with a wooden stake in the middle of it. After this turn off the trail is pretty easy to follow. They have done some major work on this part of the trail as it was extremely easy to find and follow. I have read the opposite of the trail. The trail continued all the way up the hill into the Pyramid amphitheatre. There were a few spotted snow fields along the trail through this point but nothing to worry about. They were easily skirted or packed down for crossing.
Upon reaching the amphitheatre, there were some 5ft tall cairns that showed the direction up into the basin under Pyramid. This area was almost totally covered in snow. It was very hard and compact and I just booted and used my poles all the way up to the base of Pyramid. The class 3 section leading up to the saddle had several snow filled gulleys. I decided to climb the class 3 section of rock upward towards the 13k ft saddle. I met a solo hiker returning from the summit during this portion of my hike. He told me he was a resident of Aspen and had summited Pyramid over 20 times. He gave me advice and general route descriptions and told me I could most likely follow up the path in his tracks. He advised me of several snow filled gullies that might require crampons. Upon reaching the saddle, I took a small break and readied myself for the real climbing. The weather was still superb and the views of the Bells and surrounding Elks were incredible.
I started up the saddle towards the direction of the tracks and trail. I quickly encountered the first gulley that was filled with snow. It was extremely steep and angled upwards towards the trail. It was about 30 feet across and took alot of concentration. I decided not to use my crampons, but I did use the previous hikers steps and securely placed my axe before any movement forward. It was to say the least in my opinoin the crux of the route thus far. Immediatley after crossing this gulley I encountered the infamous ledge crossing. It was pretty exposed but not as bad as I thought it would of been. I continued up into the general direction of the summit and "green rock." The cairns were very difficult to spot because of the steep pitch and color of rock. After crossing the 2nd snow filled gulley I reached the green rock section I was told about. I picked the easiest path up and went straight up towards the summit. This section required alot of class 4 climbing. Occassionally I would spot a cairn or so and head in that general direction. After reaching 13800ft. I picked a general path straight up towards the summit. I eventually summited at 10:30am. A total ascent time of 5 hours and 25 minutes. I was pretty happy with the time considering the conditions and route.
The weather to the North and East was partly cloudy. There was however a huge cloud bank that was forming and stayed to the East. You literally could not see more than 20 ft in that direction. Pretty weird to say the least. The Bells and surrounding mountains looked fantastic. I shot some pictures, ate some lumch and started back down at 11:00. I was dreading the descent and finding the route. It quickly became apparent to me that going down was going to be easier than coming up. The route could be seen pretty easy staring down. Looking down the face you could easily see the cairns and route path. I quickly made it back to the gulleys and traversed back across carefully. I made it all the way back to the saddle in about 50 minutes. After reaching the saddle, I again refueled and started back down the class 3 section to the amphitheatre. I had spotted and followed the snow filled gullies that went all the way to the saddle on my ascent. I decided to equip my axe and gloves and attempt glissading instead of the downclimb. It proved to be a good decision as I made it down this part of the climb in petty quick order. I was able to glissade two different times for a total of about 1000ft. After reaching the amphitheatre, I put my axe away and re-equipped with my poles and started down the amphitheatre. I was able to make pretty quick time in this snow filled section. I eventually made it back to the Maroon Lakes trail at around 1:45. I made it back to the lake at 2:30 where I took a few pictures, conversed with some tourists and just enjoyed and took in the sights of the Bells and surrounding areas.
All in all it was a great day to hike in this area. The clouds began to form and distant thunder could be heard. Just goes to prove once again, to start early and give yourself enough time to complete your objective. It was a great weekend in the mountains. I climbed a little over 10k ft in 2 days, and felt great. Pyramid definitely ranks as one of the most challenging peaks for me to date. Only 3 more trips planned to hopefully finish off the 14er's this season. It's going to be a great summer.
I hope this report helps those enquiring about the conditions up there right now. Thanks for reading.
The Maroon Bells Saturday Afternoon.
My camping partner for the day.
Cairn marker for Pyramid trail junction.
Early morning light on Maroon lake.
First Light on the Bells.
Alpenglow on Bells.
First look at Pyramid.
Route through the Amphitheatre,
Route up and down the Class 3 section to saddle.
Look up the saddle to summit.
First snow gulley to cross.
Infamous Ledge crossing.
Looking up towards summit.
Class 4 section up green rock.
Looking back to the saddle.
Snowmass and Capitol.
Castle to the East.
Looking down the amphitheatre.
Maroon Lake Plaque warning.
Finally...back down to civilization.