| Maroon Peak-South Ridge
As I said in my previous trip report, I had been quite disappointed in my climbing season this year and didn't get out as much as I wanted to in the mountains. With that in mind, I set out on Friday afternoon to climb the other Bell with my good friend Brian Lacomb. Our intention was to meet another 14ers.com member Jon Frolich at the overnight lot on Maroon Creek Rd. We made it down to Aspen from Denver in record time in 3 hours by taking 1-70 through Glenwood.
We set up the Grand Cherokee for car camping purposes, had some food, met up with Jon Frohlich and quickly crashed for the night. We told Jon that we would meet him at the TH at 3:30 am. I didn't sleep all that much, because I knew that the beast was awaiting me. Maroon Peak.. I knew it would be a long day. Before I knew it we were up and moving to the TH in the dark by the lake. It was a glorious morning. The Bells were silhouetted by the bright stars. And yes, I saw Orion for the first time this summer. Orion is a winter constellation which means summer is coming to an end.
Brian, John and I met and off we went. Me being the superstitious one, touched the famous "Deadly Bells" sign to help bring us good karma.
We climbed up Buckskin very quickly and before we knew it, we were at Crater Lake where the West Maroon Pass trail breaks off. When we hiked around Crater Lake, off to our right the Bells in the dark looked so menacing. The West Maroon Pass trail is fairly long 1.8 miles and meanders through the woods for a while, crosses a few shallow creeks, two talus fields before you find yourself in the woods again at the famous bent tree.
Brian, Jon and I caught a breather here. It was good that we did.. About 50 yards away the trail to Maroon breaks away to the right up an incredibly steep hill.. I thought to myself in the dark, you've got to be freakin' kidding me! The trail goes for 1 mile straight up..
Brian on the Maroon's east slope.
I mean you do not get a break the whole time on the east slope. It never flattens out and is steep all the way to the saddle ridge crest at 13,250. Before we reached the ridge the sun had been gradually been rising.
This was a great sunrise and even though you were tired, the sun shining off Maroon and Pyramid gives you lots of inspiration to continue on.
Jon Frolich coming up the East Slope
Brian making his way up the East Slope
When we reached the ridge, the sun was up and we could see that although we had made a ton of progress, the difficulties were about to begin. When I got to the backside of the mountain, it was like BOOM! And there it was, Maroon Peak in all of it's glory! I thought to myself, I am too old for this sh*t!. Nah, no I am not! This is awesome!
Rockymtnhigh69 and BLacomb on the ridge
Jon Frolich with the backside of Maroon behind him
As we walked on the saddle ridge, we noticed a family of goats. We were watching them look at us and retreat higher. One of the big mamma's kicked down a rock the size of a college dorm fridge! It flew down the gully so fast it looked like something out of Hollywood. The thing bounced down the gully making cracking sounds all the way down. I thought to myself, yep, I am in the Bells.
This wouldnt be the last time we see these goats today
The ridge before you get to the backside of the mountain. Frohlich and Rockymtnhigh69
Brian, who is a good climber in his own right and a great route finder, worked with Jon and myself to carefully route find. The initial part of the backside of the mountain is pretty well cairned, and most of the difficulties are class 3. Once you upclimb the first gully that is where the route finding becomes paramount.
Follow Bill Middlebrook's description. It is dead on and much more detailed than Roach's book. Roach's book can be vague at times, while Bill's descriptions are very clear and to the point. My Suunto Vector was not giving us the most accurate altitude readings but we were able to use it fairly well with Bill's route description.
Rockymtnhigh69 in one if the gully climbs
Rockymtnhigh69 in the chimney
BLacomb on the ledge that takes you to the backside of Maroon
As we made our way through the class 3 scramble, there were only a few spots that gave me pause as far as exposure. I will tell you that if you do make a mistake on this mountain on the upper flanks it is game over. The rock is completely nasty. The mountain just looks plain mean from the back of the mountain. Probably more so than the front because the sun doesn't hit it. It was dingy back there.
We found the proper gullies to climb, the chimney, etc. Route finding is difficult here so take your time in climbing the gullies and find the exit points. Try to make a mental note, because you will need to find them again going down. The last gully that you will climb is the largest. Try to stay to the right as I found the most stable rock there. When you get to the top, exit to the left and you will see the summit ahead! Yahoo! We made the summit at a 9:30 am.
The summit is sweet. You can see many 14ers up there and some 13ers. We could see the San Juan's off in the distance as well. I will say that this was an awesome climb.
Frohlich, Rockymtnhigh69, Blacomb on Maroon Summit.
The traverse over to North Maroon Peak.
I am not going to describe the incredibly arduous and long descent. It is extremely long and unpleasant. The rock is never stable, and I fell on my face in a place that I could have never imagined. There was a lot of exposure to the right in the place that I fell. I was really lucky. It scared the hell out of me and I didn't trust any rock for the rest of the descent.
Assume at leastthe same amount of time going down as going up. It is a slow go. I have never been so happy to reach the Maroon basin. It was miserable. The amazing views were worth it though. We stopped at the bottom, popped a couple of Clif Shots and trekked out to the parking lot. It was an incredibly long day, but very well worth it. Be ready for Maroon. As Roach states, it will test the success of your training program right away. What a sense of accomplishment you feel at the bottom when you look up and this bear knowing that you climbed this great mountain.
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