| Ding, Dong - The Elks are done!
Having climbed all of the other Elks in the last few weeks. My friends Connor and Mark decided that we should wrap them up with the traverse. Having climbed Maroon Peak before and preferring up-climbing, we agreed on going from south to north. This was Connor and Mark's 3rd of the 4 traverses and my 1st, so I was very exited to get this one.
We left Glenwood Springs at the bright and early hour of 2:45am. After climbing Snowmass the day before, we were all charged with a good four hours of sleep. It's amazing how all these early morning drives seem to blend into each other! We happily arrived at a nearly empty parking lot, quickly geared up and hit the trail about 4:15.
Motoring up the trail, we found ourselves charged by good spirits. Excited by the prospect of having more of the wonderful weather we experienced the day before on Snowmass and the thrill of the traverse, we flew to the start of the "2800' of suck" leading up to the south ridge.
Having done this route before I had already braced myself for this unpleasant stretch of trail. For anyone looking to climb this route, I would recommend doing it in the dark. It tricks your brain into blurring over it! Pushing relentlessly on up, we were within 500 feet of the ridge as it was getting light enough to see.
Surprised to have gained the ridge so quickly, we bundled up against the freezing wind and made quick work of the route.
Almost to the summit, we ran into our unintended partners for the traverse, a mom and baby mountain goat! These animals truly are amazing and are definitely the ultimate scramblers.
We hit the summit at about 7:30 and enjoyed having the place all to ourselves. Didn't look like anyone else had been up yet for the day.
After a quick rest we headed down the steep slope towards the top of the Bell Cord.
The last step down to the top of the Cord definitely gives a glimpse of what to expect from the rest of the traverse. Of course we had to stop and ham it up a bit. Our humor was running rampant and we couldn't help but enjoy all the fun we were having.
Once down to the saddle we put on our thinking hats and cruised up towards the first crux. It is interesting to be looking at a cairn leading you straight up.
The first pitch was steep and fun. Here is a shot looking back down.
Once we were all up the first crux. Connor and I headed up and over the spire while Mark went around the left side. I came around surprised to see Mark waiting happily for us. As we were pulling some 3rd class over some big exposure, Mark was strolling around with his hands in his pockets over easier terrain. Oh well...
We sat and waited under the next crux as we watched a speedy fellow down-climbing it. Since he went from north to south and back again at turbo speed, we got a chance to talk to him a little later. Come to find out, Maroon Peak was his 14er finisher for the second time! Holy cow! Our hats are off.
Moving up the second crux was a blast. It is some very fun climbing with a lot of air under your feet. This was a great opportunity for some more photos.
After this is was a very quick stroll to what was, for me, the crux of the whole traverse. I headed left and promptly started climbing up a chimney. In retrospect, I am 95% positive there was an easier way a bit further right (we noticed some rappel slings above another pitch that way). I felt the chimney was probably around 5.4ish and was about 40 feet high and pretty close to straight up and down.
Once up, there was a sketchy traverse over another wide chimney to reach some ledges that offered passage to the upper ridge again.
Back on the ridge our spirits soared ever higher. Knowing that all the hardest climbing was behind us and faced with some of the best weather I've ever climbed in, we joked our way up to the summit of North Maroon. The rest of the climbing was class 3 with maybe one class 4 move and was very reminiscent of the last bit up to Maroon Peak.
We hit top about 9:00. The summit was great and the views are wonderful.
Looking back over the traverse with the speed demon running back towards us.
Capitol and Snowmass.
North Maroon finished up the Elks for all of us. It was Connor and Mark's 3rd traverse, Mark had now done 12 14ers in 12 days, and this put me at 30 total.
The trip down North Maroon sure beats the pants off the way down Maroon Peak. It is steep but is not even close to as damaging on your knees. Once again, we ran into out friends from Maroon Peak earlier this morning.
It's amazing how fast mountain goats can move over this terrain. Truly remarkable!
Here's a shot looking back up from a ways down.
After slipping on a log and putting both feet in the stream, we quickly sloshed back to the trailhead.
What a great day! Beautiful weather, scenery and a classic traverse! With some care these peaks can be a wonderful experience.
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