I left Broomfield around 5:30p for the infamous Maroon Bells, and wasn't too sure what was going to happen. The weather report from NOAA stated a 50% chance of rain, and rain possible the night before as well. I had made plans to meet 14er.com member Doggler at the summit of S. Maroon and continue on to the traverse to N Maroon, but I wasn't sure if I would have the stamina at this point in the climbing season to do it.
I arrived at the TH around 9:30p and promptly fell asleep. My alarm woke me up too early for mortal man to have to deal with, I made breakfast, drank my coffee and was on the trail around 3:15.
Once I neared the turnoff for Pyramid Peak I noticed some headlights approaching, of course it was Sean a.k.a. Doggler and his buddy Patrick, so now I had to figure out what I wanted to do, because he would surely outpace me in no time. I had hoped to start much earlier than him to meet up much higher, oh well! He had mentioned a group of 14er.com members not too far behind me, snapped a few pics and was on his way. After our meeting I had answered at least one of my questions: I wouldn't be doing the traverse today.
Shortly after Doggler left, the other group had made their appearance. Eric(Lostsheep5), Paul(paulperea), Mike(Shogun) and Jim. They were going up N. Maroon today, and I thought it would be cool to tagalong with these guys instead of going up S. Maroon.
Taken shortly after the Maroon/Snowmass trail junction
We quickly made our way through the trees and took our left turn down to the river crossing(I really dislike crossing rivers by headlamp). After the river crossing we were greeted with a nice steep muddy trail. It was very muddy from the previous night's rain and thus very annoying.
Taken after the muddy trail section, the weather was questionable
We weren't quite finished with the muddy trail just yet but we were gaining elevation pretty quickly.
Looking up at N. Maroon in a small boulder field below the first mini class 3 wall
After we hurdled the wall, the trail mellowed out for a little while as it skirted around the base of N Maroon's massif. At this point you are near the large rock glacier below N Maroon's large North face.
Albeit blurry, Pyramid Peak stands out like a sore thumb
After the nice rolling grassy trail, we entered the rock glacier. I knew there would be no more nice easy trail beyond this point, so we all decided to put our headgear on. I felt a sense of unease while crossing underneath this large behemoth's face surrounded by all this rubble. But it's better to be safe than sorry.
Eric, Paul, Jim and Mike all don their helmets for the remainder of this climb.
It actually looked like the weather might hold for us.
Once the sun hit I felt great! It seemed to break up some of the clouds and it lifted my spirit!
Taken right before we crossed into the first gully
Looking at the base of the 1st gully
This part of the climbing was tough for me. I was surprised at how moderate this gully was because when I looked at it from a distance it looked almost vertical.
Looking down on some climbers that were just entering the gulley. I was about halfway up the gulley.
Once we reached the white rock band we veered left and crossed over into the much steeper second gully.
Crossing over to the second gully
once you enter the second gully your goal is to make it to the obvious notch at the gully's terminus.
Both of these gullies are considerably steep! And all that nice greenery you see? A lot of it is composed of prickly weeds that somehow kept finding their way into my hands.
A nice perspective of the how steep the gully is. Notice Mike using his hands to help himself up.
Looking down at the entrance to the 2nd gully, notice the three climbers resting at the entrance.
Nearing the notch
Looking down from very near the notch, the entrance to the gulley is the at the top of the third rock outcropping from the top.
It was around this time that a very large rock (maybe the size of a car tire) was dislodged and went hurling down towards the climbers below us. I have to admit, this was the most terrified I have ever been on a 14er. The gully was instantly permeated with our yells of "ROCK!" The climbers moved out of harm's way and gave us a "Thank you for warning us" wave and continued on. This climb was very loose.
Thankfully we reached the notch a few minutes later without incident. Once we hit the notch, I put on my jacket anticipating heavy wind and we started climbing left towards the summit.
Looking out beyond the notch
Beyond the notch
typical climbing beyond the notch
Paul and Eric lead the way to the chimney
Looking back at the route we ascended. Both Maroon and Crater lakes can be seen. A climber follows close behind
On the whole route up North Maroon, the chimney was technically the most difficult hurdle to subjugate. There were plenty of foot and handholds so if you take your time it shouldn't be an issue.
Eric looks down as Paul makes his move up the chimney
Quickly after the chimney the summit makes its first appearance.
A close look back after coming up the chimney reveals how loose this mountain really is!
The summit is finally visible with Mike in the foreground.
A nice perspective shot, Mike, Jim, Paul and Eric climb their way up the final stretch.
Taken from the same place as the previous photo, this is looking down climbers left over the precipice. It's a long way down!
Looking back at the spot where the previous picture was taken
There still was some climbing left to do once we passed the precipice. We made our way up to the summit block, but we kind of chose our own way. Eric, Jim and Paul went around the back side and up while Mike and I chose to go directly up through a crack to hit the final ridge up to the summit.
Eric(The highest climber) chose to ascend by following the contour below the final wall of rock up and around to the backside which can't be seen.....
Continued from the caption above-from this vantage point. Paul (Red Jacket) and Jim(not pictured) followed suit. A mistake here would not be good.
Mike and I decided -based on the advice of a Maroon Bell veteran- to go directly left of where Eric was shown standing in the above picture. This led us up an easy crack to the final summit ridge. At this point my legs were cramping like mad and I had to practically limp to the summit. Talk about a grand entrance!
Once the last crack was vaulted, there was nothing left but a nice stroll to the summit.
Summit Success! If you look closely you can see Doggler on the traverse ridge, nearly complete!
Doggler ended up catching up with us while we were descending the 2nd gulley! He had summited Maroon Peak, completed the traverse over to N. Maroon and met up with us in the second gully all in the time it took us to summit N. Maroon and start heading back down. Amazing.
Snowmass and Capitol!
This was an amazing trip for me, and it worked out perfectly. I wasn't able to complete the traverse but I had a great time with some good guys on a tough mountain. Eric, Paul, Jim and Mike thank you for letting me tag along I had a blast! Good luck on your next adventures! Sean, it was good spending a few minutes with you on the descent, good luck with your traverses!