Lots of fun on Maroon Peak on Sunday climbing with Job (JGuerra). First a few stats then on to the Chihuahua.
Camped above Crater Lake
Start Time 4am from high camp
Summit Time 8:45am
Time on Summit 30min
Back to Camp 1:15pm
Goats seen on route 4
People seen on route 4
Ghost Chihuahua actually seen 0
People seen at or below crater lake 567 (or so we estimated)
We arrived at the overnight parking lot at about 7pm on Saturday and set out to camp above Crater Lake at the dispersed camp sites by the turn off for Maroon Peak. What we discovered, and this is a good note since I don't recall it being in the last trip reports or the trail description, is those sites are closed.
=== To reiterate the dispersed camp sites by the turn off for Maroon Peak are all posted as no camping. This included the sites by the bent tree and the site right after the turn off. All these sites have big signs with "no camping, area under reclamation". ===
So we ended up camping about half a mile before the bent tree (and about a mile past site 10 for Crater Lake). There is a sign there saying "campsite" and there is a flat site a little ways in that can support maybe 2-3 tents, and a site back further by the creek that can support maybe 3-4 tents.
Last "legal" campsite above crater lake that we found
All in all it was a nice site except for the Chihuahua.
What Chihuahua you may ask, well that is where the tall tale begins. It all started out innocently enough with us getting to bed around 9. In the tent at the campsite area we were all alone and surrounded by underbrush. After about an hour of trying to get to sleep the Chihuahua attacked. Outside the tent it had noiselessly snuck up and peeked in through the screen 6 inches from Job's head. After watching us sleep for a while it decided we must not rest while it was awake so it whined at us. This scared the heck out of Job as all he sees upon being woken up by its whines is something small staring at him through the screen. By the time we got on a light it was gone. Then, every hour on the hour it would return and whine at us through the tent walls. All I can say is it sounded like a puppy that has been locked in its kennel that wants to get out. Kind of a loud whine/cry that it would do for 20 seconds or so then disappear. No matter what we tried the creature could not be identified, it just vanished into shadows. Half a dozen times we tried, and every time we failed. the only image we had was from the first encounter as it spied on us as we slept. You nay sayers will think we are crazy, or may say it was a skunk or other local nocturnal beast. But you were not there, you did not get woken up time and time again by its haunting cries and shadowy presence. Maybe it was the last of the great mountain Chihuahuas. Maybe it was the poor companion of some Hollywood superstar visiting Aspen that was eaten by its owner in a desperate attempt to survive the hike up to Crater Lake in high heels. Or maybe it was once the pride and joy of some grisly old time Colorado miner. All I know is that it was real and haunted us the whole night through. Beware all those who dare to camp high in that valley, for I know it was nothing less than the great Ghost Chihuahua of Maroon Peak. Tall tale completed.
When the ghost Chihuahua made it's last call at around 4 am we decided to hit the trail and leave this phantom behind us. The trail descriptions are right on with regard to the turn off and the hike up to the notch in the ridge being the real deal. That was a good climb in itself. Not too hard to follow by headlamp but we were happy to have daybreak near the top. On the peak itself we had some route finding issues and had one good backtrack of about 30 minutes as we ended up going down and down and down until we cliffed out. Best advice I can give is trust the cairns. If you have not seen a cairn for a while or do not see one ahead, backtrack. Otherwise you will end up doing what we did and occasionally have to do some 5th class moves to get back on track. Not a great idea on this peak as the rock is loose and you are a long way from help. But if you trust the cairns and don't be stupid like us and decide to recover from a misroute with some exposed climbing, you can keep this to class 3. Great summit and the views of the traverse and Capital/Snowmass are stunning. One of my favorite peaks to date (have to say the Crestones are still my favorites).
Daybreak heading up the ridge
Maroon casts its impressive shadow
Job working his way up and loving it
Me heading up, thinking about how far that lake will be to get back to
Summit pic of Job (left) and me (right)
Me heading out
Mission complete, now it is a short 4 hour drive home