After climbing North Maroon peak 2 weeks ago, there was a nagging thought in my mind that I was missing something. I wondered how different it's twin could be. So I watched the weather forecasts knowing that another snowfall will probably stay until next spring. I'm not yet comfortable with the idea of a winter climb so when there was a favorable forecast for Saturday my plans were set. By the way, the initial picture in this report was from 2 weeks ago as this week's picture was not good.
I left New Castle at 2:15 a.m. for the drive to the Bells. Arriving at the trailhead around 3:30 a.m., I prepared my gear, signed in at the registry, and headed down the trail in the dark at 3:57 a.m. The hike was uneventful past Maroon and Crater lakes and continuing to the south to the bent tree in the forest. I could see the occasional headlamp ahead of and behind me. I could also hear a male and female voice from the couple ahead of me and I was surprised when they just kept going after the junction for the trail to ascend the east slope. I knew to turn there because the route description from 14ers.com said to turn about 50 yards past the bent tree.
In any case, I headed up the east slope and got about halfway up as it finally became light enough to turn off the headlamp.
The trail on the east slope to the south ridge is physically exhausting and hard to follow.
Steep slope up to the saddle
A group of 4 guys were following me and it soon became apparent that we were not on the same trail. They hollered over to me "Are you on the trail?" I responded "I think so, but I don't see any cairns." As I rounded a corner I finally saw a cairn, but I was out of range to tell them. I continued up to the ridge and was grateful when South Maroon finally came into view.
First view of Maroon Peak
Ridge to South Maroon
Dropping below the ridge
I continued to the right near the top of the ridge and dropped down into a draw to find the 4 guys that had been following me taking a break. They had just come up a really nasty scree field and were probably more happy than I to reach the ridge. I dropped below the ridge on the left side and started the traverse across to the several chimneys and gullies that had to be climbed. Dave and Paul from the group of 4 quickly caught up to me and I gladly let them pass. In this territory it was good to have someone to follow.
Looking back at 2 climbers traversingBrian and Dennis from the same group then caught me and I let them pass as well. They were setting a more comfortable pace so I stayed with them all the way to the summit. Other than a couple of nasty "ball bearing and marble" filled gullies we had to climb this was the most fun part of the whole trip.
I summited at 9:57.
Summit! Arriving at the summit is always the most exhilarating feeling. The weather on this day was perfect. There was a lot of wind on the ridgeline but on the summit it was dead calm and no clouds to be seen.
Pyramid, Conundrum, and Castle Peaks
Snowmass Mountain and Capitol peak
North Maroon Peak
Traverse to N. Maroon
Brian and Me
Because the weather was so perfect, I stayed for an hour and a half. Normally I stay for about a half hour but when you get conditions like this you have to enjoy them. I had some good conversations with people on top, especially Brian and Dennis and decided to descend with them since Dave and Paul were doing the traverse to North Maroon. As we were preparing to leave another party arrived.
Goat reaching the summit
She came right up to within about 10 feet of us and just stood there. After an awkward moment we figured out what she wanted. She just wanted to get by and we were in her way.
About that time the couple that I had heard at the bottom of the mountain arrived after getting lost and eventually backtracking to the correct junction. They had followed the goat for the last several hundred yards!
There is a really cool long slab of rock jutting out to the Northeast of the summit.
Goat on the slab
The goat posed for a couple more pictures and so did the Maroon valley.
This is my right side...
...and this is my left.
Maroon ValleyI then headed down with Brian, Dennis and another couple, Brian and Connie. We took our time going down and I stopped frequently to take pictures.
Some coming down, some going up
Looking back at the saddle
DownclimbingWe stopped just below the saddle for a break and to enjoy the view.
Our furry friends seemed to be saying goodbye.
The natives saying goodbye.
We stopped again at the bent tree for a break after the slippery east slope descent. The rest of the trip was without any problems and we arrived at our cars at 6:30 p.m. Thanks for a great hike Dennis and Brian!
Me in front of the Bell Cord couloir
Note: North Maroon vs. South Maroon - North has a couple of more technical sections but South is by far more exhausting physically because of a longer distance to travel and extended periods of Class 3 climbing. The east slope, although fairly easy, really takes it out of you.