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MRA at Maroon Bells

Colorado 14er peak questions and conditions should be posted here. 14er Trip Reports
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Re: MRA at Maroon Bells

Postby Kent McLemore » Wed Oct 03, 2012 10:37 am

CO Native wrote:That's a very tricky proposal. Once MRA begins to maintain a route they also begin to take on liability for any flaws in that route. It wouldn't be long before someone sued them over an incident of getting off route and hurt. ...

True that. And based on the quotes in the article, I'd say MRA has no intention whatsoever to remove, relocate or build any cairns.

"The MRA team photographed different areas of North Maroon on their fact-finding mission, and also documented routes and cairns. They plan to provide that information through printed material such as brochures that will lead people to MRA’s website."

That's the best they can do. And for that they should be applauded.
"Throw a loaf of bread and a pound of tea in an old sack and jump over the back fence." - John Muir

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Re: MRA at Maroon Bells

Postby iceman » Wed Oct 03, 2012 11:13 am

This. I agree 100%. Also, to expand upon CO Native's point (an certainly NOT putting words in his mounth), not only are too many people who don't know what they're doing stacking rocks, but too many people who don't know what they're doing are on these difficult 14ers. Mountaineering is a lifelong dedication to learning and honing a certain skill set, which includes route finding, wilderness survival, meteorology, first aid (at minimum), recognizing objective danger, traveling with the right equipment and knowing how to use it, snow travel, and avalanche awareness, among others, along with less tangible skills like communication, honesty (with yourself and group), critical and analytical thought, and the ability to objectively asses a wide variety of objective and subjective dangers at a rapid pace. Even on harder 14ers that many consider a walk-up, these skills require years of apprenticeship and study to learn, even longer to master. The proliferation of those hiking all the 14ers (and beyond) in a year or two without any prior knowledge, education, or apprenticesihp not only endangers such climbers, but climbers around them (less awareness of loose terrain and the consequences thereof, etc.). Just because hikers return to their car safely does not mean the hike was conducted safely. By no means am I an authority on this subject -- we have far more talented and experienced hikers and climbers on this site. However, as someone who started this sport at the age of 8 (I'm 34 now), I recognize the value -- for myself, the safety of the community, and the preservation of the mountains -- of taking the time to learn the judgment, skills, and awareness necessary to be a competant, self-reliant mountaineer.

Agreed. There are far to many people in the mountains, on the rivers, in the canyons, on the roads who probably shouldn't be there. There is nothing we can do to change that. But if a SAR group could kick over a few cairns or add a sign to well traveled route on a mountain to keep the same mistake from being made over and over again??? The qualities and education described in your post would make a great mountaineer (I assume you are describing yourself), but lets face it, the majority of the people (including myself) we run into in the back country are expanding their comfort zones and trying to learn and gain these qualities from their adventures and experiences. If a cairn, sign or mark on a rock gets them home safely and avoids a call out of Search and Rescue volunteers, then I think it is worth it.

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Re: MRA at Maroon Bells

Postby Neil » Wed Oct 03, 2012 12:00 pm

iceman wrote:There are far to many people in the mountains, on the rivers, in the canyons, on the roads who probably shouldn't be there.


For sure! We should not limit ourselves to the mountains. Roads these days are especially frightening.

iceman wrote:The qualities and education described in your post would make a great mountaineer (I assume you are describing yourself),


I agree they would make a great mountaineer. However, I am only describing what I aspire to be and what I think are worthy goals of mountaineers. I wan't tooting my own horn, nor do I desire to. Do I think I have achieved some of these skills? Yes, but I see mountaineering as a life-long process and I have plenty of room for improvement. My point in making these statements is to emphasize what I see as the true nature of being a mountaineer, not suggesting I have mastered such nature.

iceman wrote:the majority of the people (including myself) we run into in the back country are expanding their comfort zones and trying to learn and gain these qualities from their adventures and experiences. If a cairn, sign or mark on a rock gets them home safely and avoids a call out of Search and Rescue volunteers, then I think it is worth it.


This is where we disagree, in part. I do agree that many people are expanding their comfort zones and trying to obtain mountaineering skills. However, we diverge on two points (one more than the other). First, I'm not sure anymore that a majority of people on 14ers are trying to obtain mountaineering skills, as much as they are trying to tick a box, finish a list, or obtain bragging rights. I would like to think you are correct, and I have no evidence to suggest you aren't, but my gut tells me it's not a majority. However, I don't fault them for their reasons for being on 14ers. I do fault them when they put others in danger (other mountaineers or S&R) because of their disregard for the skills or time it takes to become a competant mountaineer.

Second, and this is where I particularly disagree with you, expanding one's comfort zone, obtaining skills, or increasing safety is by no means the responsibility of ANYONE besides the individual mountaineer. By replacing a topo map, compass, GPS, or even guidebook research before leaving with rock piles or signs either erected or destroyed by S&R, the CFI, or anyone esle, one is, by definition, not obtaining skills or expanding a comfort zone. Instead, this individual is disregarding primary and essential navigational skills of mountaineering and staying well within one's comfort zone by relying on the work of someone else. I have no problem with someone's skills not being ready for a certain peak or route -- mine certainly are not ready for many. However, instead of asking someone or an entity to make that peak or route safer or more understandable for me, I would work my way up to it by building skills and comfort on objectively easier peaks. Having the INDIVIDUAL skills, judgment, and self-reliance to get home safely should be used to avoid a call to S&R, not rock piles and signs. Reliance on S&R for anything should only be done in the most dire of circumstances when all other options have been exhaused.

Oh, and thank you to S&R for being there when such options are exhaused!

EDIT -- I looked at your profile and value where you are coming from for sure. We just happend to disagree...no disrespect intended.
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Re: MRA at Maroon Bells

Postby SchralpTheGnar » Wed Oct 03, 2012 12:07 pm

For the popular peaks just mark the route and let the hoardes after it. Hiking north maroon peak with 100 other people is anything but a mountaineering experience.

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Re: MRA at Maroon Bells

Postby Brian Thomas » Wed Oct 03, 2012 12:20 pm

Neil wrote:I'm not sure anymore that a majority of people on 14ers are trying to obtain mountaineering skills, as much as they are trying to tick a box, finish a list, or obtain bragging rights

You are correct, sir.
"I try my best to be just like I am, but everybody wants you to be just like them" - Bob Dylan

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Re: MRA at Maroon Bells

Postby nkan02 » Wed Oct 03, 2012 12:23 pm

MonGoose wrote:One aspect that I feel makes the Bell's so dangerous is that so many people traverse across on their first Bell's attempt, which means they must downclimb a mountain they did not ascend. North Maroon for example would be very easy to get off route if you were descending a route you did not ascend. Although these peaks are rated as Class III and IV, getting a little bit off route can very quickly put you into Class V terrain on two of the most loose 14ers in Colorado.

I agree completely. This was my biggest concern when I was looking to do the traverse. I ended up tagging South Maroon on the 1st trip, doing a second trip just to scout the North Maroon, and finally on the 3rd trip managed to get the traverse. Going with experienced people "who have done it before" is not a fool-proof strategy either. Memory fades.

On my 2nd descent from N. Maroon the group I was with (which included several people "who've done it before") started following the cairns at the top of the 2nd gully and getting close to that dangerous ridge (while I followed the gully relying on my fading memory as my .gpx decided not to work that day). Interestingly, they saw a couple of people on the ridge that were half-stuck, half-confused, as apparently they also followed the cairns. Thankfully, both groups figured out the direction fairly soon.

P.S. On another subject, I am not entirely sure what my position is on CFI "rebuilding the trails". On one hand, it is nice to see a "super highway" trail on peaks such as Pyramid, North Maroon and Holy Cross, but for me it detracts from experience (had a chance to compare "before" and "after" on North Maroon). They make it quite a bit easier for unprepared folks to ascend the first 1,000 feet to the point when the mountain actually becomes dangerous.

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Re: MRA at Maroon Bells

Postby Neil » Wed Oct 03, 2012 12:43 pm

nkan02 wrote: They make it quite a bit easier for unprepared folks to ascend the first 1,000 feet to the point when the mountain actually becomes dangerous.


GREAT point.

SchralpTheGnar wrote: Hiking north maroon peak with 100 other people is anything but a mountaineering experience.


I agree, in your scenario, but hiking North Maroon CAN be a mountaineering experience (go solo, go in the winter or spring, go on a Tuesday). Such scenarios may be basic mountaineering experiences, but are good stepping stones nonetheless.

EDIT -- I actually think it's a quality mountaineering experience regardless. Even with 100 people, you may not learn about route-finding or self-reliance, but you do learn about loose rock (and the consequences thereof), making Class 3 and 4 moves at or above 13,000 feet, and how to manage resources on a medium-length day. It may not be a holistic or advanced experience, but North Maroon at any time offers basic mountaineering experenices and the opportunity to establish and/or build certain mountaineering skills.
Last edited by Neil on Wed Oct 03, 2012 1:15 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: MRA at Maroon Bells

Postby Crusty » Wed Oct 03, 2012 12:55 pm

Neil wrote:
SchralpTheGnar wrote: Hiking north maroon peak with 100 other people is anything but a mountaineering experience.


I agree, in your scenario, but hiking North Maroon CAN be a mountaineering experience (go solo, go in the winter or spring, go on a Tuesday). Such scenarios may be basic mountaineering experiences, but are good stepping stones nonetheless.


This is the type of sh!t on 14ers that annoys me. The "Pfft....standard routes on 14ers are lame" attitude. I'm too GNAR for that.

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Re: MRA at Maroon Bells

Postby TallGrass » Wed Oct 03, 2012 1:15 pm

Couple examples of alternative route cairns in my N. Maroon TR.

One is sited across the second gulley where the first one would lead in if you topped it out versus moving over to the second earlier/lower (standard route). I didn't take it but noted it for future reference. I can see someone traversing to it early.

The other is by the chimney and it's easy to believe this might be one of the "deep loose rock" areas MRA was talking about. I actually started down this on my descent then thought "this is too loose and steep to be right," backtracked to a cairn, re-scouted, and found the standard route back (what I came up). I'm sure many could make it across before it gave or slid (no recovery slope, goes off the N face towards Sexton), but I wasn't going to chance being that "one."

Goats, snow, and erosion can take their toll on cairns too.

For me, my thinking is not to just follow the cairns. Cairns are secondary, solid route is primary. If I find cairns on a solid route, bonus! All they tell me is one person (or a very clever goat/marmot) made just that far.

If there's dirt, I'll also track. You start to realize who shoe prints are pretty sound and consistently on trail (thus far) and whose are lost. Never trust hoof tracks. :-D

This no doubt varies with people, but I for one enjoy the route-finding challenge and seem to be pretty competent at it (you don't just do it on mountain hikes) -- made it back to my laptop, didn't I?! :wink:
Not sure if I'll do more 14ers. The trip reports are too tiring. :wink:

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Re: MRA at Maroon Bells

Postby SchralpTheGnar » Wed Oct 03, 2012 1:22 pm

Crusty wrote:
Neil wrote:
SchralpTheGnar wrote: Hiking north maroon peak with 100 other people is anything but a mountaineering experience.


I agree, in your scenario, but hiking North Maroon CAN be a mountaineering experience (go solo, go in the winter or spring, go on a Tuesday). Such scenarios may be basic mountaineering experiences, but are good stepping stones nonetheless.


This is the type of sh!t on 14ers that annoys me. The "Pfft....standard routes on 14ers are lame" attitude. I'm too GNAR for that.


I never said it was lame or not gnar enough dude, that's a stout route in any conditions. I just said that hiking it with 100 other people is not a mountaineering experience. Relax and try not to read too much into things.

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Re: MRA at Maroon Bells

Postby jdorje » Wed Oct 03, 2012 1:24 pm

Why not just knock over a cairn once you see it is useless?

I realize this is not as easy as it sounds, since usually you don't find out a cairn was bad until you've left it behind.
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Re: MRA at Maroon Bells

Postby DeucesWild » Wed Oct 03, 2012 1:38 pm

jdorje wrote:Why not just knock over a cairn once you see it is useless?


Yep, knocking rock piles down high on a steep, dangerous mountain seem like just the ticket! Good call.
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