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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 milan » Wed Oct 03, 2012 1:41 pm

First, answering the question: Yes, the cairns are a bit confusing on both Maroons. Especially that mess just below the summit of South Maroon. Cairns should label the propper route, route to the saddle, to the summit, easiest way. On 14ers, it seems to me that everybody needs to build a cairn wherever he went.
Another thing I found confusing is a picture from the ridge #39 on the route to North Maroon on this site. Our group ascended the ridge higher and for a minute, we went too left which got us on very exposed and loose terrain (while ago, someone pointed this as an easier way to avoid the crux chimney). Then we found out that the chimney is actually on the right and just above the place we gained the ridge.
While anyone approaching the mountains should be skilled enough to navigate without cairns, I am convinced that labeled route is safer. In whiteoute, fog, heavy rain, one appreciates not to have to look at compass all the time. I can't understand the problem of the people from this site with bullseyes. I am from a country where we label all routes with them (we have color based system and these lines are also on our maps) and everyone who needs navigates easily. In the mountains, when people get lost, they sometimes find a bullseye and they are safe from that point because it will lead them to the civilization. Bullseyes are visible but the damage to the rock is zero, less than building cairns.
There is 6 billion people on this planet, don't expect to be alone anywhere. A lot of people enjoy mountains as we do and education is what is most necessary, not bitching about rookies, banning hikes.
I like that CFI wants to improve the cairns on those mountains. And no, its not that they are taking any responsibility for flaws, no, we still have our brains to use. So, please, do so and learn skills rather than sue people who do good job.

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Re: MRA at Maroon Bells

Postby jdorje » Wed Oct 03, 2012 1:51 pm

DeucesWild wrote:
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.


Certainly there could be reasons it is a bad idea. However, if you're alone on the mountain and basically off route, I don't see disassembling a cairn to present any danger.
-Jason Dorje Short

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Re: MRA at Maroon Bells

Postby snowypeaks » Wed Oct 03, 2012 2:54 pm

About a generation ago, there were several sparse paragraphs in Ormes Guide to the Colorado Mountains and a 15’ USGS map to help find your way up Maroon Bells. The nice wooden sign at the end of the lake served as a sentry to ward off all but those most experienced and determined. There tended to be a strong sense of responsibility and mountaineering ethic among most climbers to climb marginally within their means and experience level, while at the same time understanding the inherent risk of death due to objective hazards. There was an occasional death, but relatively few by today’s measure.

It is a fair question to ask how the enormity of the material in cyberspace and navigational and communications technology available today has affected the sport of mountaineering.

What if… all you had was a map and a paragraph?

As well intended as “equality of outcome” efforts are, they are sorely misplaced. The NPS learned this a generation ago and cut the cables on the north face of Longs Peak.

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Re: MRA at Maroon Bells

Postby iceman » Wed Oct 03, 2012 2:57 pm

We just happend to disagree...no disrespect intended.

Non taken. This is a discussion. I agree with much of what you say also. I stopped frequenting this site a couple years ago because of some of the elitist attitudes. Whether it was meant that way or not, your original post just came off as a little elitist.

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.

I had the same thoughts about building trails and adding stairs part of the way up (particularly on Pyramid), then just throwing you to the wolves. Seems like leaving the trail primitive may dissuade some of the more unprepared climbers/hikers from continuing on to the more difficult parts of the climb.

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.

I'm sure neither of us meant literally kicking it over or chucking rocks around on a peak. My point was that if a misleading cairn is present, I don't see an issue with taking it down. I'm not recommending cairns as a guide or labeling every turn on a route. Just giving climbers a heads up if they are heading into a very dangerous situation.

Re: MRA at Maroon Bells

Postby MonGoose » Wed Oct 03, 2012 3:20 pm

jdorje wrote: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.


It's a simple question that is difficult to answer. I am very hesitant to knock down a cairn and slightly less hesitant to build one. A cairn is created because someone in this situation before me felt the need to pass along some information to future climbers. I can remember only a few times when I felt confident enough in a route to say "this cairn is dangerous and needs to be removed" or "this is a critical spot where a cairn is needed". Instead, I will add 1 rock to the cairns that I feel are essential to the route only on the descent. This way I am influencing the overall safety of the route but not taking complete control of the process.

I'm not sure who is building all of these poorly placed cairns, but the decision to do so is a very serious one. Make sure you are well informed on the mountain before you leave behind guidance for future climbers.

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Re: MRA at Maroon Bells

Postby Taillon75 » Wed Oct 03, 2012 3:28 pm

Lets put up some Cables like Half Dome..

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Re: MRA at Maroon Bells

Postby Neil » Wed Oct 03, 2012 3:38 pm

snowypeaks wrote:What if… all you had was a map and a paragraph?

As well intended as “equality of outcome” efforts are, they are sorely misplaced.


I like this. I like your whole post.

MonGoose wrote: Make sure you are well informed on the mountain before you leave behind guidance for future climbers.


Man, this is great and concise way to make a strong point. I'm with you MonGoose.

iceman wrote:I stopped frequenting this site a couple years ago because of some of the elitist attitudes. Whether it was meant that way or not, your original post just came off as a little elitist.


I agree with you 100%, which is why I wanted to tone it down subsequently. If anything, I practice humility with the mountains, but I'm not great at expressing frustration sometimes. Apologies again if I sounded elitist. Not intended.
"On the edge of the porch in the warm evening night
Throwing the bone for the dog I see two passing lights
Well, I wonder where that driver's bound
Is there someone, somewhere, someway out there that I've not found"
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Re: MRA at Maroon Bells

Postby Scott P » Wed Oct 03, 2012 3:46 pm

Off placed cairns are a nuisance, but they aren’t the real reason for any deaths. Sometime or later, you have to take responsibility for your own actions.

In the 1980’s, a hiker fell into a “crevasse” on Mt Timpanogos where a waterfall had carved out a big crack between the snowfield and rock wall. Apparently someone had followed someone else’s footprints and had fallen in.

At first some blamed the person leaving the footprints and leading someone into the dangerous situation, but when the body was retrieved, it was a different one than they were looking for. The original person leaving the footprints had also fallen in. After going back, the second body was found. Not everyone you follow is leading you to safety.

After both deaths, the blame shifted to the Forest Service, which for several years (and maybe they still do; I haven’t been on Timpanogos since the late 1990’s) went up there and blew up the snow holes with dynamite.

Very recently, someone died in Zion rappelling in the Subway using a non standard anchor. Someone had left an anchor (a rappel sling around a log) off the standard route at a waterfall and someone else whom came along used it and died. Very tragic. The person whom left the anchor came foreward in a forum, but really got chastised. He had left it in order to do a more challenging rappel directly through the waterfall. Still, it wasn't his fault someone died using it.

One of these days, people just have to take responsibility. Cairns, guidebooks, rappel slings, and the forest service aren’t really what is killing people. Usually it is human error (and everyone makes mistakes, just pray that it isn’t in a critical location) and sometimes mother nature. It’s always tragic when someone dies, but sometimes you can’t just point fingers or blame to things that may have some contribution, but aren’t the real problem. Hopefully we can all learn from deaths, injuries and mistakes though.

As far as the Maroons go, I thought North Maroon was pretty straight forward route finding wise. The traverse had some tricky spots and the route off south Maroon was definitely tricky to find if you hadn’t climbed up that route. We did get off route due to some bad cairns (the first time we got off route on any 14er). Still, when we stopped, looked around and searched for the route we did find it. If a route doesn’t look right, chances are that you may be off route, regardless if there are cairns there or not.

There are lots of false cairns out there on various mountains. Sometimes they are useful, but if something doesn't look right, look for a better route and don't use them. Same goes for climbing bolts, slings, etc. Sometimes finding one can mislead you into thinking you are on route when you really aren't. Rescues and even deaths have occurred even though with some searching, the correct route could have been found.
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Re: MRA at Maroon Bells

Postby YouAndWhatGendarme » Wed Oct 03, 2012 4:48 pm

Scott P wrote:Very recently, someone died in Zion rappelling in the Subway using a non standard anchor. Someone had left an anchor (a rappel sling around a log) off the standard route at a waterfall and someone else whom came along used it and died. Very tragic. The person whom left the anchor came foreward in a forum, but really got chastised. He had left it in order to do a more challenging rappel directly through the waterfall. Still, it wasn't his fault someone died using it.


If you're talking about the 74 year old man that died last month (Yoshio Hosobuchi), I'd like to offer a bit of clarification. The issue wasn't with a non-standard anchor; slings off of logjams and debris are quite standard in canyoneering (as are even sketchier raps off of bags of water or sand when 'ghosting' a canyon - coming from a climbing background myself, many common anchors feel bizarrely unsafe compared to the SERENE anchors you learn in alpine rock/snow courses).

The man was using a valdotain backup off his leg loop doing a very short rappel (~15ft if I recall correctly, his wife was able to reach up and grab his hands to try and dislodge him from the ground) which caught in his descender while in the watercourse and he was unable to right himself or unweight his descender to clear the jam. Ironically, his insistence on being overly safe when it really wasn't warranted was led to his unfortunate demise.

Anyway, I don't mean to derail or detract from your point; especially as I agree with you 150%. Your safety is ultimately YOUR responsibility.
Punish your body to perfect your soul. - Mark Twight

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Re: MRA at Maroon Bells

Postby Jim Davies » Wed Oct 03, 2012 5:04 pm

Cairned routes are just part of a spectrum of aids that everybody uses these days, such as GPS tracks, maps, guidebooks, paved roads, SUVs, lug-sole boots, etc. I'm not sure what all the bluster is about, as you're all "cheaters" by the standards of the Hayden and Wilson surveys. Now those were real mountaineers. :mrgreen:
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Re: MRA at Maroon Bells

Postby milan » Wed Oct 03, 2012 5:11 pm

Jim Davies wrote:Cairned routes are just part of a spectrum of aids that everybody uses these days, such as GPS tracks, maps, guidebooks, paved roads, SUVs, lug-sole boots, etc. I'm not sure what all the bluster is about, as you're all "cheaters" by the standards of the Hayden and Wilson surveys. Now those were real mountaineers. :mrgreen:


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Re: MRA at Maroon Bells

Postby CO Native » Wed Oct 03, 2012 5:15 pm

It's not so much about cheating as it is realizing that cairns are pretty unreliable. Anyone can build one any where they want, and unfortunately they do. If it's about cheating I'd say it was more of an issue 15 years ago before climbing the 14ers became so popular. If you saw a cairn then, odds were pretty good it was guiding you the right way. Now it seems it's more likely they are built off route than on.
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