Peak(s):  North Maroon Peak  -  14,014 feet
Date Posted:  06/20/2012
Modified:  02/01/2013
Date Climbed:   06/17/2012
Author:  SnowAlien

 North Maroon Peak - Above the Goats  

Stats: ~9.5 mile roundtrip
Elevation gain: ~4,600 ft
Time: 5.30am to 4.15pm with lots of stops for pictures
Party: just me

Following the trend recently popularized by anna & sstratta – hiking more difficult peaks solo – I decided to give North Maroon a try. With the super fun climb of Bell Cord about a month ago and a very pleasant climb of Pyramid last summer, the Red Elks are rapidly becoming my favorite range. Selfishly, I wanted the climb to be perfect & the mountain to myself. With 50+ summits under the belt, one should be able to get up & down the mountain without companions for once, right? I thought so too. Don’t get me wrong – I love hiking with other people, but just wanted to see if a solo trip on an interesting peak would be something I would enjoy. I have entertained the idea of the traverse, but was not ready for another tough day just yet – the traverse would have to wait for another time.

I arrived to the park entrance a few minutes before 7pm on Saturday – perfect timing as the guards were getting ready to leave for the day – and let me in without paying the $10 fee. I got to the overnight parking lot and asked the lot keeper if I could borrow the chicken fence. He assured me that it was not necessary, since his traps (he pointed them out to me) hadn’t been catching porcupines in the last few days. Somehow I was not totally convinced, but was not too worried – I brought mothballs. After parking my Subaru in the line of 4 others and packing the light daypack for the next day, I took a nice stroll back and forth to the Maroon lake (that view never gets old), sprinkled mothballs under the car and settled in for the night around 9pm. The faint stench from the mothballs was seeping into the car though, so I left the window open to allow a little bit of breeze. At 3.30am I was suddenly awoke by a strange sound – a very quite rubbing of metal or plastic very close by. I could not tell right away if this was happening under my car or neighbor’s car, and the sound soon ceased. However, the sleep was gone and I was wide awake for the next hour or so. The nice thing about solo hiking though is that I did not have to be on somebody else’s timeline, and if I was feeling lazy, it was totally ok. I finally started moving at 4.45am and was ready to go at 5.30am, just as the dawn was breaking.

I did not time the sunrise exactly right, so the alpenglow appeared on the peaks as I was making my way through the forest above the Maroon lake. I raced up & managed to snatch the late alpenglow on Pyramid & the Bells. As I was crossing the Minnehaha Creek, I saw some people about 15 minutes ahead of me.

Alpenglow on Pyramid

Bells in the morning

At the turnoff- Trail No. 1975 goes to Buckskin pass & Snowmass

Surveying the route ahead

I chose not to use the rope here - holds are plentiful


Crossing the boulder field as Pyramid looks on

Crossing into the 1st gully

Boulder field does not seem to have a well defined trail, but cairns are plentiful, and soon I found myself in the 1st gully. With people not that far ahead of me, I decided to take a nice long break to build in some distance – since the potential rockfall was a concern. After a break, I caught up with the sole hiker who was staying put. He explained that he was turning around (he hiked S. Maroon the day before and was feeling it), but a couple of people in his group went ahead.

The remaining climb of the 1st gully and traverse over to the 2nd gully was pretty straightforward – the trail is very well marked and the difficulty does not exceed class 2. Second gully is steeper and the terrain is more interesting – with some Class 3 in spots.

Wondering eye is checking the Bell Cord & SE couloir conditions

As I paused to catch a breath, I noticed a sole goat hanging on the ridge. He was not moving much, so I decided to stop & take some shots with my "POS" camera. More goats suddenly appeared out of nowhere. The climb was entirely forgotten as I was watching them for a while.

Closer & closer!

Really close - time to get out of the way

Finally, they got bored and rather unexpectedly, a few of them started moving in my direction. Rather fast. Being gored on N. Maroon – what an interesting concept! It was time to get out of the way and I quickly headed upward.

Soon I realized though that I won’t be able to outrun the mountain goats, so I stopped just in time to notice that they were crossing the gully in the exact spot I was standing a few minutes ago! Apparently, I was in their way and they lost patience.

Wildlife crossing

Narrowly avoiding the collision with the wildlife, soon I was at the top of the 2nd gully, and the scrambling was about to begin. The terrain above the 2nd gully is very similar to the one on Pyramid – more than one path to choose from & cairns are plentiful. There are a few interesting chimneys to be found and I hoped (rather naively) that I might have already passed the crux.

At the top of 2nd gully

Buckskin pass

Snowmass & Capitol

At some point, I found myself on a narrow plateau with stunning views of Snowmass & Capitol. The trail seemed to run out. As I pulled out the route description, I suddenly realized that I was staring at the crux – Class 4 chimney. I rushed in, ready to tackle it, and clearly heard people’s voices coming from above. I yelled that I was in the chimney & coming up, and got ok to continue. As I was wiggling myself higher up, I was informed that the summit is close by, another group went for the traverse, and they were going down.

Class 4 chimney

Observation deck a.k.a. precipice

Remaining route to the summit - does not seem to be too difficult, but a bit loose - cat feet are a must!

Reaching summit just before 11am

South Maroon + Traverse

Pyramid & friends

The summit itself turned out to be a bit too windy and cold for my taste – and I was too lazy to put extra layers, so I did not stay for too long. I tried to look for people on the traverse, but did not see anybody. After about 30 minutes on the summit, I headed back.

Heading down

Typical terrain in the upper section

Tread carefully

Lakes & the valley

I was not too enthused about downclimbing the crux, and besides, I've read that the chimney becomes impassable with snow & ice sometimes, so I was curious to see what other options might be available. Angling to the left of the chimney on the way down, I soon stumbled upon some cairns and even a piece of webbing, which apparently had been used for a rappel.

Cairns & a webbing

I carefully evaluated the options and chose to down climb the ledges immediately next to the webbing. It was careful & meticulous work exacerbated by some snow, ice & running water, but the difficulty did not exceed Class 3.

my route

Various options available - but descending from ledge to ledge obviously requires caution

and of course I can always trust snow to get me to safety

Reviewing the route just taken

Looking worse than it really was

Typical terrain before entering 2nd gully

Just below that section, some fun climbing on dry rock was to be had. I did not find that the route was “loose & pathologically rotten” as Roach describes, but maybe it was because I did not have other climbers above or below me to worry about and I was very careful not to dislodge many rocks myself.

bye-bye, Snowmass

Start of the 2nd gully

2nd gully - loose, but not that bad

Above the goats

Traffic jam - the cairn is to the left

S. Maroon, SE couloir & Bell Cord

Difficulties are over. Green 1st gully

First gully

First gully

Still about 2K elevation feet to go

Gunsight conditions


Bluebird day on the Bells

The rest of the climb was uneventful, and going at a comfortable pace, taking as many pictures as I wished, I reached the car soon after 4pm. Interestingly enough, the lot keeper was moving stuff around & blocking some parking spots with orange cones. I did not inquire if this had any connection with porcupine activity. Overall, this was an enjoyable day & I would be up for a return visit to this beautiful area.

My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):


 Comments or Questions

06/20/2012 14:12
Congrats on a great solo summit, Natalie ! When are you heading to the Wilsons ?


06/20/2012 15:03
Thanks for the informative and useful beta on this route. You have given me some more motivation to tackle this exciting peak this year. I really liked your pictures, thanks for taking the time to write this up.


Great Trip!
06/20/2012 15:15
... and some truly gorgeous photos! With the scenery like it was and beautiful weather, it IS nice to take your time for photo opts. Thanks for posting!


Fun report
06/20/2012 16:25
That was entertaining, well done.

Do you think those goats were ready to get aggressive? I have never had an encounter like that.

To those of you out there who are tempted to leave ropes and tat ( and you know who you are ) please refrain. You are littering and using ropes where unnecessary ( gratuitous rappels ) has a good potential to dislodge rocks onto others below. Ropes should be a last resort on a route like this.

Doctor No

Great work!
06/20/2012 17:18
And I loved the goat shots!


Getting after it
06/20/2012 17:31
Way to go Natalie. An impressive report and an even more impressive solo effort. Looks like you're going to beat me to the finish line.


Mountain Goats & ”Salad Dressing”
06/20/2012 19:27
Those goats can get used to seeing people, and will eat any vegetation that's been peed on. Six years ago, on a trip in the Olympics, we had to deal with a small herd that walked over from the next mountain and spend all night with us. They can be worse than marmots and porcupines for chewing on your gear and hiking poles, all to get salt.


SurfNTurf vs. Nkan02
06/20/2012 20:18
I have money down on one of you!

I was hoping for more of a competition, though, rather than one getting left behind in the dust by scaaarrry, mean ol' El Diente.


06/20/2012 23:33
On a solid job Nat! Tell you one thing, both Jeff and you will beat me.


04/02/2015 19:45
re. competition with Surf

@Monster & Abe - Thanks, but you'll need to look the other way for my competition. Surf has disqualified himself from being a serious contender long time ago due to his affinity with booze & women - which just means he got his priorities straight

Anna, however, is far more formidable competition. She would have reached the finish line long time ago if it were not for her inexplicable fondness for shorter peaks. I am hoping to see her finisher report soon - and good luck on LB!!!

re. goats
@rickinco123 - it was hard for me to read their minds. They all started moving in my direction rather quickly, and I decided to get out of their way asap They probably would have passed by me with no issues, but why take a chance?


Very nice.
06/21/2012 12:39
I delt with those porcupines a few days prior in the overnight lot. They are a nuissance and they were definitely chewing on the brake lines! Apparently they are pretty bad around crater lake as well from what the rangers said.

Gread accomplishment and good on you for not using that rope. Seems a little silly that is there. If folks need a rope for that portion, they shouldn't be on the rest of that peak above!


Nice to meet you briefly
06/21/2012 18:13
You took some wonderful pictures. Jeremy and I met you just above the chimney. Beautiful day beautiful climb.

Boggy B

06/22/2012 01:46
Love this peak and route. Nice report! Had a similar experience with goats in the Gores--we jumped out of the way and they walked right past us like we weren't there.

Also WTF at the rope on the rock step.


Congratulations on a solo hike!
06/22/2012 05:52
Nice report, congratulations! yeah, those goats are the ones that guard the entrance to the second gulley... they make sure hikers don't get lost


Wow - great climb
07/22/2012 21:26
Thanks for all the pictures. They provide clear (and beautiful) shots of the route. But I'm afraid they just make the climb look even scarier.

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