Peak(s):  North Maroon Peak  -  14,014 feet
Maroon Peak  -  14,156 feet
Date Posted:  01/10/2013
Date Climbed:   01/05/2012
Author:  Furthermore
 A Winter Bell.  

North Maroon Peak 14,014
South Maroon Peak 14,156 (Recon/Attempt)

January 4-6, 2012
Totals: ~30.3 Miles, ~9,200 Gain
TH: ~.9 miles below the Snowmass Creek Trailhead.


"Oh I get by with a little help from my friends" - The Beatles

Without the immense amount of effort that Dwight, Sarah and Dominic put into this trip, it would have not been successful. Thanks for your effort, recon, commitment, trench building and friendship. I owe you lots of beer.

Safe climbing options and windows are not easy to encounter in the Elks which is especially true on the Maroon Bells. A week prior to the trip, I had no idea that I was going to be climbing the Bells but I received a generous invite to join Sarah, Dominic and Dwight on their attempt at North Maroon. Since safe winter climbing options on the Bells are bleak, Dwight did a recon trip via Snowmass Creek to the backside of the Bells in November and discovered a possible "safe" option on North Maroon's north ridge.

The only problem with the Snowmass Creek approach to the Bells in the winter is the long approach with plenty of deep powder trench building. Fortunately, Dominic and Sarah had built a trench the weekend prior in an effort to gain more beta and scope out avalanche conditions on the possible route on North Maroon. Traveling to low camp had them worked and without a doubt, if I did that much trenching, I would be spanked as well.

The long approach.

In an effort to salvage their hard trench work, Dominic and Sarah wanted to return up Snowmass Creek and make a serious attempt at North Maroon. Avalanche conditions were subsiding and the weather forecast was impeccable. Too perfect not to go. Unsure of how things changed over the week, they wanted to allow 2 days for the approach.

Day 1:
~9.6 Miles, ~2,900 Gain.

Due to some prior evening commitments, I wasn't able to leave Denver until Friday morning. Dwight, Sarah and Dominic all drove out Thursday to get an early start on Friday. Ryan and I left Denver at 6:30 AM and were hiking up the road closure ~.9 miles short of the Snowmass Creek trail around 10:00 AM. With a trench in place, travel went quickly for everyone. What an amazing effort Sarah and Dominic did to make the 9.6 mile approach to camp manageable in a day. Without the prior trench-work, it would have certainly been a 2 day ordeal to camp.

Just before dark, camp was set up just above 11,000 feet only a short few miles away from North Maroon. Towering over camp, the Bells looked stupendous and I couldn't wait to check them out. I went to bed early and woke up at 4:45 AM. By the time everyone was ready, we were hiking out of camp towards North Maroon at 5:50 AM.

Day 2:
~6.3 Miles, ~3,700 Gain.

From camp, it was ~1.5 miles further into the basin to the base of the possible snow couloir that would lead us to the Gunsight notch north of North Maroon. Looking up from the basin, we could see that the couloir was filled with snow, but shallow enough in places for talus to break through. Things were looking good. We activated our avalanche beacons and continued upwards.

Dwight making his way to the west face couloir leading to The Gunsight.

In order for us to gain the couloir, we had to climb through 2 minor cliff bands to reach the base of the couloir. Nothing too difficult. We ditched our snowshoes and started our way up the west facing snow couloir. About way up the couloir, a questionable snow slab was encountered and we started up one at a time through a short 100-200 foot section of suspicious terrain. The angle eased and we reached The Gunsight. If there was any more snow in that couloir, it would have probably been a no go.

Climbing to the west face couloir.

The west face couloir.

The questionable section in the west face couloir.

Our next obstacle was bypassing "Gunsight Tower" which we did on the west side of the ridge by crossing some narrow snow covered ledges. Roach mentions climbing up and over "Gunsight Tower" goes at 4th class but with such "little" snow we were able to follow the ledges along the west side of the tower. The snow was soft and the exposure was intimidating. Dwight did excellent recon on the route where his recently traveled path made the route finding easier and quick.

Looking towards Maroon Lake from The Gunsight.

Typical north ridge terrain.

Pyramid and the north face of North Maroon.

As we climbed upwards, we navigated through some short class 4 cliff bands. For the most part, we stayed west of the ridge crest on snowy ledges until ~13,600 and at ~13,600, we gained the ridge crest. Now for the technical crux; a larger cliff band at ~13,700. At first, we climbed on the east side of the ridge for a short distance before returning to the ridge crest. We made some exposed class 4 moves along the way. The views of the north face were amazing.

Climbing on North Maroon's north ridge.

Cliff bands.

Snow traverse.

Ryan silhouette

North ridge action.

North ridge action.

Once we climbed through the larger cliff band, we only had one short class 3 band to climb before reaching the final summit push. The last 200 feet to the summit mellowed out and we all reached the summit at 11:50 AM. Perfect weather with astonishing views of South Maroon and Pyramid. Unique, untraveled, and beautiful. A light breeze had picked up on the summit so our stay wasn't very long. We enjoyed the views and started down. Finally, the sun had reached the west side of the ridge and we all started to warm up. Our first hit of direct sunlight hit us for a short period at ~13,500.

First bit of sunlight over South Maroon.

Snowy bands.

Dwight on the ridge crest.

Regaining the ridge crest.

Final class 3 band before the summit.

Good view of South Maroon.

South Maroon from the summit.

We made good time back down the ridge and back to the base of the couloir. Since things on the trip had gone so well, we had an extra day. Time to get some beta on the west ridge on South Maroon. Once at the base of the west couloir to The Gunsight, I cruised to the valley floor and started trekking south to the base of South Maroon's west ridge. A north facing couloir could be problematic but as I hiked to the base, I found a safe alternative through dry talus to the ridge. We will return tomorrow. I returned to camp at 3:40 PM, ate dinner and went to sleep.

Descending back down.

Crux cliff band.

Snow ledges.

Snow ledges.

Dwight near on Gunsight Tower.

Day 3:
~14.4 Miles, ~2,600 Gain.

Packing up in the morning went faster and everyone left camp around 5:40 AM towards South Maroon. Within no time, we reached the north face couloir leading to the west ridge. Climbing up the talus to the west ridge was time consuming and a pain in the ass. Plenty of loose rock.

The only thing I have to say about the west ridge, is that it was significantly harder than the north ridge on North Maroon. Winter route finding was very challenging and the climbing was much more difficult. Unlike the North Ridge on North Maroon, we used a rope for a rappel during our descent. It took us 3 hours to gain 400 feet. We turned around at 11:00 AM and still had 700 more feet of complex hard climbing.

Scrambling on South Maroon.

Typical exposure on South Maroon.

Ryan hanging out on South Maroon.

Due to the nature of the climbing we turned around at a problematic cliff band with horribly chossy rock. The standard route would be solid granite compared to the west ridge. Agreement was unanimous and we bailed returning to camp. On a plus note, we could pack up and make the long haul back to the car which we did. Ryan and I packed up and left camp first and made it back to the car at 6:50 PM. One of the finest and most rewarding winter trips to date. Thanks for a solid team.

Bailing on South Maroon.

Woot. I finally GPS.

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

File not found! Author needs to re-upload the GPX file for the map to appear.
Download GPX file cannot be downloaded (per author)

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

Training for the Himalaya?
01/11/2013 03:38
Quite the impavid adventure! Takes more courage to bail than go for it - props! Photos #12, #27 are neat. Nature is neat.


01/11/2013 03:42
Great job, all of you. Love that last photo.



So sick!
01/11/2013 03:48
Just....WOW! Well done.


Seriously Impressive!
01/11/2013 03:53
Love the team work and ambition shown in this trip w/ mind blowing pics to boot! Major props to all. I'll be reading this TR multiple times.


01/11/2013 04:08
I am not even qualified to comment, but just the ¯like¯ wouldn't have been appropriate either.


yeah, this is fantastic!
01/11/2013 04:28
HOLY wow gang!


Fun trip!
01/11/2013 05:14
I almost wish Sarah and Dominic hadn't broken all that trail - might've stood a chance at keeping up with Furthermore.

*almost = not at all.
**might've = still no chance


01/11/2013 05:51
nice job on the video. Fantastic sound track.

Brian C

01/11/2013 13:11
Good video Derek! What GPS did you end up buying?


01/11/2013 14:04
I think it's safe to say you all very much earned that snowflake! I'm glad all that hard work paid off for everyone, and that you had such fantastic conditions to enjoy it in. Hell, I'll be happy just snowshoeing up to Maroon Lake in winter at some point!


Those traverse shots.
01/11/2013 14:33
Love some of those shots moving across the bands. Very cool. Nice work to all and congrats on a safe descent back home.

Summit Lounger

01/11/2013 15:03
Great job with all of the exploring and recon. It is great to see all of the hard work get the group to the summit.

I Man

Truly Elite
01/11/2013 15:36
Thanks for writing the TR, Derek....and thanks for the invaluable beta.

Congrats to all on a great accomplishment.

And the shot of the traverse makes my stomach turn. You know why


Awesome job
01/11/2013 16:39
I had been wondering about approaching the gunsight from the backside. I am glad to see it goes. Way to earn that snowflake.


Thought that was where you were headed!
01/11/2013 16:54
When Ryan was noticeably obscure with his intended plans, I had a feeling this Trip Report would be coming. Heck of a job by all involved.


Photo #30...
01/11/2013 16:57
is the definition of composure.

Congratulations to the team on a safe journey into the ”throne room of the mountain gods”.


This is a classic
01/11/2013 17:00
The writing is only outdone by the adventure. Well done to all of you


Thanks for joining the team Derek!
01/11/2013 17:17
Great report & pics. In case anyone hasn't had their fill, my pics and report are here:

Full report:



01/11/2013 17:58
Great report! Gotta admit, image #12 is now my desktop background at work.


Hearty congratulations!
01/11/2013 18:02
I'm not certain that the skill with which you prepped and read the window is quite appreciated. I was out all week and there was only a two-three day window where this would be safe. The groups winter skills are evident in your prep work (Dwight's work in Nov., Sarah and Dominic the week prior)and your patience. This past weekend was likely the first window of relative safety since the first day of winter. I know you've been biting at the bit, but your skills are evident in your patience.

My only complaint: I put in two days work trenching a goal of my own. When I failed, I called Dwight for some rope help. He was ¯busy¯.


Really nice job!
01/11/2013 18:14
Congrats on a great trip and great write-up. Quite a few sweaty palm moments...


01/11/2013 18:16
Was up there in September and I love to see how much of a different world it is during the winter. This is awesome and congrats on a safe adventure!


01/11/2013 18:33
Wow, Great team work and nerves of steels. Kudos to all of your hard work!


01/11/2013 18:40
Your proposal was an interesting one, I'm sure losing 2 days work is disheartening. You are ahead of this winter peak game, pioneering new territory on the Centennials. I know you solo'd many of the peaks that have been a challenge for us as a team and probably in years with more snow, I have a lot of respect for what you have accomplished.


Top notch
01/11/2013 18:53
What a testament to team work and doing your homework.

Hell of an adventure and I am glad you all shared it with us.

Loved your TR and pics also, Sarah!


Kevin Baker

Heck of an achievement
01/11/2013 19:35
Superb teamwork, guys! There are few windows to climb N Maroon safely in winter, and your patience to do it as safely as possible paid off. You have pioneered what is most likely the safest winter route on N. Maroon. It will be interesting to go up there and try that north ridge in summer! Great shots, Derek.


01/11/2013 21:46
Wow. Just wow.


One of the most...
01/11/2013 22:31
...thrilling TRs I have seen on here in a long time. All of the little things that don't show in the pictures - the recon, the working together, the accumulated knowledge - make your feat that much more impressive.


01/11/2013 22:35
I just sat at my desk for about fifteen minutes reading your report with my jaw dropped the entire time. Awesome work.


01/12/2013 00:14
Wow, serious exposure in places. You guys are in a league above us mere mortals!

Easy Rider

very ambitious
01/12/2013 02:11
good job!


01/12/2013 03:53
Not much more I can say that hasn't already been said... congratulations to the team on a huge accomplishment! Very impressive, very inspiring.


01/12/2013 03:55
is unreal. So impressive everyone.


Risk, reward, and lots of hard work
01/12/2013 04:03
¯This past weekend was likely the first window of relative safety since the first day of winter. I know you've been biting at the bit, but your skills are evident in your patience.¯

I think Steve said exactly what I was thinking. The biggest congrats is in mitigating the risks to make this fine accomplishment go at the lowest possible risk.

Huge congrats, Sarah, Dominic, Dwight, Derek, and Ryan.

Sarah, best wishes in making Elbert this March!


01/12/2013 16:15
...preparation, team work, climbing, accomplishment, photos and write up!

This is surely going to be a treasured memory for all!

Congrats and thanks for posting! It's a treat.

Craig Cook

Holy Schnikes...
01/12/2013 17:39
I can't even begin to comprehend the work and skill that went into that climb, and the wisdom to know when to bail.

And that last photo is just sick! It took me a couple times looking at it to realize somebody was in it! And an additional time to notice there are two!

Mountain Ninja

Super impressive!
01/13/2013 02:17
Congrats to all on this amazing winter 14er climb! I'm getting knots in my stomach just looking at those awesome pics. Hat's off to all of you, big time!!


I tried....
01/13/2013 03:30 'like' this report again, because 1 thumbs up isn't enough! Nice crampons!


I need to
01/14/2013 01:03
comment one more time because this climb was so awesomly bad ass. Holy Sh!t


01/14/2013 07:26
I'm just speechless. What a remarkable adventure and thanks much for sharing.


Perfect way to raise the bar!
01/14/2013 16:01
This is the go-to report on how to plan and execute well thought out trips in winter. Congrats guys, - it's been said before but excellent show of teamwork and patience - what a payoff!


Damn, folks!
01/15/2013 05:29
What a cool trip and great report!


Oh snap
01/15/2013 23:25
Very impressive, congrats on a safe trip.


I'm speechless...
01/21/2013 19:22
I'm still trying to wrap my brain around this trek. Congrats to all!


Incredible Feat!
01/22/2013 19:12
Wow. This makes my summer adventures look like tap dancing. Just amazing. Vort.


02/05/2013 13:17
crap! Way to be, guys! Just incredible. I'm in awe of this amazing accomplishment

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