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If you want to get technical, this was our last 14er(if you use the 53 list) however its #57 with North Maroon remaining.
I would sum this trip up as very fun and enjoyable, not nearly as difficult as expected(or other people hype up).
Parking Lot View
We hiked in the afternoon before. We opted to take the ditch trail, not sure many people use the lower trail any longer. I had been in to camp years ago at the lake and the approach was just as enjoyable this time. I feel this is one of the most scenic hikes, even if your only objective is the lake. We passed 13 people who were hiking back out, all were day hikers. So don't get discouraged when you pull up to the parking lot and its full. There was plenty of camp spots available. There is a gate to go through between 4-5 miles that i didn't recall on the prior hike. We chatted with a guy on top about the gate, which really threw him for a loop since its not talked about. So expect it. It marks the end of cattle grazing.
We settled on Camp #5 for the night. There is an advantage to the upper campsites - they are directly across from the turn off to the Daly saddle. There is a nice 4-way junction there. We arrived at the camp sites around 4:00 and enjoyed dinner at the lake. It rained for approx 5 hours starting at 7:00 that night.
The alarm went off at 3:30 and we hit the trail at 3:50am. We had hopes of reaching K2 by sunrise. The daly saddle approach is very straight forward and easy.
Im not going to go into detail on every step of the climb, however here are a few notes that I think are important:
1. The trail from the saddle is very easy to follow....for approx 200 yards.
2. The trail abruptly ends and kind of cliffs out at the 200 yard mark. Back track about 10-20 feet and you will see the trail make several sharp switchbacks down grassy ledges. This was very difficulty to see in the dark. The trail drops about 50-100 vertical feet, turn right and start the traverse into the basin.
3. We were able to follow the route described on this site exactly. Just aim for the jagged ridge line in front of you(dependent on moon light obviously), staying to the left of the slope/ridge on your right side. If you look hard, you can follow cairns the whole way to K2.
4. You must traverse a long way under the cliffs. It feels like you are getting to close too the ridge line in front of you. From here turn right and head toward K2. The area were the trail turns right is full of light tan colored boulders that are fun to pick your way through.
We made K2 around 6:00 and watched the sunrise - awesome!
Bells and Pyramid
I opted to summit K2. Take the ridge line directly to the summit, its not that bad.
If you decide to skip K2, follow the ridge line very high before you traverse to the right. It makes it much easier!
The traverse around K2 is not near as dramatic as expected, however the "gash" on the other side is fun to look down.
I would separate the remaining route into two sections: The ridge proper (knife edge).
The face traverse.
Edge and Face routes
There is some exposure here however the rock is very stable. There were a few small sections on the ridge to pass over that were harder than the knife we thought. They are short sections though. After the knife edge, there are several sections of the ridge that are easier to bypass on the right(north) side. You can drop down about 5 feet from the crest and traverse.
I had a little fun crossing the ridge on the way back - no hands tightrope walk, see video:
Pretty proud of my dad, he walked the whole thing too, only using his hands twice!
After the ridge ends, drop down in a small notch before heading up. Go up the face approx 50 feet, then start the traverse. There are some good trail segments here and cairns. It was a lot easier to route find than expected. The first part of the the traverse has some really long drop offs. Take your time, the rock here is more loose than the ridge, but not bad.
Continue to traverse, without gaining much elevation until you reach the big gully. Cross to the other side of the gully and begin to head up steeper rock. The rock here is really stable if you stay more left. Climb up for about 100 feet, the slope eases, and continue the traverse to the south ridge line. Gain the ridge and pick your way to the top.
The summit was great, we had nice cloud cover all morning. It felt pretty good to summit the last "official" 14er. There is still one more to go though, so no celebration yet.
My dad was pretty worried about this climb prior, but he had a blast once we got on the mountain.
The decent is a lot easier on the way down, you've built all that confidence on the way up.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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