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Peak(s):  North Maroon Peak  -  14,022 feet
Date Posted:  07/13/2018
Modified:  03/06/2019
Date Climbed:   07/07/2018
Author:  JQDivide
Additional Members:   FoodieHiker
 The Better of the Bells   

The Bells from Crater Lake on the way out.

North Maroon Peak with Staci Q and Nicco H

It’s so much better than Maroon Peak. Better trail. Better route. Prettier mountain. No 2,800-foot slopping slog.

As my wife said, Maroon is the Evil Step Sister.

Smoke adds an orange haze to the horizon

We had been watching the weather forecast all week. We actually canceled plans on Friday morning. But by noon on Friday we were trying to get the plans back in order. A less than stellar forecast quickly changed to a great weather day.

We met Nicco and stopped for dinner in BV before heading over Indy Pass to find a place to sleep.

The alarm went off at 3 a.m. and we were on the trail before 4 a.m.

Nicco and Staci between the Rock Glacier and the First Gully

Having just done Maroon two weeks prior, we knew what to expect at the beginning. A bad rocky trail to Crater Lake.

It was warm this morning. Very warm. The three of us were down to t-shirts before we reached the Pyramid turn-off.

The trail up to Minnehaha Gulch was OK and easy to follow. The Split to hit the creek could easily be missed. But one key thing.. listen for the water. You’ll know you’re getting close. There is a cairn, but it’s not that large.

We found a spot to cross that wasn’t great. There were no “complete” log bridges. Several partials with some rocks and low water made for some options. Once across the creek it’s a rocky trail up through a rocky slope. But CFI or someone did a lot of work to make the trail easy to follow. Several places where they placed rock steps.

Once out of the rocks, it’s a short distance to the Rock Glacier in the route description. We stopped just this side of the glacier for snacks and quick break. The sky was getting light by now. The smoke from the Lake Christine Fire provided an orange haze on the horizon. We had little to no smoke in this valley.

In the first gully
First Gully
First gully: at the turn off for the second gully. Turn left and follow the cairns to the transition.
The GullyWatcher

When crossing the rock glacier beware of wobbly rocks and spiders. Cairns do mark a route, but there is not much of a trail.

After the glacier, the dirt trail works its way through some trees and shrubs with a few short switchbacks. This is when you realize just how steep this route is. Any fall or trip off the trail is going to hurt. Within minutes we reached the entrance to the first gully.

This ‘gully’ isn’t what I expect in a gully. It was steep, but wasn’t all dirt and rock. There is a dirt/rock trail trough a grassy slope. We used trekking poles through this section. At times there was more than one path. Don’t take too long deciding; they all eventually meet back up.

You get a great view of the Second Gully when you round the corner.
The Second Gully
Second Gully

Though it had been light out, we stopped for a few photos of the sunrise. At the top of the gully we were met by a mountain goat. We named him, The GullyWatcher. He stayed between the two gullies most of the day.

We rounded the corner and took a quick break. I put away one trekking pole. I was glad to have the single one a few times in the second gully.

A couple passed us here, they were moving quicker than us. We gave them a few minutes to create space between us.

This gully was steeper than the first, and I used my hands a lot for balance and some scrambling. About two-thirds of the way up, Nicco moved a loaf-of-bread-sized rock and it rolled and bounced down the gully until it shattered. Looking down the gully no one was below us. Well, expect for the mountain goat that now rested at the bottom entrance were we took our break.

The loose dirt trail stays mostly on the left side of the gully. At times the trail is a braid of trails, but again, they all lead up. Some spots were looser than others. Some spots had solid rock… but what’s really solid in the Elks?

Near 13,000, I think we found the trail that leads to the top of the first gully. I’ve read you can take the first gully all the way to its finish instead of entering the second gully at its bottom.

Trail to the very Top of First Gully? Near 13,000. If you don't do the transition at the bottom of the Second Gully.
The Notch
Moving up at the Notch
Above the Notch
Scrambling up
Nicco taking in the views, the Rock Band behind him
Great views
Snowmass and Capitol

From here we were close to the “notch”

The route finding begins here. There were cairns in good places. And some in other places that weren’t so good. I think we went too far left instead of going up and left. We backtracked just a bit and found some fun Class 3 scrambling and climbing to work our way up to the ridge.

There was a tricky spot or two, but that just made it more fun.

Once on the ridge, the area opens up a bit and the rock band comes into view. A few cairns led to the chimney. There was a pile of snow and ice at the base that didn’t cause issues except for wet soles on our shoes. My GAIA coordinates for the chimney were 39.07710, -106.98510. (accuracy is not a given)

Staci went first, I followed, and Nicco closed it out. I think you can split the chimney into three moves.

  1. The Up: Step in and turn right. We lifted a knee into the groove. (It’s kind of high step, even for a knee. I gave Staci a little boost.) We reached in with both hands and pulled up. From there we stood and turned around.
  2. Once standing you easily climb over and onto a rock in the middle of the chimney.
  3. Climbing out. I had read about the great hand hold of the crack at the top... feel for it with your right hand, follow the small crack until you find the large crack. Staci was looking for a hand hold... I didn’t tell her to look for the crack, because I didn’t realize the chimney was so short. I was expecting more climbing. But she eventually found it and climbed out.

We all climbed out in about 15 minutes.

The Chimney was shorter than I expected.
Staci moving in

My left hand is in the good crack. I'm standing on the boulder in the chimney, but there is a nice thin ledge in there too.

Nicco climbing out

We walked the top of the rock band and followed cairns up. There was a hint of trail too. Some scrambling and some easier terrain. We did climb one short section that gave us a bit of pause on the way up. Just an awkward move, but the cairn was right there. The way down it was very easy. About 50 minutes after the chimney we were on the summit.

Absolutely gorgeous weather! We took in the views and watched a few folks on the traverse. We looked at the evil step sister and were very happy about today’s peak.

We spent 30 minutes on top... then the group arrived. Six people hit the summit, none with helmets and two without shoes (yep, barefoot). Two of them were playing music on speakers. It was the first peak for at least one of them.

In these situations, I do get judgmental, for the sake of my own safety. If you’re not wearing a helmet on a route like this you either don’t understand the risks, or you just don’t care. Either way, that seems bad for other hikers. So we moved down quickly to be out of their range, in case they knocked rocks down.

We followed our path back down to the rock band. We decided as a group to go down the Class 3 option. It was fairly easy to find. From above we could see a faint trail below the rock band leading to the bottom of it. (A trail I didn’t notice on the way up, but I wasn’t looking for it.) From above, there is a break in the rocky terrain with a loose dirt path that led to the top of it. When they “merged” the C3 section was there.

The precipice
Almost there...
The Summit

Maroon Peak, the Evil Step Sister
Smoke in the valley from the Lake Christine Fire

The C3 is probably 50 to 60 yards to the right of the C4 section. Look for blackish rocks. The C3 section was a series short ledges or blocks. There were a few wet spots, but nothing too concerning. There were a couple of cairns near the base of the section. Took the three of us 10 minutes to route find and get down it.

From here the descent was uneventful. We took our time on the down climbs and loose dirt paths. The temperature started to rise. We could feel the heat on the rocks in a few spots. Near the bottom of the “second” gully, before entering the first... the mountain goat was laying down just above the trail, the GullyWatcher.

Moving down from the Ridge toward the Notch
Moving down from the Ridge toward the Notch
Second gully, coming down
The mountain goat watching the transition area between the gullies
Nicco in the first gully, almost finished.

We took a break after the rock glacier and talked to few people that were coming down. All of them had something to say about the unhelmetted group they passed. One guy said he just missed some rock fall caused by some other guys in the second gully.

We saw some goats in the trees above Crater Lake. We saw more than 50 people at Crater Lake. A trail steward said it was busy. We passed more people coming up and were down by 2:50 p.m. We had lost Nicco between the two lakes, as we tried to leap frog slow hikers. He said that was good for him. He wanted reflect on the day. It was an awesome day.

We had some cold beers. I took a quick rinse off in the creek by the parking lot. We talked to several folks in the parking area then headed to Aspen to eat at Mi Chola, good Mexican food, not just regular Tex-Mex.

Such a better day than Maroon Peak. I’d be happy to do this peak again.

Rock Glacier, looking down trail, go straight across
The Rocky Slope between the creek and rock glacier
Paint Brush
From Minnehaha Gulch, the trail is in there...

More on the Class 3 Route

This picture looks a bit distorted to me, but it's a pretty good view of where both routes are.
The bottom of the C3 section, there is a cairn on the brown rock in the middle of the photo, go past and turn left...
Same area of C3 section, there is a faint trail. Head toward the black rocks near the snow patch.
Here's a bad shot of the C3 shelves/blocks.

C3 Section: my GAIA coordinates were 39.07726, -106.98568, not sure how accurate this is, as I know some points were not matching up to the map.

GAIA Info....
Total time: 11 hr 37 min
Moving time: 7 hrs 20 min
Stopped time: 4 hr 17 min (including 30 minutes on the summit, two 20 minute stops, and two 10-15 minute stops.

Started at 2:48 a.m.
Minnehaha Gulch Creek crossing at 4:15 a.m.
Rock Glacier at 5:10 a.m.
Top of first Gully at 6:30 a.m.
Top of Second Gully at the Notch 7:35 a.m.
Chimney 8:10 a.m.
Summit at 9:07 a.m
Back at TH at 2:25 p.m.

From Maroon Lake... though we didn't smell smoke, from the slight haze in this image, it seems there was some smoke in the valley.

My other Elk TRs.

Maroon: https://www.14ers.com/php14ers/tripreport.php?trip=18668

Pyramid: https://www.14ers.com/php14ers/tripreport.php?trip=18775

Capitol : https://www.14ers.com/php14ers/tripreport.php?trip=19129

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions
Great Photos
7/13/2018 1:07pm
Great report. Thanks for all the info and suggestions. I am looking forward to this peak now!

No Shoes?
7/13/2018 2:55pm
Wow. That is crazy. Were they high on paint or something?

I am thinking on trying N. Maroon this Monday to mitigate the crowds but the catch is I might have to go solo. Thank you for the detailed report.

7/13/2018 2:56pm
Thanks for posting this. Brings back memories. Good route photos taken at relevant navigational points. Yes, you're right about CFI doing some good work. Some spots between the creek and the rock glacier were seriously eroding away.

You are quite right to be judgmental about woefully unprepared climbers. They are casualties waiting to happen. One thing to be careless with your own life, but this increases the risk level for others, as well.

"Goats in the trees" above Crater Lake? Now, that's something I haven't seen.

Again, thanks for posting.

Another nice report...
7/14/2018 3:49pm
... as all of yours tend to be. I think the Bells will be on my list if I can ever actually summit Pyramid. Thanks for this report - VERY descriptive.

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