Peak(s):  North Maroon Peak  -  14,014 feet
Maroon Peak  -  14,156 feet
Pyramid Peak  -  14,018 feet
Date Posted:  06/11/2019
Date Climbed:   06/04/2019
Author:  mattr9
Additional Members:   Pagibb
 Pyramid, North Maroon, and South Maroon Ski Descents   


Tuesday June 4th: Pyramid Peak, Landry Line to NW Basin/Amphitheater

Wednesday June 5th: North Maroon Peak, North Face

Thursday June 6th: South Maroon Peak, Southwest Couloir traverse to Gunsight Notch

Pyramid Peak, Landry Line to NW Basin/Amphitheater:

Drove up to Aspen to meet up with Pat after an easy day skiing the Skywalker Couloir (2x) and Vader Couloir on South Arapaho Peak near Nederland. We got moving at 2am and opted to try to ascend via the "Banana Couloir" route. We donned boots straight from the parking lot and crossed the bridge onto the South side of the lake/stream and began skinning up the steep avalanche path towards the basin to the NE of Pyramid (Directly west of the standard route amphitheater). It took us less than an hour and a half to get up to the end of the basin, where we ran into our first route finding mistake of the day. In the dark we could see a col directly in the back of the basin, and a couloir to our right. We decided to check out the col to see where it led. We did some exposed climbing on a rocky section and steep snow to get to the col to see that it did not go, mistake #1.

So began a steep traverse over to the aforementioned couloir. We made it into the couloir and got to the top in another 30min or so. What we saw from the top was not pleasing, and so we have route finding mishap #2. The couloir topped out and on the other side, was not the ridge line or a connection to the standard route basin, but another couloir that dropped into the lower portion of the Landry Line. Since we knew where the Landry Line led, we down climbed into the Landry and began booting up, opting to stay climbers right to avoid the occasional rockfall. The lower portion of the Landry was absolutely trashed. Large runnels as deep as we were tall and debris everywhere, stuff has been moving in there.

Pat on the steep snow traverse

On the climb up, we must have just been focusing on gaining ground and made our route finding mistake #3 which would end up making for quite an exhilarating, but unnecessary, means of ascent. We missed the Landry line exit that is to the climbers right of the main snow slope, most likely due to us staying left to avoid rockfall. We topped out the main couloir just a few hundred feet to the south of the summit, rather than the standard way of topping out to the north. We started along the ridge and saw that there was a doubled over rappel line hanging down from up above. We tugged on it and climbed up some 4th class terrain with the rope in hand, might as well. We quickly got to a flat spot that had a ~30' tall section near vertical. I am not a seasoned climber, so ascending this section with big exposer, ski boots/crampons, and skis on the back definitely had me taking deep breaths to stay calm and focus on the task at hand: not falling. I made it up and Pat followed swiftly and surely, showing how much easier that terrain can be to a more experienced climber. Once we got the top of the 5th class section, we found the rappel anchor, thank you to whoever left it haha We followed the ridge a little longer with some very airy 4th class moves and soon were on the summit at 9:15.

Pat leading the boot pack up what we believed to be the Landry Line

Easy 4th class climbing, with the rappel line for a life line

Getting up towards the 5th class section

Pat negotiating the end of the 5th class section

Pat negotiating the final 4th class terrain (very airy) to the summit

Pat, on the summit

We wasted no time to get ready to ski down, knowing that this east facing line would be dangerous soon. We started heading down and to the left towards the direct overhead of the Landry Line. I made a few conservative turns and either sank a ski in or pushed off the top 6" of progressively wetter snow, stuff was not looking good at all! Being on a line that steep with snow of that condition was the only time I have ever felt truly out of control in the mountains, I hated the feeling. I knew we had made mistakes in the day, but now we were committed to the consequences of those mistakes. Thankfully Pat is an athletic stud and we were both able to side step and conservatively turn our way down to the ridge that starts at the NW basin. Dropping into the NW basin on its north facing slopes seemed like heaven compared to the heavy conditions we just skied, so we dropped in and pointed the skis back down to the valley, where we returned with no injuries or further issues.

Conservative skiing was the name of the game, very few real turns were had

On north facing and stable snow, we could finally take some relaxed breaths. Great feeling to be off that face, but definitely had our tails between our legs... time to head to the cars

I hope this is a lesson to folks to be more strict about turn around criteria, because we were not. We believed our fitness would allow us to make up time, but on an east facing line like Pyramid, we cut it very close and I feel very fortunate and lucky to have come out with nothing wrong. I believe our fitness and mental state allowed us to get out of there safely, but I can't always rely on that getting me OUT of bad situations, I need to be more proactive about AVOIDING those situations. I will say, I am glad we did the 5th class terrain, though I was nervous, I enjoyed the challenge and it made the terrain on North Maroon the next day feel like a 30 degree slope... fear is relative.

North Maroon Peak, North Face:

After Pyramid, we headed to the Aspen library and relaxed for a few hours before making our way back to the Maroon Bells trailhead for some sleep. We got moving at 3am and moved on frozen snow in approach shoes along the main trail. Due to my previous knowledge of the approach being from the month prior when there was snow to skin on, I opted to start ascending/traversing on the slopes to get to the major drainage to the NE of the basin below North Maroon. We quickly realized that without snow, this was a pain: bush wacking through avalanche debris on top of scree was not fun. We down climbed and took the trail a little further up valley and then pointed it upwards near where the trail system splits, definitely recommend just taking the trail up the valley until the trail split, then heading uphill. Very soon after getting on track, we were up above the trees on the East side of the major drainage/creek. We saw two other folks that had headed up after us and were now ahead of us, almost topping out to the basin, due to our small bush wacking adventure. We soon gained the basin and as the other two in front of us were transitioning at the base of the face, we caught up to them briefly.

The ascent and descent route: Traverse left on first snowfield to center of face, climb straight up to the second to last snowfield, traverse left to "Punk Rock", ascend final snow slope to summit. Looks like a huge face, but in reality isn't too big, only about ~1600', definitely impressive and aesthetic!

Soon we were boot packing and we gained the first snowfield then did the big traverse left. I remember being on this in May and thinking it felt steep, but man after our day on Pyramid, I was feeling quite comfortable. We caught up to the other two as we finished the left traverse to the center of the face and were preparing to point it straight up to navigate through the more rocky sections. We took over boot packing (By we, I mean Pat "the machine" took over... That guy is a beast! He has done ~35 14ers in ~45 days... absolute UNIT!) and led the way straight up to the second to last snowfield where we began the second left traverse to "We gained the final snow slope and within a few minutes were on top of North Maroon.

Beginning the straight up climb through the rocky sections after the first traverse

Looking back towards the trailhead on the upper large snowfield

Pat going beast mode on North Maroon

Marika and Markian following up the upper large snowfield

Pat leading the traverse towards "Punk Rock"

Snuck a pic of tomorrow's objective: South Maroon, with Pat photo bombing haha just kidding

Pat on the summit with our close friend, Pyramid peak (haha) in the background

Pat and I repping the #ClimbingForCasualties Banner with South Maroon in the background!
Little did I know that we had just hit our goal of raising $20,000 for the Special Forces Foundation!!!! Can I get a woot woot?!?!

Markian and Marika posing for a summit picture, I wasn't in position haha Pat got "The Shot" though

The snow was still pretty firm when we arrived, being a NE facing line, so we chatted with the other two who were a father and daughter. I knew a mutual friend with the daughter, Markia Feduschak, and the father, Markian Feduschak, was a very personable and enjoyable character. After about 30min, summit pictures, and enjoying the views, we popped the skis on and Pat led us off. We opted to ski down together to avoid sending snow down on each other. Pat led off with his ever-gracious turns, and I followed to "Punk Rock". We side slipped/stepped/turned down "Punk Rock" and waited for the other two to join us before descending the large snowfield. The snow was firm, but just soft enough to make for really fun grippy skiing! We skied down the second snowfield and then began scouting a continuous way down. We found a mostly continuous way down with one section that required a side step down a rock, not bad! We soon were down to the lower snowfield and traversed our way back to the final slope that would spit us out back onto the basin. The snow here was much heavier, and I am glad we didn't wait for the summit to soften up too much. Skiing heavy snow with avalanche debris was interesting and I totally biffed it, check it out in the last ~15sec of my video haha win some you lose some.

North Maroon, North Face Ski Descent Video:

Pat making turns on the upper large snowfield right after negotiating "Punk Rock"

Pat making his way down the upper snowfield

Markian making his way down to us on the upper snowfield

Pat negotiating some of the rockier sections, finding continuous snow, OH YEAH!

Marika making her way down below the rockier sections before the final traverse back into the basin

Our turns on the upper large snowfield, taken from down below in the basin

We skied the basin out, which was surprisingly not as hot and heavy as I expected, but still somewhat grabby. Soon we were boot packing on patches of dry trail and snow and eventually transitioned to only shoes for a quick walk out.

Looking back at North Maroon from in the valley. WHAT A BEAUT!!!

Super stoked to have finally skied this. I started skiing 3 and a half years ago and have always thought North Maroon looked like THE mountain to ski in CO. After bailing due to somewhat sketchy conditions in May, it was really nice to get this in pretty dang good conditions! Wasn't as gnarly as I expected, but a truly unique and aesthetic line for sure! I definitely want to repeat the guy!

South Maroon Peak, Southwest Couloir Traverse to Gunsight Couloir

Another 3am start had us heading up the valley in shoes all the way until after the trail split. We kept to the trail and soon were underneath the "Garbage Chute" that leads to the Y Couloir and the Bell Cord. We had seen 2 lights up high earlier and were surprised to see them coming towards us. The 2 had left early in the night and planned to ski the east face to bell cord, but didn't think they would be on time, it was only about 6am at the time so we found it slightly odd. But with our day on Pyramid, east facing stuff was definitely getting hot really early, so probably wasn't a bad idea. There was also 3 lights behind us, they ended up going up the Bell Cord, but we didn't see them on the summit. We ascended the garbage chute and skinned up towards the Y Couloir, hoping to find what we thought looked like a boot pack. The boot pack was there, it just wasn't in great condition so we ended up setting our own up to the saddle to the south of the summit. We topped out the saddle and began along the ridge which was easy 4th class climbing mixed with snow climbing. We opted to stay on the rocks more since we knew there was a huge cornice along the entire ridge and it looked as if the cornice was starting to peel off of the ridge, creating a mini bergshrund (would hate to fall in that, trigger the cornice, and take a ride down the SE face... haha). Soon we were on the summit, where we were rewarded with a 45 min nap to wait for the sun to touch the SW couloir and hopefully soften it up a bit.

Looking back towards the trailhead during sunrise, the Garbage Chute is directly below / forefront of the picture

Pat skinning up towards the Y couloir. We opted to climb the Y couloir since we expected the bell cord to see more rockfall early in the day with the East face hanging over it

Me, starting up the ridge on some fun 4th class terrain

Pat working his way up along/near the ridge on the rock/snow sections

After the nap, we got some pictures, I celebrated hitting $20,000 on my #ClimbingForCasualties fundraiser, and we were off! I dropped in first and found similar conditions to the day before on North Maroon, firm but grippy. We worked our way down, staying skiers right of the somewhat large runnel through the center, and eventually found the traversing snowfield to skiers right that would take us to a notch where we would drop into the neighboring basin and traverse along the backside of North Maroon to the Gunsight Notch, where we would climb to and then drop into the basin below North Maroon. Traversing to the notch required some skinning and then we booted the maybe 200' to the notch, where we saw a huge cornice. Luckily there was a small entrance on the right side of the cornice to gain access to the slopes below. I quickly down climbed, donned skis and due to the heaviness of the snow, side stepped and conservatively turned down towards mellower ground. We both made it down with no issues and soon were straight lining it down the basin due to the heaviness of the snow. As we descended, multiple releases on North Maroon came crashing down, pretty epic to see these things happen and not be close enough to do you harm. Stuff is warming up quick up there, it might go fast!

Sleeping on the summit, getting that acclimatization in!!!

Woohoo, we hit $20,000 in the #ClimbingForCasualties fundraiser! And I haven't even left for Pakistan!!!!
If you aren't informed, go to the link below and check it out!

Making my way down the Southwest Couloir, OH BABY!!

Pat skiing down the Southwest Couloir

Climbing For Casualties Link:

We made it to the cliffy part of the basin with no issues, but I must have called a tree a mean name in the previous days because I got my ski caught under it and got caught up in it for a few minutes haha Other than than, we made our way out and Pat and I parted ways at the parking lot after a rather rowdy 3 day trip to Aspen!

Look at that #Jerry all dicked up in the trees.... how embarrassing haha

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions
Bold endeavors!
06/12/2019 08:34
It makes me almost soil myself thinking about skiing this kind of stuff! Your skills are remarkable and your adventure is grand to think about, but something I can not contemplate doing! Congratulations.


06/12/2019 08:58
"Interesting" route on Pyramid -- glad it worked out for you. You guys have been crushing it this spring ... I hope it translates to success and safety abroad. Now that you've got the practice, we will all expecting a big TR when you get back!


06/12/2019 09:48
Thank you, still much to learn, but having an absolute blast with the process!


06/12/2019 09:49
Thank you for the good wishes, beyond stoked! Sitting in DIA waiting for the first flight of many haha 8-10 days from now I MIGHT be in base camp haha


Good luck
06/16/2019 10:19
Been fun to read about some of these lines you've been skiing. 3 and 1/2 years is quite the progression for the North Face of North Maroon but I guess it makes sense given what you've been able to accomplish this winter. Enjoy Pakistan and I hope you follow it up with a tr.

06/29/2019 07:03
A very impressive accomplishment in 3 days. Good luck in Pakistan!

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