Peak(s):  Pyramid Peak  -  14,018 feet
Date Posted:  07/25/2005
Modified:  03/26/2006
Date Climbed:   07/23/2005
Author:  doumall
 Northeast Ridge  

Friday night I tried to go to sleep at 9, but didn't until midnight, slept for about an hour, woke up around 1 am and drove to Aspen. I reached the trailhead right at 5am. I took off up the wide dirt trail at 5:15, amazed at the views of the Maroon Bells in the moon light. Wispy clouds surrounded the peaks, and with the nearly full moon, it gave me the feeling I was on another world. After making my way up the strong trail past Maroon Lake, I saw the first view of a moon draped Pyramid. Its an intimidating mountain, but I was totally juiced for it.

I was a little unsure about finding the trail junction, but the new CFI trail is obvious, just look for the yellow, orange and red trail markers. They are making this peak much easier, and are about halfway done with the trail into the hanging basin. It is very steep, the way I like to gain elevation. After crossing a boulder field at the foot of the basin, I made my way onto a strip of moderate snow and used it to climb towards Pyramids steep, crumbling west face.

In the upper basin, I greeted a couple who had camped up there. They gave me a tip on how to avoid elevation gain by swinging right under Pyramids west face on snow. I made my way across the upper basin on snow and ascended a narrow strip of snow up into the gully. As I removed my crampons I saw another couple making their way across the basin toward me. I yelled down at them that I would wait at the saddle to avoid rock fall on the upper sections. They responded with a "that's a good idea, see you there."

The rock in this gully is loose and it was filled with snow, ice and mud. One boot can start a mud/rock slide easily. There is a strong trail however. I made careful progress up the gully so not to send rocks down at them. Near the top I jumped onto more solid rock on the right side. They opted for a class 3/4 climb up a gully leading to the right of the gendarme. I made my way over a strong ledge system below the gendarme on the right side of the saddle and waited for them near a snowfield.

After only a couple minutes they got there. We ate some food, introduced ourselves and began to pick our way up the now strictly climbing section of Pyramid. The climbing at first is class 3 and is fun. Only slightly exposed. This section took us to a notch filled with snow, where we crossed to the left side of the ridge and encountered the cliff traverse. This was not a bad as the impression trip reports gave me. It was a fun scoot over a 2 foot wide ledge with about 25 feet of exposure below. After this we crossed a few rock ribs to reach the green gully. Once again, the climbing here was fun and now quite exposed, but didn't bother me. This was a good feeling, because it was the first extended section of class 4 climbing I have encountered.

I learned at about this time my two climbing partners were training for the Pikes Peak marathon, and it showed. They were the first to really challenge me up a peak. I struggled to stay with them, as they used their technical rock climbing experience to scamper up the remaining challenges. The three of us didn't knock a single rock down. I made the summit about 30 seconds after them at 8:40am, which wasn't bad considering I slept for a whopping one hour the night before and I stayed with them over a thousand feet of climbing, and they weren't waiting (I don't think anyway). We were the first on the day and the weather was still holding. The views to the west of the other Elk 14ers were amazing. We hung out for a bit, I signed the register, and I had them take a picture of me. It was very fortunate to run into these two; they were friendly, strong and from Boulder What else! After ten minutes or so they began their descent and I stayed on top.

The next 20mins was a great time for me. Alone on the top of Pyramid, a peak I might say I feared. Hoo Ya. Got some more pictures with my disposable camera, ate some food and began my descent. I made very careful progress down the loose class 3 and 4 sections. I knew there were climbers below. I again managed not to let loose any rocks, which allowed me to surprise the first set of climbers I encountered. I gave them some beta and continued on, asking everyone if they were the guy I thought I was supposed to meet earlier that morning. I passed a dozen people ascending the crux section and watched for a bit after getting out from below them as rocks came pouring down the green gully at high speed. Man was I glad to have started early and made great time to avoid this danger.

The route finding was a little confusing back to the saddle from the top, but not bad. After passing back across the cliff traverse my pace quickened and I made great time down the scree gully, no rock let loose still, and into the hanging basin. This time I crossed the moraine, making my way to the snowfield for some glissading. I came across a sight I have yet to see on a 14er. An exposed block of solid ice with rock covering its top. It seems the upper hanging basin of Pyramid is solid ice below the 2-3 feet of talus and boulders. Very cool. The snow was good for a sitting glissade for about half way down, until sharp spires of ice began to jut from the snowfield. Not very pleasant on the rear. I began a standing glissade, which for the first time for me worked incredible well. It felt more like ice skating than skiing. After this, I made my way down the steep 1000 feet of developing CFI trail to Maroon Creek. Towards the bottom I passed the marathon runners, chatting a bit as I passed. Good people.

The remaining descent down to Maroon lake had me passing many tourists on their way up the trail. I made my way past the lake, which has amazing views, now highlighted by the sun and reached the trailhead at 11:40pm. It took me 5 hours, 40 mins not counting my 30 minutes on the summit. 3 hours, 25 mins up and 2 hours, 25 mins down. This was a great day.

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