Peak(s):  Pyramid Peak  -  14,018 feet
Date Posted: 
Date Climbed:   07/31/2005
Author:  SarahT

 7/31/05 Pyramid via NE Ridge  

July 31st Pyramid via Northeast Ridge (standard route)

After climbing S. Maroon we packed up camp and hiked back down the main trail to the middle of Crater Lake where we set up camp again with plans to climb Pyramid the next day. I was disappointed to see that all of the camping spots closest to the Pyramid cutoff trail were occupied. We ventured further down the trail to find the cutoff trail while we had daylight. It was not that easy to find, but we located it about 0.3 miles from the end of Crater Lake. CFI had flags all over the ground so we knew we would have no problems hiking it in the dark. We returned to camp and got some sleep.

On Sunday morning we were on the trail around 3:45. The CFI trail is great – I can't imagine having to make your way up that steep, rocky, bushy slope before they started working on it. Seems like it must have been a headache. It was still completely dark when we reached the boulder/talus field in the amphitheater. At first we wasted time trying to follow the CFI flags but then after checking Roach's directions again realized that we just needed to make our way up to the basin by going up the right hand side of the rocks. My partner chose to walk up the snowfield but it was a little too icy for my liking this early in the morning so I chose to hop up the rocks. It started to get light as we reached the basin. We could see some huge cairns pointing the way to the spot where you climb up to Pyramid's Northeast ridge. From afar it looks like a wall and you wonder how you're going to get up it, but once you get closer it starts to look doable. The scramble up the loose dirt/scree slope is less than pleasant and I couldn't wait for it to be over. Although you do begin to get some awesome views of Snowmass and Capitol from here. We took a short break once we reached the ridge to refuel and started the real climb at 7:15. The beginning of the route was well cairned. We quickly came to the famous ledge section that you always see pictures off. That was quite amusing. After that the route finding gets a little bit more serious. We just took it slow and cautious and it seemed like there were many possible routes. We found the green/pale rock wall and climbed up for a few hundred feet. This was some fun Class 4 (now I'm sure!) climbing on fairly sold rock. We exited to the left a few hundred feet below the summit and found our way to the top. Roach talks about regaining the ridge before reaching the summit but it seemed like we regained the ridge only right before the summit. Anyway, we reached the top at 8:45 and were the first ones again. There was no real register – just a Nalgene bottle with a pink slip of paper from the day before. Pyramid's summit is impressive and the views are amazing. We hung out for 45 minutes before starting the decent. It's a whole new perspective going down. You have to stare right at the cliffs ahead of you the whole time whereas on the upclimb you are always facing the rock and aren't as much aware of the drop off behind you. The first 100 feet or so down from the summit were a little bit intimidating, especially with the loose rock covered ledges, but after that it was a piece of cake. I noticed that if I feel the need to climb down backwards, its probably Class 4. On Class 3 terrain I always go down looking forward. But I quickly got used to the backward method. We followed a cairned route down and it ended up dumping us out into the green gully only 50 feet or so from the exit point on the other side. We passed two parties of two and one solo guy on the way up and were surprised to see that only one person had a helmet on! We were quickly back at the saddle and pushed on down the steep slope back down into the basin before having a well deserved cookie break. The snowfield was much softer now and we skied down on our feet, using our trekking poles for propulsion and balance. That was a fun little time saver. We got back to camp around 1:30 and took a short break before packing up and heading out. I felt that this was the most challenging climb I've done to date. Route finding was critical and the exposure seemed pretty significant. What a great adventure! I realized that a lot of the scrambling I had done on Ellingwood ridge was definitely Class 4.

There were several traffic jams on the popular trail back to Maroon Lake but other than that the trip out was uneventful. We were in Aspen by 4:30 where we ate hamburgers and drank beers at Boogie's Diner. I would highly recommend this place – the food and service are great and prices are good. Got back home in Boulder at 9:30pm, very satisfied.


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