Peak(s):  Maroon Peak  -  14,156 feet
North Maroon Peak  -  14,014 feet
Date Posted:  07/01/2007
Date Climbed:   07/01/2007
Author:  lordhelmut

 Maroon Traverse - Bell Cord  

My buddies Chris and Nate from Golden and I decided to take a crack at the Bell Cord Saturday and had also planned to do Pyramid on Sunday. We met up around 6:00pm in Golden, picked up some food and supplies and Subway in Leadville, went over Independence Pass and arrived at the Maroon Lake TH around 11:00pm. After filling up the packs, we hit the trail soon after and found a camp around Crater Lake (campsite #3). We setup camp quickly and hit the sac around midnight. Chris and Nate apparently got a goodnight's rest but I didn't close my eyes, it might of had something to do with the fact that one of their snores is reminiscent of a dying wildabeast. Thats neither here nor there, we got up @ 3am, snoozed for about 30 minutes and hit the trail at 4am.

The hike up to the drainage cutoff was simple and relatively flat. We found the trail pretty well in the dark, Roach's description was relatively helpful, we exited the trail around 10,290 feet, give or take. As the sun came up, we were able to view what we thought was the couliour. We saw a bunch of dudes to the right of us about 100 yds up, they all had their headlamps and as we stared at them longer and longer, it seemed like they were walking towards us, headlamps bobbing up and. Since the 3 of us hadn't had much sleep, the moment was kind of weird, kind of like 4 government agents pursuing extraterrestial lifeforms. After we realized they were just ascending the "correct" route up to the Bell Cord, we continued the wrong way to what we finally realized was just another SE Couliour route. We quickly traversed over a couple hundred feet to the base of the Bell Cord and put our crampons on soon after. Now the fun begins....

The Bell Cord, in so many words, was a sweet climb. After doing the East Gully of the Needle, the snow filled Red Gully of Crestone Peak the two weekends before, this one definately took the cake. Its a real snow climb and it gets better and better as you go up. As far as conditions are concerned, the weather had not been cold enough the night before, so the snow was kind of shitty for a couliour climb. There was a soft layer on the top and then pretty hard under. At numerous times, crampons were not able to grip into the snow and there'd be a lot of 2 steps foward, 1 step back type stuff. We had to constantly kick in pretty hard to push foward. Either way, we were making decent time and finished the 1800' foot couliour in 2 hours, give or take.

Once at the saddle, we quickly traversed over to Maroon Peak and 40 minutes later, we were on the summit. We met a guy named Aaron Ihinger, from Telluride, who, with his summit of the Bells, had finally finished the top 100 peaks in Colorado. This was his 5th attempt at the Bells and was real pumped to have finally gotten his wish. We shared some champagne with him on the summit and he joined us on the traverse over to N.Maroon. After an hour on Maroon (and a quick doos drop) we began the traverse and decided, since Nate didn't have much experience with class 4, low class 5 moves, to stick to the left (west side) of the ridge to avoid the exposure and difficulties of the middle. We were able to do just that for about 75% of the time and finally grew some gonads towards the last part, upclimbed to the middle of the ridge and did some fun, manageable class 4 scrambling. After an hour and 20 minutes, we reached the summit of N.Maroon, had the summit to ourselves and made for the descent around 11:30.

Now for the descent and I'll try and make this short, even though I spent so much time thinking how much my life absolutely sucked during this whole ordeal. We looked over at Pyramid thinking how much of a great climb it'll be tomorrow morning and our energy level and legs at this point felt phenomenal. This would not last. To make a really long story short, the descent down North Maroon Pk. is hurrendous in every sense of the word. The beginning is fine, with a few class 4 moves to downclimb, including the easily noticed dihedral (one of the harder parts of the downclimb, but with the presence of strong rock, it was doable.) Once you reach the switchback gully, everything turns to s**t and you have to descend the most miserable, loose rock on a steep slope, your feet turn to hamburger and your legs take a beating. Expect on this slope to slip a bunch of times and test every single step and handhold, its so annoying and seems to go on forever. 3 hours later we made it back to camp spent, we had close to nothing left, atleast that was the case for me. We met back up w/ Aaron, headed into Aspen after some much needed beers in the parking lot, got some mexican at the Cantina and then assessed the situation.

After a pitcher of margaritas and a look at the blisters on my feet, we decided to walk back to the camp at Crater Lake, pack everything up and head home, it was a 14 hour day of climbing/hiking and I had been up for 48 hours straight hours. Pyramid will have to wait till later in the summer.

On a side note for anyone attempting the Bell Cord while there is still snow. Roach recomends that an ice axe and crampons are useful for this route. Word to the wise, they are essential, and I'll leave it at that, unless you enjoy glissading 1500+ feet w/o protection cause it will happen, the slope is too steep and the snow isn't ideal, so bring them both, a helmet might be useful as well, esepcially for the traverse. Anyways, here's some pics :

shot of the sunrise as we ascend towards the base of the Bell Cord

Ascending the Bell Cord, about halfway up

Looking up at Chris and Nate as we enter the narrow section of the Couliour

Looking down the Bell Cord

The middle of the ridge along the traverse

Aaron making one of a couple class 4, exposed moves along the traverse

A look through the notch at the summit of N.Maroon's summit

Group shot on the summit of N.Maroon

Making a short 4th class move right below Maroon Pk's summit

Aaron celebrating his 100th peak w/ a bottle of Cook's chamapagne

Group shot on summit of S.Maroon

Dihedral, class 4 crux of the descent from N.Maroon

Nate descending down N.Maroon, this looks like a sweet pic, don't be fooled, this was after all the bulls**t

I had to post this, marked the end of a really really long day

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

02/05/2011 00:22
Nice report, Brian, and great pics too!


Nice Day
07/02/2007 15:01
We passed you just above the cord on our way to Maroon. Nice report. I was wondering how you got over to N so fast, nice shortcut


Thanks All
07/02/2007 15:24
Thanks Caroline, goodluck wednesday, prepare to be exhausted (but good exhausted).

Doumall - I knew Prakash but had no idea that was you, nice to quasi meet you. It was a nice shortcut but not as fun as staying towards the middle and doin more scrambling.


11/30/2010 17:28
report dude. That's a long route. It certainly helped to have perfect weather all day.


07/02/2007 16:43
Thanks for the great report, Brian! Congrats on ringing the Bells! I know all to well what those 12+ hour days in the Elks feel like. Aaron is a friend of ours (well, more so of the other Jamie)...that is SO cool that you got to celebrate his finisher with him. Aaron, if you read this, HUGE conrgats! Wish we could have been there with you.


Thanks Jamie
07/02/2007 16:55
for the nice comments and yes, 12 hour days in the Elks are somethin else. Aaron was a good guy and very knowledable, he knew every basin, lake, drainage, notch, kranny, crevasse, etc. you name it out there. It was a pleasure to climb with him. Have a good one.


Ding Dong!
08/28/2008 00:37
Way to ring it out man! That is pretty crazy how the snow runnels out in that couloir. Looks like you guys had a fun day! Pyramid will be worth the wait, it is worthy of having a weekend to itself. If the Schwartz is truly with you, might be a good time to traverse to Thunder as well!


Awsome TR
07/02/2007 18:41
Thanks man... one hell of a day


07/02/2007 19:45
Nice TR and GREAT pics....


git er done!
11/30/2010 17:28
congrats on the cord + traverse. that NE descent was indeed grueling and dangerous, not to mention it didn't know when to just give it up, with annoying obstacles clear down to the stream crossing! maybe we'll see you on pyramid later this summer!


The Usual Suspect
01/19/2011 03:38
Man, Brian, you keep churning out the quality.


Thanks again
11/30/2010 17:28
Mark - I'm hoping I can find the Schwartz again, I've fallen short on my last 2 weekend trips(no crestone traverse, no pyramid) and Thunder looked really sweet. I'd have to set pace for ludicrous speed in order to finish off that one.

Colotrekker and Del_Sur - thanks for the comments, I appreciate it.

Scotthsu - your right, the fun doesnt stop all the way down to the stream crossing, I was in steep slope talus heaven for 3 straight hours, but that water is the fountain of youth.

Chris - one hell of a day indeed.


Chirs and Nate
11/30/2010 17:28
I went to college with Chris and Nate; do you think they might like each other?
I did the cord over to north with my brother on Sunday and I completely agree with your down climb description. To make it even worse, we got lost and ended up traversing back forth North's face. Needless to say the down climb off of North blows.


man brian!
11/30/2010 17:28
i wish ihinger was on this site! that lying mofo's still trying to convince people that it only took him 5 tries to get up the bells!

psst aaron....there's a few fingers on that other hand which need counting also. congrats bro! let's see, the 101st highest peak is niagara....



11/30/2010 17:28
Jamie, after thinking about it, I think this was attempt #7 to be exact, he said this site is too confusing for him so he sticks to 14erworld, which doesnt make much sense to me given I know this site like the back of my hand and its free, but to each his own, he was a real nice hiking compatriot.

pjenson05 - Can't comment on the Chris/Nate deal, only known them both for a few weeks, but we've had some real solid climbs these past few weeks, couldn't tell if you were kidding or not. And yes, North Maroon descent is a sick joke and almost made me give up climbing right then and there. From now on, the Bells will be done strictly in the winter, avoid all that crap.

san juaneer

11/30/2010 17:28
So I'm not as damned illiterate or incomprehensive as I thought... Thanks for all the props guys, you were great companions to run into on such a special day. Jamie! those other two attempts were only parking lot visits with heavy rain, so I didn't bother mentioning them to my new friends. But I had been on the mountain 5 times prior, turned back by health, time, or weather constraints. Anyway, great to have completed the list... let's go get some more!!! Aaron Ihinger


I am just kidding
07/03/2007 19:01
I am just kidding about Chris and Nate. They are good friends of mine and yeah they are good climbers.


07/03/2007 22:06
we have an ihinger sighting!

5,7....7,5, la dee da. i remember one of those parking lot adventures after our sleeping sexton climb. somehow that turned into a solid day, even without the bells.

i think our little excursion in august will prove to be more than worthy! you really got me all jacked up for saint sophia ridge after your comments the other day. interesting, huh?



Awesome trip
07/04/2007 05:11
I wish i had been there to accompany you again. Looks like you had great weather this time unlike our trip. I hope when I am able to climb them I have the same luck. Great report.

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