Peak(s):  Pyramid Peak  -  14,018 feet
Date Posted:  09/15/2007
Date Climbed:   09/14/2007
Author:  Aubrey

 Pyramid - No. 57  

Just the other day Jen and I made a spur-of-the-moment decision to squeeze in one more 14er before our Kilimanjaro trip. Might as well keep the pedal to the metal, we figured (Pyramid would be our 25th 14er for the year, not counting one California 14er ... we also climbed a handful of 13ers). And what better way to prepare for a climb, than to climb?

After only four hours of sleep, we started the long drive to Aspen at 3 a.m. By 7 a.m. we were starting up the trail next to Maroon Lake. I think it was our latest 14er start all year long, but it was nice to not have to don the headlamps.

The views of the Bells were once again great, especially with the aspens changing and all, but it was our third time in the area in the past four weeks or so, so we were looking forward to the new scenery Pyramid would offer. Not far up the trail, we noticed Pyramid peeking through ...


30 minutes into our hike we came to the turn-off to Pyramid. There was a cairn, but no sign. Jeffro pointed it out to us when we climbed North Maroon, so we knew where we were going. (By the way, there are really two turn-offs -- one leads up the slope from Maroon Lake and one, further down the trail, leads up the slope from Crater Lake. Both trails join up just up the slope.)


Halfway up the slope, looking back down the valley:


The trail up the 1,000-foot slope to the ampitheater was pretty nice (thanks to the great work of CFI). As we neared the top, the trail faded and the boulder hopping began.

Here's a shot (er, two stitched together) taken from the top of that slope (and the entrance to the ampitheater), looking back toward the valley:


Here's Jen, with the endless sea of rock ahead of us:


Cairns marked the way as we ascended up the right side of the moraine gully. Further up the slope, a more defined trail materialized, but after angling to the left, we essentially just talus hopped our way to the base of the gully.

The gully up to the ridge was kind of loose and rather steep, but it was still better than some gullies I've been up this summer. In one section we had to use the solid rock on the left side of the gully to help ourselves up.

Looking back down the gully:


At 9:30 we gained the ridge and the top of the gully.

Jen noticed some grapple snow beginning to fall, but I thought it was just bugs wizzing by my face. The sky was mostly cloudy, but nothing was really "building," and the clouds weren't very tall, so we decided it was good enough to continue on. We kept a close eye on the sky for the remainder of the climb, though.

On the ridge, I caught the reflection of the sun on a lake, far below, in the valley to our east.


Beyond the ridge, it was one of those situations where route finding became key.


Much of the route was cairned, so finding our way wasn't as difficult as I expected, but some cairns weren't placed very well, and there seemed to be multiple ways to go. More than once, we found ourselves standing on a ledge with a cairn up to our left and a cairn up to our right.

After passing some other climbers, we came to the infamous ledge ("cliff traverse") that many talk about (and often photograph). I actually found it to be the least scary and easiest section of the whole route. It was a little awkward how the rock pushes you out in a couple places, but the ledge was very solid and flat, and there were plenty of hand holds.

Two photos overlapped:


Beyond that ledge, I think we crossed a gully and a rib of rock before entering the green rock gully. The rock in that gully was mostly solid (had to test each hold first, though), making the climbing kind of fun. But we didn't waste much time because we knew some climbers were on their way down (saw them earlier, from below) and we were concerned about rock fall from above.



Instead of climbing all the way up that gully, we ended up cutting to the right, where we found a faint trail with some class 3 sections. This route more or less paralleled the green gully up.

Beyond that section of the climb, the challenges before us became much tougher. The terrain was basically just a bunch of loose, crumbly, eroding ledges that sloped off into steep couloirs below. Some of the ledges spooked me a little because of the exposure, combined with the questionable nature of the rock I was standing on. My moves became more careful and more deliberate.

For most of the way up we were able to keep the climbing difficulty at class 3, but we probably made some class 3+ and/or easy class 4 moves here and there.

Near the top, we couldn't tell if the summit was up to the left or up to the right. The climbing up to the right seemed better, so we chose that way. I was making good progress up a pile of rocks when the trail abruptly ended and my eyes widened. I came upon the edge of the steep north face of Pyramid, and it was truly amazing. The exposure was so great it almost gave me vertigo. Instead of continuing forward, over a thousand-plus-foot cliff, I hung a sharp left and climbed up the ridge. At the top of that point, I noticed Jen on the true summit, which was just a short ridge walk away. This ridge had some seriously dramatic exposure. As if peering over steep cliffs and couloirs wasn't enough, the valley floor was more than 4,000 feet below. This mountain gives new meaning to the word steep.

Two photos stitched together; looking almost directly down a gravity-fed notch ... and panning up to the Bells:


Working my way, along the ridge, toward Jen and the summit:


At 10:35 a.m. Jen and I gained the summit and it was all ours (a party of four descended before we got there and about four more climbers were behind us, still on their way up). Views were stellar, of course. We didn't stay too long on the summit because the wind was cold and the weather was questionable.

Jen on the summit:


Me on the summit:


As we began our descent, light grapple snow began to fall again. We were glad to be on our way down.

Speaking of getting down, it was much easier than getting up. That was mainly because route finding was much easier, with our above-the-trail vantage point and all. That said, some sections required quite a bit of care and caution. Most accidents happen on descents.


Jen descending the green gully:


Another shot of the cliff traverse:


Some goats on the ridge:


Once we made it back to the ridge above the loose gully, I was happy to have the "worst" of it behind us. Jen considered the "worst" of it still ahead of us -- that loose gully. Everyone's perspective is different, but I thought Pyramid was more dangerous than either of the Bells. Much more rotten and crumbly, too.

As we carefully made our way back down the gully, we kept hearing rocks falling off the north face of Pyramid. Nothing huge or anything, but there was a constant cascade of small rocks crumbling off that face. That mountain is literally falling apart. I was glad none of them were anywhere near us.

Every time I looked up, I was kind of blown away by the views (photos don't do it justice):


As it often does, everything looked different on the way back. As we crossed the moraine field, we couldn't believe how large and vast it was. I don't think I've ever seen such a large pile of rocks in my entire life (even more than the traverse between Harvard and Columbia). It was like an ocean of rock, and I wondered how deep it was.

At 2 p.m. we made it back to Maroon Lake. It was a good feeling to have climbed the last of the "tougher" 14ers in Colorado.

Pyramid was our 57th 14er, and a great closer to an awesome 14er-climbing year. As it turns out, Wilson Peak is on tap to be our final 14er, which we'll climb next year.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

Congrats !
02/05/2011 00:22
You and Jen have had one hell of a summer ! Congrats on Pyramid, and I hope you two have a great trip to Kilimanjaro. Looking forward to that trip report and pictures !


Nice job!
09/16/2007 17:54
I remember that ”endless sea of rocks” in the ampitheater- not fun! I agree with mtgirl- you and Jen have had an incredible summer. Congratulations with having 1 left! I, too, am looking forward to that Kili tip report!


Good work...again!
11/30/2010 17:28
Well done, Aubrey and Jen...not only on Pyramid, but on your entire summer in Colorado!

I'll look forward to some snow climbing in the spring. Let's get out on some rock when you get back from Africa.



So easy.....
11/30/2010 17:28
Nice Job Aubery! You and Jen make it look so easy… So Wilson Peak remains, spring snow climb? 8) I hope you continue to climb and write trip reports; it's been loads of fun following your travels this season. By the way when do you leave for Kilimanjaro?

Chicago Transplant

Nice job!
11/30/2010 17:28
Have a great time on Kili! Its going to be a long winter knowing you only have that one last 14er hanging out there
I second Ken's suggestion, spring snow climb!


Safe Travels
09/20/2007 17:54
Great job! Kili will be a cakewalk compared to this...

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