Peak(s):  Pyramid Peak  -  14,018 feet
Date Posted:  09/23/2008
Date Climbed:   09/05/2008
Author:  Always_Wear_Sunscreen

 Part 1 - Pyramid - NE ridge (standard)  

Stats (as reported by after uploading my track logs):

Backpack into camp (with a lot of exploring the different designated sites): 3.25 miles, 2:11, elevation gain 1222‘
Side trips to waterfall: 3.2 miles, 2:40, elevation gain 997‘
Pyramid Peak: 6.96 miles, 8:20, elevation gain 4458‘

Day 1 and 2: Backpack in to Crater Lake and climb Pyramid Peak.

Thursday, 9/4/08, I packed up the backpack and hiking gear and drove to Aspen. After paying my $10 at the bottom of the hill, I arrived at the Maroon Bells overnight parking about 3:30 PM. I gathered all my gear and set out for a camp near Crater Lake. I reached the first campsites about 4:30 and decided to check out some of the other sites before deciding on where to camp. There were people camping at site 4, so I wetn ahead to site 6. It's a beautiful site quite a distance off the main trail and next to the mountain stream. I was just about to make my decision to camp there, when I saw something moving next to the stream. It was moving very slowly and I got closer to check it out. It was a porcupine. First time I've ever seen one of these interesting creatures. He/she didn't seem to notice me as I pulled out my camera to attempt to get some shots. He/she was busy eating some of the plants on the edge of the stream. The lighting wasn't very good and he/she kept turning. I moved around the other side to see if I could get a front shot and I was within 8' when I took this shot.

Well, I figured this creature would be hanging around here and didn't really know what kind of damage it could possibly do while I was out hiking all day. So, I decided to go back to site 1 and camp there. All the sites that I surveyed were well protected from the wind and site 1 was near the intersection of the trails leading to Maroon and N. Maroon and meant I wouldn't have to backtrack as far to get to the Pyramid trail. I set up camp and headed off to try and get some pictures of the waterfall above site 6. I headed up the trail to North Maroon thinking that I could climb down to the waterfall. As I got near the waterfall, I started to bushwhack thru the trees to try to get close enough to get pictures. The hillside was very steep and very loose. After about 10 minutes of not getting anywhere I could get a shot, I figured I'd try to head all the way back down and try to approach it from below. As I once again came upon site 6, I stopped to chat with the hiker, Joe, who had set up camp there. It was getting dark and I thought I still had time to get some shots of the waterfall. As I worked my way up some broken trails trying to get to the waterfall, I realized that it was too dark to get some shots and turned back, figuring I could come back tomorrow. I stopped and talked at site 6 on the way down and discovered Joe was going to be climbing Pyramid tomorrow also. We made some informal plans to meetup somewhere on the hike the next day. We both agreed we'd be starting after first light. I hiked back to my camp and got into my tent to attempt to get some sleep.

Friday, 9/5/08, as usual, sleeping seemed to escape me and I got very little rest. I didn't have an alarm clock and the sun takes a while to get into this valley. I got out of my tent about 6:20 AM and figured I was a little behind Joe. So, I grabbed my daypack and some poptarts and oatmeal bars and headed back down the trail to the Pyramid trail. At this point, I thought Joe was ahead of me. I made my way up the steep West side of the mountain. I took this shot of Maroon Lake from the hillside. The lake was perfectly calm.

About half way up, I heard some hikers below me. There were 3 of them, so I knew they weren't Joe. I slowed a bit to let their lead hiker, Keith, catch me. We chatted a bit and I joined Keith, Paul, and Jane for this part of the climb up Pyramid. There was another hiker below us and I couldn't tell if it was Joe. Either way, I was glad to have found some hiking partners for this potentially treacherous mountain. Keith and I seemed to get a little ahead of Paul and Jane as we worked our way up the steep trail. As we reached the top of this first slope, we took a short break and Paul and Jane caught up. Here‘s the view of Pyramid and the next part of the route going around the amphitheatre.

As we started across the moraine, Keith, Paul, and Jane took the snow route and I stayed on the rocks. Joe was catching up and following the others on the snow.

As Keith and I reached the top of the snow, I decided to go straight across the boulders to the gulley and Keith and the others traversed around the edge on the snow and rock. Here‘s a pic of the cairn marking the route to leave the snow and go directly across.

And somewhere in the middle of the boulder field, this is a pic of the gulley and what you‘re aiming for.

And a pic of Jane, Paul, and Joe taking the circular route.

As it turned out, it took about the same amount of time to go either way as Keith and I met up again at the base of the gulley. Here, we donned our helmets for the ascent up the loose gulley. The gulley from the bottom.

We took slightly different routes up and were being careful to keep from loosing rocks. This was a steep gulley that climbs about 1000‘ up to the Northeast ridge. A shot part way up looking back down.

Although we were still in the shade, the sun was bright and lighting up the mtns to the West. Here‘s a gorgeous shot of Snowmass and Capitol.

Almost to the top.

Keith and I reached the top and took a break as the others caught up. Joe caught up with the group here and we all enjoyed a short break before the rest of the climb. A shot looking up the ridge to Pyramid.

Keith spotted some climbers further up the mountain.

and here‘s a zoomed out shot to give you a better idea of scale

Jane was in need of a little confidence boosting and Keith and Paul administered that while Joe and I joined up and took off for the fun part of the climb -- the class 3 and 4 stuff that makes up the last 1000' of Pyramid.

It was a glorious day with no hint of storms and clear skies all around. Joe and I took our time, enjoyed the weather, took pictures, and had great fun climbing this route. The ledge traverse didn't seem as scary as one might think from the pictures, but then again, I like the exposure. Your experience might vary. Here‘s me on that narrow ledge.

And one of Joe that I took on the way down.

This route was very well cairned and easy to follow going both up and down. Here‘s another part of the ledges just before reaching the greenish vein of rock.

Then you just climb the green vein almost to the top. Here‘s a shot of some of the climbing near the top of the greenish rock vein.

At the exit of the greenish rock looking back down -- Keith and Paul are in this pic.

Zoomed in. Can you see them now?

How about now (a crop of the above pic)?

And the ledge leading around to the left

A little more climbing

And the last pitch to climb to get to the summit ridge

The USGS marker. Why doesn‘t it have the elevation engraved?

A shot of Snowmass and Capitol from the summit.

And a shot of the Maroon Bells and the traverse (tomorrow‘s goal).

And a shot of me standing on the "diving board".

What a beautiful day, but you‘re only half way done. You still have to descend this mountain. The rock is definitely loose in places and you must be even more careful on the descent.

As we reached the end of the ridge and the top of the gulley, we came across a couple mtn goats.

The topo jpg

The rest of the pics are here

Joe and I descended and made plans to do the Maroon Bells traverse the next day. Joe had to go back to the parking lot to get some more food because he was only planning on one night at Crater Lake. He stopped by my campsite on the way back and I showed him the route description for the traverse. He skimmed it over and was in. We made plans to meet at 6:45 AM on the West Maroon Creek trail. For the rest, see the trip report for the weekend here or go directly to part 2 - the Bells traverse here

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

Porcupines ...
02/05/2011 00:22
Are generally interested in gnawing on wood, chewing on leather/rubber, and stealing shiny objects (such as the snap on a knife sheath, etc.). We‘ve seen them around that area (more than once), also up at Snowmass Lake, South Mineral Creek trailhead, and down by Culebra. Great photos ... thanks for posting!


09/23/2008 19:41
Oh yeah, I forgot to mention, Joe‘s dog met the porcupine sometime in the middle of Friday night and woke up Joe with 5 or 6 quills in his nose. Joe was able to pull all but one out and the other one could not be found Sunday morning.


01/05/2011 17:15
I‘m jealous... as always. Great trip report... as usual!


11/30/2010 17:28
What!? You couldn't take a peek and remove the ambiguity on the he/she porcupine question?
Just kidding, great report, congrats.


Nice report
09/25/2008 12:36
I lost the foam and rubber along the top of my boots to one of those porcupines at site #7.


Enjoyed meeting you
10/04/2008 03:27
We enjoyed meeting you on the climb and sharing the summit for a short while. Jane was smiling once we got down the gully! - Paul

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