Peak(s):  Maroon Peak  -  14,156 feet
North Maroon Peak  -  14,014 feet
Date Posted:  09/23/2008
Modified:  06/24/2011
Date Climbed:   09/06/2008
Author:  Always_Wear_Sunscreen
 Part 2 - Maroon Bells traverse  

Stats (as reported by after uploading my track logs):
Ascend Maroon Peak, Bells traverse, and descend N Maroon Peak:

Elevation gain: 6128'
Mileage: 8.5 miles
Summits: 2 (Maroon Peak, N Maroon Peak)
Total time: 11 hrs 38 min (including breaks)

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

After climbing Pyramid, Joe had to go to his car to get more food for him and his dog since he thought he was only going to be at Crater Lake for one night. On his way back, he stopped at my camp and I showed him the route description for the Bells traverse. He skimmed it over and when I told him that doing the traverse was actually shorter than just doing Maroon Peak by itself, he was sold. We planned to meet at 6:45 AM on the West Maroon Creek trail at the site 6 trail intersection.

After we made plans, I still had to try to get some pics of that waterfall, so I headed over there. After passing campsite 6, I continued to follow a faint trail along the stream leading up to the waterfall. After a short ways, I was able to do a little climbing on some loose terrain to get to a spot that overlooked most of the waterfall. And I took a few shots. This is the best one

It was getting dark, so I headed back to camp. As I was brushing my teeth, I heard some twigs breaking coming from the other side of the campsite and turned to look what it was and I saw some bright eyes reflecting the light from my headlamp. It was a deer and she didn't seem to be spooked by me shining my headlamp on her. I grabbed my camera in hopes that I could get a shot. Here it is

After that excitement, I headed to bed.

Day 3, Saturday, 9/6/08, I actually got some sleep last night until about 3:20 AM and then was waking up every hour until 5:20 and then about every 10 minutes. I finally got out of my tent about 6:00 AM and started getting ready for the day's hike. I headed down the trail and as I was along the lake, I could see Joe coming toward me. We came together a couple hundred yards later and started up the West Maroon Creek trail. This part of the trail is very easy to follow and doesn't gain much elevation. About 2 miles and 200' of elevation (from the North end of Crater Lake) and one hour later, we were at the cairn marking the trail to go up Maroon Peak. This is where the climbing begins. It's a steep ascent up this mountain. We were still in shade and it was very cool. We were making good progress up this slope and the sunlight was gradually coming down the slope.

We caught up to a couple climbing Maroon Peak and Joe stopped to chat with the wife.

The trail was pretty good, but somehow about 3/4 mile and 1500' up this slope, we took a small detour to the south. After about 300', we realized we were not on the trail anymore and we headed back to the north and uphill to reintersect with the trail about 10 minutes later.

A shot looking back down to the North. We are in the sun now, but it's still too cold to be shedding clothes.

A little further up the slope, we ran across a family of mtn goats.

This is one steep slope and we just kept plugging away at it. It seemed like we were moving slowly, but the elevation gain comes quickly when you're going up such a steep slope. We were gaining about 1500' / hour. At about 9:00, we were at 12,500' and figured we'd reach the summit by 10:30 - 11:00. By the way, the slope gets even steeper from here.

And a shot looking back down. Yep, it's steep!

Somewhere about 12,800', the grassy slope turns to mostly rock and it becomes a scramble up to the ridge.

The trail becomes harder to follow, but we just kept aiming for this cairn in the middle.

Looking back to the North, we can see Maroon Lake.

We reach the ridge at 13,250' about 9:45 AM. Here's Joe coming up the last stretch to the ridge.

The mountain goats were already up here waiting and posing for us.

And we can now see to the West and Snowmass and Capitol.

But, we still have a lot to go to get to the summit.

We thought we were less than 1000' of elevation gain from the summit, but little did we know we'd have to descend several times before we could make the summit. The trail goes on the West side of the mountain from here. So, we were back in the shade. After descending/traversing on some ledges, we finally got to go up again through this class 3 section.

But once again, we descend as we traverse. And then we climb back up to the ridge (or near it). Looking back East to Pyramid.

The trail stays on the climber's left side of the ridge and we traverse again.

We keep traversing around several vertical ridges.

The trail is well-marked with cairns. Me standing next to one of those cairns with a view to the West behind me.

And around that corner, we still have a lot to go. We've been just going around the backside of this mountain and not gaining much elevation. We've been traversing for about 50 minutes and only gained about 170' of elevation. Here's the view from that corner to the summit.

We traverse around one more corner and finally reach this gulley. The way up!!

Looking down the gulley as we start the ascent up it.

The trail doesn't go all the way to the top, but exits left just before it. A little detour to the top of the gulley affords you this view.

But, here's where the trail exits left along a ledge.

Joe improves one of the cairns along the ledge.

We continue around the ledges and a few more corners. A bit of climbing to get up to this cairn.

Ah, finally we're back on the ridge and this is all we have left to the summit.

We reach the summit at 11:30 AM. The views from the summit are incredible. Pyramid Peak

And Snowmass and Capitol.

And looking towards N Maroon and the part of the traverse you can see from here.

Summit shot looking west.

A shot from the North end of the summit of Maroon Peak with Crater and Maroon Lakes below.

As we had no threat of weather, we took a long break and lunch on the summit. We started the traverse about 12:20 PM. We stayed on or near the ridge as we downclimbed from Maroon Peak towards the low point of the traverse. There was definitely some trick spots on this downclimb, so be careful!

And we downclimbed this section of the ridge. Joe in the middle of the downclimb.

As a note to others wanting to do this route: after we climbed lower, we looked back up and saw that we could have taken an easier and less exposed route on the West side of the ridge and avoided those tricky spots. We finally reached the low point of the traverse - the top of the Bell Cord Coulier at about 1:00 PM (40 minutes after leaving the summit of Maroon Peak). We were trying to follow the route description posted on When I got to the gulley, I went across the gulley onto a ledge that would traverse around the left side. I pulled out the route description and read that it said to go down the gulley. So, we went down the gulley and started traversing to the left. After about 20 minutes and a climb up to the base of the chimney, I discovered that I was right where I would have been if I had followed that ledge I was on just across from the gulley.

So, another note: don't go down the gulley, but just go across the gulley and traverse around the ledge to get to the base of the dihedral. The dihedral was fun climbing. Here's Joe climbing the dihedral

The route description shows the exit to the left and then specifes another 20 feet of climbing back to the ridge and over spire #1. We exited left, but did not find the 20 feet of climbing. We continued traversing to the left on some tricky ledges. Joe testing every hold on the ledge.

We could then see the second spire.

So, we climbed up a gulley to get back to the ridge, just class 3.

Here's looking to the West from the base of the 2nd spire. There is no route going that way.

Climb up the right side of this spire is the crux of this traverse. Here's Joe climbing the first part of this spire.

There's a ledge part way up before the final class 5 section to the top of the spire. Here's a shot of me making the last move to get to the top of this spire.

Once you're on top of this spire, it's just a walk along an exposed ridge to get to the third difficulty of the traverse. We traversed around to the left and looked at the first dihedral to climb. It appeared to have a large overhang blocking the exit.

We chose the second option which was just class 3/4 up to the first ledge.

But, the second part of this dihedral required a few class 5 moves. Here's Joe on the crux of this dihedral.

The climbing doesn't stop there. You still have to go over the peak of this part of the ridge.

Joe making it to the top

And the climbing isn't done yet. You still have this left.

The final dihedral to get to the summit ridge.

Joe walking the final steps up this ridge with Maroon Peak and the traverse behind.

We reached the N Maroon summit at 2:40 PM. A summit shot with Snowmass and Capitol behind.

We only spent about 15 minutes on the top of N Maroon and headed down. The descent down N Maroon requires another class 4 downclimb, but we hardly noticed after doing all that climbing on the traverse. We kept following cairns on the way down and ended up going all the way along the ridge to the West (apparently to the top of the first gulley as you're ascending). From here, the route was difficult to find and we took a little while before finally descending to the good trail that traverses across the first gulley to the second gulley. From here, it was just a long steep descent to get back to Crater Lake. We reached my campsite at about 6:15 PM.

The topo jpg

The rest of the pics are here

We then made plans for doing Castle and Conundrum the next day. See trip report

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

Great TR
09/23/2008 06:27
Thanks for the info and congrats on getting those in the bag.


Great Job!
09/23/2008 17:20
Nice job Randy, so is it as bad as they all say it is?

Rick & Jen


Not bad if you like climbing!
09/23/2008 19:37
I didn‘t think it was ”bad”. I thought it was fun. But, then I love the exposure and all the climbing, not to mention the route finding. You definitely want to be smart enough to know what you can handle and to test every foot and hand hold and watch out for the loose stuff.

MUni Rider

09/23/2008 20:14
Great Trip report. Lots of good pics and a great read to really give an idea of what this route entails.


Excellent action shots!
10/04/2008 03:46
That is a wild view of Joe climbing the second spire. The exposure seems tremendous.


Great pictures!
06/22/2011 23:45
I enjoyed your pics. They were so colorful and really help show the terrain by taking picture with the climber in the shot. We hope to do Maroon Peak this season. I have only done Longs and Kelso ridge for my Class 3 climbs. Any suggestions on other hikes that can better prepare me for this?


06/24/2011 05:58
I'm not sure what to recommend to prepare you for Maroon Peak. The rock on the Bells and Pyramid is unique to that area and telling you to climb Pyramid to prepare for Maroon is like telling you to climb K2 to prepare for Everest (Pyramid and K2 being more difficult respectively). If you're not that comfortable with exposure and scrambling, you might want to do Crestone Needle/Peak. The rock is totally different, but I'd say the exposure is similar. Everyone has their own limits and level of comfort; the key is to know yours!

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