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Day 1 - Finding everyone in the dark:
Elevation Gain: ~850'
After running some errands, Darrin's truck overheating going up the tunnel and stopping for dinner, we arrived at the Maroon Lake TH a bit late. The overnight lot was full, so we had to add on some extra mileage to the pack in. We hoped that our group that was arriving later would realize this, as we were going to leave notes to tell them where we were camped. We got a brief view of the bells and the lake, before we were plunged into darkness and had to utilize our headlamps to see. We wondered if there were going to be any campsites left, with lots full of people and cars. Our plan to arrive early and snag a campsite was in jeopardy.
Arriving at Crater Lake, we went up to the first set of campsites. The first one we heard snoring (rather bear like in fact), and the second there were 2 guys sitting in the dark. Hmmm, on to the next set... We followed the signs and found a site that may or may not be official, in the dark it's always hard to tell. Set up camp quickly, and set off down the trail to leave a note on the notice board for the rest of our crew. We didn't even make it to the other side of the lake, when we ran into Chris, Paul and Rob coming up the trail. Didn't expect them that early! We also learned that Marty was also here somewhere, having arrived 30 min previous to us. Hopefully he would find us the next day, so we could climb together. Knocking on all the tents in the valley would not make us popular.
After the usual not sleeping much the first night, we got up as early as we could stand it. I started off the group at my usual 'flat ground pace', which was apparently too much for 3am. It was only a short distance to back-track down the trail to the Pyramid turn off, and then the uphill started. The trail is good and switchbacks relentlessly up the steep slope. We could see a line of headlamps down in the valley, slowly marching uphill to their destinations. We were looking for the solo headlamp that might be Marty, but no luck, with us being the first up the trail.
Approaching the amphitheater, it started to get much lighter and we could see our destination and the sun highlighting the surrounding peaks.
Pyramid with first sun:
The groups of headlamps we were watching, approached behind us. As they caught up, we looked for Marty. Nope. Looking up the slope to the saddle looks incredibly steep, almost un-climbable from our viewpoint. But as we approach it, we realize that it won't be as bad as it looked from far away.
Starting up the slope:
On the uphill we leap frog back and forth a bit with the other groups. On the slope, Darrin occasionally yelled "Marty", when he thought he saw someone that looked like him. No one responded. We take a break on the saddle to refuel and put on our sunglasses.
Snowmass & Capitol:
We go up the ridge for a bit. Quickly we find ourselves at the 'leap of faith'. Darrin jumps back and forth with glee. I figure once is enough for me. Then we have the narrow ledge over to the green gully. Not as bad as I or the rest of our group had anticipated. The drop-off is significant, but the ledge is wide enough that we skirt it quickly. (Photos on return trip)
Some more traversing and we find ourselves with just the green gully to go. It looks impressive. This is definitely when the real scrambling fun begins.
Going up a chimney:
Photo Credit: Rob
There are so many options to make the climbing more intense and fun all around. You can choose your adventure! We're all looking for variations on the standard trail. Since just off of the trail the rock is more solid and without scree and dirt. More exposure, but a lot more fun. Darrin went out of his way to try and find the hardest way up. He regularly was hugging some rock cliff or another.
Darrin getting in some solid cliff hugging scrambling:
This day we didn't have much trouble with rock fall. Only a few screams of rock, which was nice. Quite a few mutterings of 'this is my new favorite peak' were heard in our group. The various chimneys we went up added to the enjoyment our group was experiencing. Chris regularly filmed the crux sections. Since he was following me most of the time, apparently there is quite the footage of my rear going up chimneys. Were we specifically on-route? Who knows, we were having so much fun!
The last section we stuck to the ridge, and those that traversed around the face and up to the summit, looked less than enthused. The summit came too quickly for some, as they wanted more scrambling.
We were rewarded with clear skies and beautiful views of the Bells on the summit, along with a whole bunch of other groups.
Our crew on the summit:
The diving board was a favorite of our group, and most had to go out there for our summit shots.
Photo Credit: Paul
Photo Credit: Chris
Congrats to Rob, his first Class 4 peak!
Photo Credit: Rob
I had Chris take Darrin's and my photo out there, and he turned it into a shutter fest. 40 photos of us laughing hysterically that can almost be turned into an animation later.
2 peas in a pod:
We hung out on the summit for at least an hour, if not longer. With such clear skies, why rush things? Eventually we had to go down, as our camp was calling us. On the first section, we run into Marty on the way up. Yay, our group was now whole. He would again meet up with us on the saddle before heading down with us.
Photo Credit: Marty
We took our time on the way down, to enjoy the fun down-scramble. Some leaped repeatedly over the gap, to get some good action shots. I had my camera on the sport function to get as much of the jump as possible. Rather glad Chris didn't find this camera function on the summit, I may have had to sift through hundreds of photos... .
Hugging the ledge:
Photo Credit: Paul?
Photo Credit: Rob?
I don't remember having a smile on my face while jumping......
Photo Credit: Chris
Back on the saddle, our group refuels and Darrin and Marty run up the extra credit scramble to the amusement of the rest of us.
Darrin summitting the extra credit slope
The Bells, again:
Little did we know that would be the last of the fun for awhile. The descent off the saddle and down to the amphitheater was nasty, nasty steep and scree-awful. Yuk! Glad I had both poles for stability. This was much worse than coming down Maroon Peak. Shorter, but nastier!
Looking back up at the slope:
The knees cheered when we reached the remaining snowfield. Here we could boot glissade down quite a while. Darrin, Marty and I made full use of the snow, while Chris, Paul and Rob decided after awhile to go over to the trail. We collected some snow to ice our drinks later. I wouldn't recommend traditional glissading now, the sun cups are enough to make an impression on your softer side...
I was sad to leave the snow and boulder hop over to the trail. Rob managed to roll and sprain his ankle halfway through this section, almost to the easy trail, so I gave him my poles so he could make it down to camp as best he could. Chris was icing his knee, and most of us had run out of water on this hot sunny day. I still had a small water reserve in my camelback in case it was desperately needed. For once, carrying 4L of water has come in handy, since I was the only one that didn't run out. Most everyone was pressing on to get back to camp and make more water. Chris came up with the list on-route of what needed to happen once we got back to camp. Sandals, Vitamin I, water, jump in lake, food, nap...
We relaxed in camp, eating, rehydrating and napping until it was dark enough to call it a night and crawl into our tents, satisfied with a wonderful day of scrambling, summits, views and fun!
Awesome TR, Otina -- you captured the mountain beautifully with your camera and articulately with your words! Wish I could have seen Darrin jumping back and forth across the jump thingie... I imagine it was much like watching a kid versus a sprinkler on a hot, hot day!
Nice bumping into you guys on Saturday. Glad to see you got both Pyramid and N. Maroon. I was kinda wishing I could stay around for another Elk myself.
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