Peak(s):  Maroon Peak  -  14,156 feet
North Maroon Peak  -  14,014 feet
Date Posted:  08/26/2010
Date Climbed:   08/21/2010
Author:  JasonF
 Living the Dream, The Accidental Traverser & For Whose Trip the Bell tolls  

Living The Dream: Lyle S., Glenn S., Chuck T.
The Accidental Traverser: Jason
For Whose Trip the Bell Tolls: Adam (avs88fan)

Start Time: ~ 3:00 AM
S. Maroon summit: ~ 9:00 AM
Decision to Traverse: ~ 9:15 AM
Leave for Traverse: ~ 9:30 AM
N. Maroon summit: who really cares – we made it , but if you must know it was ~ 1:00 PM (isn't God good – some clouds but mostly bluebird conditions all day)
Finish Time: 5:00 PM (back at the lake)

Sometimes it's helpful to start at the end.
(voice on the end of the line) "Why are you so late calling – I was very worried."
(tired voice in a 4WD vehicle on I-70, flying past the town with no name) "Things didn't go exactly as planned. We're both safe and heading back home. Will talk about it later."

Rewind to 7AM on a cold, windswept ridge line at 13,250 feet. A team of three unknown hikers departs into the howling wind heading north into a sea of rocky chaos. A few minutes later a weary friend ascends and plants his hindquarters on a nearby rock, his head in his hands. Silence. I can tell there will be no summit today – the last 2800' of steep vertical combined with nearly 5 miles of hiking, 1-2 hours of sleep (courtesy of the owls hunting at the overnight parking lot), a few stomach cramps from some bad seafood earlier in the week and finally a messed up big toe from an earlier climb has taken its toll.

The nearby bell, currently reflecting its namesake color from dawn's alpenglow, still beckons. "Why don't you go ahead and catch up with the other group?" he says. After a moment's hesitation to make sure Adam has no serious complications (and a review of the skies, which are void of clouds) I'm off. As Bill says on his route report, "conquering the East Slope is a major achievement, but now the more technical terrain remains". As I'm running a few minutes behind the Dream team it will require some quick legwork – the only problem is that the terrain isn't really ideal for making up time. I also need to take time every so often to track whence I just came for the descent. A fine balance between catching up, not getting injured (from rockfall by the other crew or by the mountain goats; the loose, easily fracturable rock; or slipping off a ledge), checking the weather and remembering the return route now focuses my attention like never before. As I'm not a great 4-ball juggler the latter ultimately falls hard and far. By the time the official introductions are over on the summit of Maroon Peak it's clear to me that my ability to backtrack to Adam will be a real struggle.

After resting for a few minutes, making sure the nearby mountain goat didn't inhale the perishable contents within my pack and realizing that Pyramid Peak looks a heck of a lot uglier from this vantage point than in the route report, the notion of going coast to coast (aka the Traverse) was brought up. Yikes I thought to myself – I certainly hadn't planned to do the traverse, nor was Adam expecting me to run the gauntlet. I quickly advised Lyle that while I felt more comfortable staying as a group (and subjecting myself to potentially more suffering) I would need to confirm with Adam that he was OK with this plan. Thank God for cell phones and that Adam just happened to have his phone turned on at the right time. After explaining to Adam the situation (more like conundrum, to borrow from the peak a few miles to the east) it was clear that the day now just started.

The countless class 3 & 4 moves that were required to the south of me now looked pretty paltry in comparison to what lay just a few feet away to the north. I had seen the traverse before in pics but it was certainly something to behold from the summit. While the distance to the northern "unofficial" 14er peak didn't concern me, the terrain is other worldly – the best way for me to describe it is a dragon's tail – gnarly spikes of rock towers with scaly plates of metamorphosed, jumbled rubble cascading down its sides. At this point I don't know whether it was Lyle's great tasting beef jerky or my adrenaline however I felt pretty jazzed up from that point on through the rest of the trip.

We didn't take much, except for some great memories, during our (at times stressful) stay on the 0.5 mile dragon's tail. The route pics and description on this site does it better justice than I could ever do in my first traverse. It was definitely the most intense experience of my life outside of watching my wife give birth to our kids. The 3-4 low class 5 pitches tested my abilities and provided some invaluable lessons and confidence at the same time. I definitely agree with Bill's assessment of the exposure as "Dangerous exposure that requires careful, technical moves to navigate around. A fall would likely be fatal. Big, sheer drops." Although the exposure was of concern I did observe that all the class 4/5 pitches had solid rock for nearly whatever form of rock climbing technique (or lack thereof, in my case) was required. As we finished off the crux of the traverse I felt a sense of relief. And as we neared the summit of North Maroon I also couldn't help but feel extremely blessed and lucky to accomplish what many people would deem as impossible. I mentioned to Glenn that this was the first peak that I felt like kissing. I also had to chuckle a little on the inside as I knew I had accidentally stumbled into a truly memorable event.

At some point during the traverse Lyle shared that the reason they (I still say "they" however these guys were great hiking partners that made me feel like one of the crew) were here was to fulfill one of Glenn's dreams. I like people who dream big and I am honored to have been part of this special day.

I will not belabor the descent off North Maroon other than to say that it was very demanding and frustrating – demanding due to the cliff bands and frustrating due to the various cairns that always dead-ended into the above mentioned cliff bands. As a result I will likely never stand on that mountain again.

In closing I would like to offer a public apology to my long time hiking partner, and particularly to his new bride, for causing any heartburn with the unexpected turn of events on this trip. While I don't regret the decision to do the traverse I do recognize that I still left a good friend on his own to make a rather long return hike. Adam - I look forward to sharing more adventures together, including sharing the summit together on Maroon Peak.

Now to the pics!!

Just in case you've never seen the Maroon Bells here they are (this wonderful photo was actually taken by my wife on a family trip back in Sept 2005; The Bells with fall foliage are breath-taking)

Lyle (left) and Glenn before backpacking in to tent site #8.

Chuck's turn in the same spot. He likely wasn't smiling a little later down the trail due to that 50# pack on his shoulders.

I'm sure many a hiker has been thankful for the good ole' bent tree. What comes after it on the ascent isn't exactly pleasant though…

Great shot of the brothers on the steep east slope as morning breaks.

Lyle (left) & Chuck at ~13,250' with Maroon Peak in the background. With the 25+ mph winds ripping through this pass the smile was likely a little forced

Great closeup of Lyle which shows some of the typical rock conditions encountered throughout the day

Equally awesome closeup of Chuck with a gnarly ridge line

Glenn's turn for a cool closeup

The brothers (Lyle – left and Glenn) share a hero shot on Maroon Peak summit with Capitol and Snowmass peaks in the background. You gotta love the Colorado azure skies.

Hero shot of our photogenic split-hoofed friend that followed us across the traverse

Somewhere along the traverse - Chuck was hoping for an escalator right about now

Time to take a little breathe of relief – the hard part is over (OK – it doesn't look like it but it was)

Time to take a little break in the action. Chuck is pondering the important question "Why did I let you guys talk me into this?"

Living the Dream on the summit of North Maroon Peak with Maroon Peak and the traverse successfully behind them – great work guys!!

Hey Mom – lookee what I just did

Great shot of Chuck on the descent off N. Maroon Peak with the Maroon Creek drainage below. As a reference the parking lot where you take pics is at the lake furthermost away.

Wrapping up a long day – so what's next?

Since I wrote this report I'll highjack it at the end. These are my four reasons for always starting early, summiting fast and returning in one piece. The shot is 5 years old so the kiddos are much bigger but it's a very special photo. From left to right (my better half Allison, Macie, Luke, me and Claire).

This pic will mean little to anyone else but Allison. The timing didn't quite work out right but I know it's special to you. Love you babe – this trip report is dedicated to you and all the loved ones who sit on pins & needles waiting for the phone call. The quest is reaching its end. Thanks for your patience.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

Love it!
08/26/2010 22:44
The dedication to your wife at the end was awesome, I know the feeling as my wife is patiently waiting for my quest to end as well!


08/26/2010 23:00
Great TR - very enjoyable to read and fantastic photos! Congrats - good luck on finishing your quest.


Big Deal
08/27/2010 15:32
For me, the Maroon Bells traverse was a big deal. I can tell by your voice in this report that you got that, too. It had the same effect on my group, reminding us what's important in life. We came out in the dark and camped, but the next morning my partners were on their cell phones calling their spouses the minute they had service. And at breakfast that morning, we all raised our glasses and toasted ”Life!” I don't know if we had been granted a new appreciation for life, or were just happy to be alive! Maybe a little of both... so, congrats. Enjoy the peaks, enjoy your family, enjoy your life. Well done.

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