Saturday, September 1, 2007

Doing the Bells with Traverse (South to North)

This is the trip report that I wrote on 9/1/07 for the Maroon Bells climb. Enjoy
Maroon Peak & N Maroon Peak
Date: Saturday, Sept 1st 2007
Route: ascend S Ridge of Maroon Peak, traverse to N Maroon, descend N Maroon NE Ridge
Team: Kirk (KirkT) and Shad (Shad)

I have been zeroing in on these peaks all summer after seeing them on my 4 pass loop trip around the Bell in June. That was the first time that I have been in this area. The first time I saw the Bells I got the urge to climb them. They were officially on my summer of 2007 list.

One week before Labor Day KirkT called me to see what my plans were for the Labor Day weekend. I was supposed to go down to the San Juans for a few days but really was not in the mood to drive that far and had to be home on Monday. He made the suggestion of the Bells and it was game on from that point on.

Friday night at 5pm we left the Denver area and headed to Aspen arriving around 8-9pm. The overnight parking lot was full so we had to park in the overflow parking about 1/4-1/2 mile down the road. I was a little worried about this. How many people are going to be on the mountain tomorrow? Was it going to be safe? We will see.

After a great night of sleeping under the stars we were off at 4:15am hiking up the road to the trailhead. After about 45 mins into the hike I realized that I should not have been leading without my head lamp on. I was on the wrong trail and was doing the loop around Maroon Lake, I missed the turn off for Crater Lake. So an hour was wasted, oh well. After getting on the the correct trail we hit Crater Lake and the turn off to head up the ridge by the bent tree in no time. At Crater Lake I thought about hiding my rope and climbing gear here and picking up on the way back because I had a pinched nerve or something in my neck and the weight was bothering me. I decided to take it anyway and suffer with the weight so I popped a couple of pills. Good think I did as you will see later. From here on out it is going to be an uphill slog.

The first half of the trail to gain the ridge was easy to follow but we lost the trail once we got into the rocks so we decided to make our own way up. Here is a trail map. In blue is the standard route and in red is our route. I may be off a little but should be very close to where we went. We tryed to stay as direct as possible.

At this point in the game we have passed 2 or so people and could see 3 head of us. I guess all those people were somewhere else and not on the Bells. We only saw about 10-12 people all day.

We finally gained the ridge by the notch.

From here we just followed the carins to the summit.

It took us about 6 hours to get to the top of South Maroon with the 1 hour side trip around Maroon Lake that I lead us on. But we made it no problem.

After spending a half hour on the summit watching the clouds we decided that we both were ok with the weather and that we were going to commit to the traverse. We left down the traverse around 11 or so. The first part of the traverse from South to North is the down climb down into the bottom of the saddle. This down climb is not bad if you take your time and not rush it. After hitting the bottom of the saddle the fun begins as you climb up North Maroon.

It took us two hours to complete the traverse from South Maroon to North Maroon.

The decent off of North Maroon took all of my energy and I did not take the time for pictures. This was one of the hardest down climbs that I have ever done. We did the traverse without using the rope but due to how poorly the route was marked on the decent of North Maroon we kept getting off route and caught in cliff bands. We ended up doing 2 repells to get off this mountain, one of about 30 feet and one of about 100 feet. It was the longest and most tiring decent I have ever done. It took us 6 hours to get from the top of North Maroon back to the car.

We finally reached the lovely site of Kirk‘s truck at 7:30pm, 15 hours after starting. What a day!!! We were both beat and in trouble, Kirk with his wife and me with my girlfriend. It took us 5 hours longer than we thought it would and they were worried. They had every right to be for we under estimated how hard the route finding on this mountain would be. Even with all of this this has been my favorite climb so far as I hit the halfway point of my 14er list. I would gladly do it again for everyone that knows me well knows that I am sucker for punishment.

Here is a link to all my pictures.

Link to trip report on, just cut and paste into browser: