| What's the Sound of One Bell Ringing?
We stayed comfortable in a hotel in Snowmass Village the night before so it was relatively easy to be on the trail and hiking under headlamps shortly after 5 am. Once the sun came up we snapped the below photo of Jared looking fresh and ready to go!
Another look at the rock formation - this time capturing the sky colors a little better.
Shortly after this was taken we ran into some issues. We could say it was because of the darkness, the route descriptions or that we were both looking at the pretty waterfall to our left, but the turn-off for the Maroon Peak trail is actually BEFORE the bent tree. The below was taken in the afternoon on the way down showing the cairns to the right that we missed.
We went past the bent tree, turned right just before the creek crossing and took a very faint trail up into the valley. The trail we took died pretty soon, but luckily there was a group of two that were on the trail and we were able to join them just a short disctance away (thanks guys!).
Well, I think I want to say thanks. This trail leads into the steep climb of 2,800' that is affectionately known as "2,800 feet of suck". Certainly an apt title. It's a lung-busting 2,800' of climbing on the way up and a toe-jamming 2,800' of descent getting back to the trail head.
Jared coming up before it got too steep. A glimpse of the Maroon Lake / Crater Lake valley below.
Another look at the 2,800' climb to get you to the ridge at 13,300'.
Once we had solved the bent tree conundrum and got back on the established trail it was pretty straight-forward to follow it all the way to the ridge, steep as it was. When we got close to the ridge we were actually going straight up a "rib" of sorts and our views alternated between the Maroon Lake / Crater Lake valley to the north and the larger valley leading south towards West Maroon Pass, and the towns of Gothic and Crested Butte.
The weather report going in indicated a blue-bird day - no clouds, sunny and warm - quite a relief from the recent flooding the rest of the state was getting! But it was on this rib that the wind really kicked up causing us to don all the layers we had to stay warm. With weather potentially rolling in and being behind my estimated schedule it was the first time I questioned if we would get to the summit or not. Could this all be for naught? Say it isn't so...
We pressed on and the trail got us to the ridge - albeit a little south of where I thought we would be. There was no possibility of climbing on the west side of the ridge due to the sheer drop off and we were pleased to find an easy route on the east side of the ridge. After only 50 feet or so, we got to what I believe is the "standard" point where the route out of the valley meets the ridge and pressed on.
We were energized to be over the ridge, but knew that now would come the hard part. Time to increase awareness and focus on the remainder of the route. There's a trail in there somewhere...
Shortly after crossing to the west side of the ridge came our first test. Jared making his way up the chimney.
Having negotiated the chimney you start to get into the thick of things. Believe it or not, there's a pretty well established route in all of that mess below. You can see a climber in the low-center left.
From here the route alternates between ascending a gulley, hiking around a rib with more or less exposure and repeating until you get close to the summit. Near the summit there seemed to be cairns on top of cairns, so be sure to choose your best route otherwise I think you could easily end up somewhere you'd rather not be.
Jared near the top of gulley #2. Steep, but manageable.
Rounding a rib and flashing "V" for victory. So far, so good...
Jared ascending the large (and last) gulley. This gulley is longer but less steep than the first two gulleys.
I'd read other trip reports on this peak and what struck me was the need to keep looking back as you ascend to memorize the route you'd want to take on the way down. This is standard advice for any day in the mountains but I found we really benefited from this on Maroon Peak - i.e. trying to memorize rock formations, small snow fields, etc.
Having reached the top of the large gulley it was time for a little route finding (amidst all the cairns and loose rock) to the top.
My fears of not being able to summit were erased. At roughly 10:40 am, or almost 5 and 1/2 hours from starting out we were on top! Jared taking in the view with Pyramid Peak dominating the ridge line.
When we got over the 13,300' ridge we got a second wind and somewhat foolishly skipped our planned break to eat. Up on top we were seriously ready for some calories. Now comes lunch time...
As the only one carrying a camera I forgot to have my own picture taken - except on the summit - that's always a requirement.
Still can't seem to get the hand signals down. This was peak #51 for me - not #15. D'oh...
We met some brave souls who were going for the traverse to North Maroon from the South Peak. What a beast! We actually learned later that someone (I believe in a different group than we encountered) had fallen attempting North Maroon and that a SAR helicopter landed one wheel on North Maroon summit, hovered, then picked up the injured hiker and took them to safety. I've heard this person is expected to make a lenghty but full recovery.
A video of the rescue / heli-landing can be found here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LMQ-KA2jZrA
A look down to Maroon and Crater Lakes with the fall colors in their glory. Something we didn't notice at the onset hiking in the dark.
We left the summit a little after 11:00 am - enough time to take in a good lunch and get ready for the second half of the outing.
One of the many cairns on this route. Again, be sure to follow the ones that take you where you want to go.
We made it down gulleys and around ribs to find ourselves at the last semi-technical challenge, the chimney.
Once we cleared the ridge, we chose to return the same way we came up. Jared, out of the tough stuff with West Maroon Pass and that beautiful valley behind him.
Another look at the 2,800' descent. It just seemed to go on forever, on the way up and down.
Mountain goats up high.
At times it was a punishing hike out, but the scenery more than made up for it!
All in all, it was a wonderful day getting to the top of South Maroon Peak. For us, it was about an 11 hour day. Sure, the 2,800' feet ascent was a little punishing but the last mile to the summit / the last 1,000' above the ridge were fantastic! There was route finding, some class 3 moves, a little exposure and all the while in such beautiful scenery. Thank you South Maroon! I only hope your twin North Maroon is as forgiving! See you next year...
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):