Peak(s):  North Maroon Peak  -  14,014 feet
Maroon Peak  -  14,156 feet
Date Posted:  08/05/2014
Modified:  08/06/2014
Date Climbed:   07/27/2014
Author:  thebeave7
 Gunsight and NW North Maroon  

I had an unusual need to explore the Maroon Bells and make a nice loop. On July 27th I headed up to Crater Lake and toward Buckskin Pass. I veered off on the climbers trail toward North Maroon Peak. I followed the trail high into the basin below the North Face of North Maroon Peak and hung a hard right toward the prominent notch known as the Gunsight Couloir. I followed a very slight use trail across the grassy tundra and onto a rocky ridgeline on the edge of the moraine. I dropped into the gully below the Gunsight, donned my microspikes, unsheathed my ice axe and began to trudge on up. The snow was soft on top, but solid below, so I made good time up the lower snow field. I soon hit the branching point where the North couloir took off to the left and the partially melted out Gunsight lay dead ahead.

I chose the direct Gunsight route as I didn't know how far the snow went up the North couloir and only had microspikes, no crampons, while I could see the whole steep Gunsight route ahead. I slowly picked my way up the steepening snow at the top of the Gunsight finally reaching the end of the snow around 12600ft. The final 400ft would be on dirt and loose rock. Note, I would highly recommend crampons for this route, I was able to do it in microspikes, but wished I had the crampons I'd left at home. The North couloir looked to be a nice climb when the snow is in.

Roach writes about a class 4 route to the climbers left of the Gunsight couloir, so I traversed left onto some loose ledges. As I ascended the ledges I followed class 4/5 chimneys that led to shitty debris covered ledges. After 200ft of this sketchy terrain I moved back into the Gunsight couloir and finished the route on the 60 degree dirt and rubble. One of the most nerve racking routes I've been on, ranking up there with the East Ridge of Missouri as routes I will NEVER do again. Once at the Gunsight the route up the NW ridge was fairly obvious, traversing back and forth along ledges on the climbers right of the ridgeline. Sticking to the direct ridgeline down low leads one to more class 4/5 terrain. Around 13600ft I returned to the ridgeline proper near several rock gargoyles, climbed a short class 4 headwall and was soon enough on the final class 2 pitch to the summit. In all the NW Ridge of North Maroon has a more loose rock than some of the other routes, but its not too technically challenging and fairly straight forward for the experienced mountaineer. As per my description above, the East side of the Gunsight should only been done when fully snow covered, otherwise it's a horribly loose and dangerous route, especially with more than one climber. The West side of the Gunsight is class 2 boulders and very straight forward.

Once atop North Maroon the traverse went as expected then I descended off Maroon Peak via the standard South Face route. I won't describe these as there are plenty of trip reports and a very nice description already on this site. In all this exploratory route took me just under 7hours car to car. Nice day out on the Bells on some different routes, with lots of solitude.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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 Comments or Questions

08/06/2014 19:36
Interesting, I have wanted to try the gunsight route in summer but never got around to it. Your report pretty much confirms why it is not a standard route to the summit.

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