Peak(s):  North Maroon Peak  -  14,014 feet
Date Posted:  02/25/2020
Modified:  03/05/2020
Date Climbed:   02/15/2020
Author:  mattr9
 North Maroon in Winter, Solo / Single Push  

North Maroon Peak Winter Ascent
Solo, Single Push
Saturday February 15th, 2020

Route Info:
Trailhead: Maroon Snowmass Trailhead
Approach: Followed Snowmass Creek to the West flank of North Maroon
Climb: West Gully to Gunsight Notch, West Ledges around Gunsight Tower, Northwest Ridge to summit

Overall Stats (As per Garmin Fenix 5s):
Car-Car round Trip: 18 Hours
Car to Summit: 12 Hours
Summit to Car: 6 Hours
Total Mileage: ~30 miles (Pretty sure my watch gave me extra mileage at ~34 miles, so this is my estimate)
Total Vertical Gain: ~6,500'

Prelude:

After returning from Pakistan and my unsuccessful expedition to climb/ski Gasherbrum II in July/August, life has definitely been a period of highs and lows. I (foolishly) didn't put any planning effort to what life would hold for me after leaving the military in June and after my Pakistan trip. Naive me was hoping that I would be successful in Pakistan and somehow things would just happen and maybe I could realize my dream of becoming a sponsored athlete and find a way to make things work. Well, life happened: I didn't put the first American ski tracks on G2, I am not a sponsored athlete, I was left in a funky position with no idea what I wanted to do with work/life and not a huge cushion of money. Fast forward to now: I have a better (but not complete) plan for my life goals, and am starting bet get back in the groove! "Groovy baby, YEAH!!" - Austin Powers


20029_19
Real heroes wear ascots


This climb is but one of the small goals that I have set for myself for winter of 2020 that include:
- Gain 20k vert in 12 hrs (Acheived 18k on Feb 9th at Vail, round 2 is set for March 21st at Mary Jane resort, search "12 Hr Sufferfest" event on Facebook if you'd like to join me/us!)
- Solo, single push ascent of North Maroon Peak
- Solo, single push ascent of Capitol Peak
- Lead WI3 confidently
- Top rope WI4 confidently
- Complete the Grand Traverse ski race in March

Anyways, this is my trip report on one of those goals: Solo, single push ascent of North Maroon Peak
Enjoy!

North Maroon Video:

Arrival/Approach:

The week prior, as I sat rotting away in my new cubicle job (hip hip hooray....) I started to think about my upcoming weekend and what adventures it would behold. I had just completed a "12 Hr Sufferfest" with my great friend Joe Pointer at Vail Resort and felt good and ready to continue to push limits. I looked at my nifty little excel sheet I made with my list of goals for the year and started to think of which one I could do. I gravitated towards North Maroon, and I intended to do a solo single push. The plan was to start from the Maroon Snowmass Trailhead, follow the Snowmass Creek to the west flank of the bells, ascend the west gully to Gunsight Notch, and gain the NW ridge to the summit. After a few days of watching the weather forecast (Clear Friday night and partly cloudy Saturday with small snow showers) and avalanche forecast (Moderate) I decided to pull the trigger on this plan.


20029_18
My intended route from Maroon Snowmass Trailhead to North Maroon Peak's summit.
I love using CalTopo as a planning resource! You can shade slopes based on steepness so you can ID avalanche terrain
(It's not entirely accurate, so take it with a grain of salt, as with all technology).


I had worked extra hours throughout the week and left work on Friday around 12:00PM and went home to pack and get a nap in, the plan was to start at midnight and do a continuous push all day. I was able to get a 2 hour nap in, but then I decided that if I started earlier than later, that's probably best. So at 5:30pm I departed my house in Littleton and set sail for a little place called Asssssspen.

"A place where the beer flows like wine, where beautiful women instinctively flock like the salmon of Capistrano. A little place called Aspen" - Lloyd Christmas


20029_20
Nuff said


9:30pm (T-minus 30Min):
I arrived to the Maroon Snowmass TH and got all my stuff together, drank some last sips of coffee, left a note in my windshield with my plans, and did final mental preparations for what I knew would be a long one.

10:00am (Zero Hour):
The first third of the approach was very enjoyable as I had a nice track that was put in a few weeks earlier by Natalie Moran (@Snow_Alien), Thank you very much it was definitely helpful! Being dead quiet and peaceful at night, I couldn't help but be giddy with excitement and continue to think "I am so lucky to be here!" Right before I couldn't find the track anymore, there was a wide open area. I assumed from the map that there was a small pond and the creek running through this area, so I decided to give it some space since I don't trust "frozen" lakes after my sketchy crossing of Jackson Lake to Mt Moran in the Tetons when I was semi plunging into the lake with my skis on (Super sketchy). Even trying to give it a wide berth, I managed to plunge my left ski into a shallow spot in the pond/creek, turning my left ski entirely into a popsicle and soaking both of my boots! All I could do was laugh at my situation as I sat there scraping away the frozen ice/snow from my skins/skis at 1:00am. 20 minutes of work and I was on my way again.

Note: Always carry a little plastic scraper! Its cheap, its light, and mine saved me from having to skin with literally 20# of ice on my ski! They are great for getting pesky ice off of your skins and top sheets.

After about a 3rd of the way, the new snow covering the trail made it harder for me to pick out the track and so began the long slog of breaking trail. I was constantly checking my Google Maps app to see my approximate location and cross reference with the printed off CalTopo map I brought. I made sure to stop every hour and take a sip of water and eat some food, something I learned the hard way on my 12 Hr Sufferfest when I only consumed ~160 calories / hour and hit a nice big wall at hour 6.

6:00am (8 Hours):
I finally arrived to the basin and could start to make out South Maroon lording over the area in the very back, looking #MajesticAF. A nice stiff breeze was really packing a cold punch and I remember being chilled for the first time all night, even with all of my layers on. I was feeling the sleep deprivation at this point having been on the move for 8 hours non-stop, but man, as soon as the sunrise started to strut its stuff, it completely re-energized me! Looking back in the valley was absolutely amazing! It's the moments like these that make these early morning starts (Or late night in this case) worth it, and keep me coming back time and time again!


20029_06
Morning's first light. South Maroon prominently lording over the basin
20029_07
Looking back on the valley. Absolutely stunning!


7:00am (9 Hours):
By 7:00am the day had broke and I was now underneath the West gully, the start of the real climbing! The views from here were absolutely stunning. The sunrise back down the valley sported colors that reminded me of spring when mixed with the chirps of the birds waking up, and holy canolie, Snowmass Mountain looked like something out of Lord of The Rings! I've never had a real yearning to ski Snowmass Mountain, but after seeing it from this perspective, I'm a believer and will definitely be trying to ski that East Face this spring!


20029_01
Peaceful and quiet, yet powerful beyond comprehension
20029_02
Like something out of The Lord of the Rings, Mount Doom


20029_04
Snowmass Mountain sun bathing in first light
20029_05
Zoom on Snowmass Mountain, that East Face is calling out to be skied this Spring!


Climb:

From here it was all uphill... My kind of work! I would be heading right up the west gully, caching my skis at the Gunsight Notch, traversing over some ledges around Gunsight Tower, and finally taking the Northwest ridge to the summit. It was time to put the real work in now that the approach was behind me.


20029_17
The climb route


20029_03
As I was preparing to head upwards, I couldn't help but notice a "Y" couloir on the Northwest aspect of South Maroon. It looks like with some spring snow it could become skiable! the lookers right branch looks less likely to be continuous but if it was, would offer a direct drop off the summit! Might require some technical climbing and protection to climb it, which is exactly where I want to take my ski mountaineering! Keep this one in my back pocket!


I continued to zig and zag my way up to a good transition point from skins to crampons and was very surprised with the consistency of the snow on the apron of the west gully. 4-6' of recycled powder already had me excited for the very few turns I would be rewarded with. There was a shallow island of rocks to the lookers left of the beginning of the gully and I transitioned here, taking another minute or two to appreciate the incredible scenery and think "I bet less than 10 people see this during winter here each year!"

Booting up the west gully was hard work but progress was continually made. Being a west facing gully, it gets utterly pounded with wind and I could tell that it had been battered. The snow pack was pretty condensed where I was climbing, and after doing some hand pits, I didn't see any signs of slab release or energetic release, so my concern with avalanche danger was not huge. Even so, I knew that of all the terrain I'd be on today, this was the biggest (if only) chance for an avalanche, so I pointed upwards and got my little kickers kickin! If you're going to be on avalanche terrain, don't loiter! Within about 20-30 min I was at the Col that is the Gunsight Notch and was rewarded with some pretty outstanding views to the East into the valley that most people see the Maroon Bells from. I could see Maroon Lake, and the wide open area next to the lake and thought "I wonder if any other masochistic madmen have decided to hike up the Maroon Bells road and camp at the lake?"

Note: I know a photographer in Aspen that has camped out in that area and has gotten some truly magnificent shots while doing so! His name is Joe Kyle (Instagram: @the_elks) and his work is outstanding!!! Check out his work at www.joekyle.net.

I swiftly deposited my skis on the snow at Gunsight Notch (they would serve me literally zero purpose the rest of the climb/descent and just get in the way/be extra weight) and started traversing along the west flank to the North to where the real fun would begin!


20029_14
Skis cached on the Gunsight Notch and peering into the more popular valley


The beginning of the climb was relatively straight-forward: Traverse to the right on the ledge systems until you get to the "sketchy ledges" as I am going to call them, then gain the ridge after. Of all the terrain of this day, these "sketchy traverses" were my least favorite. They consisted of thin, steep ledges with snow and exposed drop offs below. Most of the "sketchy traverse" was straightforward and just required extra effort to pack snow into a footstep to ensure it would hold, but there were a few sections where the rock wall bulged out and so you had to lean your body out, while holding onto the historically crumbly rock, while hoping that your foot won't plunge further into the step you made and that the rock won't just break free. I double checked every hand hold at these sections and spent extra time packing in my next steps, knowing that any sudden shift or movement could get me off balance and falling. I carefully negotiated the traverse and felt much more at ease upon getting onto bare rock again.


20029_13
"Skechy Traverse"


After the traverse, it was now time to join up with the Northwest ridge and follow it to the summit.


20029_08
The Northwest Ridge, my route took me to the ridge proper where I stayed until the summit


Thus began the really fun part! I've done North Maroon in spring and summer so am mildly familiar with the kind of rock that guards its summit. This being said, climbing on 4th class terrain with ski boots/crampons and gloves is a whole different ball game! I would approach a steep section of class 4 climbing and think "Looks fun!" only to get on it and realize "This ain't fun!" haha I still have a lot of work to do with my technical climbing on rock and ice, and have made big improvements this summer/winter, but putting crampons to rock (especially aluminum, general mountaineering, dual front points) is still not a super comfortable thing for me. It constantly felt insecure, event though I knew the rock was solid and my placement was solid. Whenever I stood up on my feet, I would ensure not to move my feet around all willy-nilly, knowing that the dual front points could lever one of the points off and could cause a blow out, something I don't ever want! That being said, I backed off of multiple sections to just re-analyze the section and find a better way that was more in line with my current abilities.

9:30am (11.5 Hours):
I picked my way up the ridge and soon I could just make out what I believed to be the summit. I decided to take a quick little break and drink that 5 hour energy that I'd brought along (My great friend Jordan Wall (Instagram: @tothewindowwwtothejwall and I would always bring a 5 hour energy on our summer missions and so it has turned into a mini tradition, plus I think it tastes great and the "zing" wakes me right up). When I went to down that delicious 5 hour energy that I so needed at the time, the son of a gun was frozen solid! haha I laughed to myself at the comedy of the situation, stuck the 5 hour in my chest pocket to thaw, and took a look around at my surroundings. The sky was definitely partly clouded as forecasted, and South Maroon's summit was hiding in one. But where the clouds weren't, the sun was! The contrast was amazing, it really lit up the valley below and was gorgeous. Just another reason why I LOVE THIS SHIT! After a few minutes I decided I might as well do this last little bit and skedaddle before the weather decided to do anything funky, I definitely didn't want to be up here if shit went sideways!


20029_12
Hanging out a hundred feet or so from the summit, South Maroon was being a little camera-shy


10:00am (12 Hours):
I reached the summit pretty much right at 10:00am, making it an even 12 hours from car to summit, wow that felt like so long ago! I took a quick video, that my GoPro took sideways for some reason, and started the descent. I knew I wouldn't feel completely safe until I was back on the skin track in the valley. I've read enough book on alpinists to know that getting to the summit is only half the battle, and sometimes the easier half.


20029_0920029_1020029_11
Photos from the summit


Note: Being winter and meaning there is a very wintery snow pack (strong and weak layers throughout), there was no way I would be caught skiing the NE face of North Maroon, but just looking down this amazingly aesthetic face had me thinking back to June 5th when my partner, Pat Gibbs (@Pagibb), and I skied it with Markian and Marika Feduschak. What an amazing line and what an amazing day that was! I CAN'T WAIT FOR SPRING SKI MOUNTAINEERING SEASON!!!!! If you are also FREAKING AMPED about spring season, below is some #SkiPorn from June and also the link to Pat and I's 3-day extravaganza in the Bells area! Enjoy

Link to Pyramid, North Maroon, and South Maroon Ski Trip Report:
https://www.14ers.com/php14ers/tripreport.php?trip=19414&cpgm=tripmine


20029_23
Conservative skiing on Pyramid on June 4th. We had terrible and sketchy conditions. Looking for redemption this season!


20029_24
Pat skiing down the Southwest Couloir off of South Maroon June 6th.


20029_22
My favorite line to date! So aesthetic and awe-inspiring! Definitely want to return to this this spring.


20029_21
Pat ripping turns down the Northeast face of North Maroon on June 5th.


Descent / De-proach:

I began the down climb and retraced my steps where I could see them, and down climbed where I had climbed up for the most part. A few of the sections didn't look all that welcoming for a down climb, so again, I re-analyzed and found ways around that were more in line with my current abilities. "Know thyself". It was a constant battle against my fatigue to ensure I didn't misplace my boot and trip or fall. Must be vigilante on the downhill, which is easy when you ski because it's kind of hard to lazily ski gnarly terrain, but you can definitely get relaxed down climbing, which can turn fatal. Soon I was back to the "sketchy ledges" and now that the steps were pretty packed in, I swiftly made my way back across, dealing with the awkward bulge sections more confidently, but no less cautiously.

Soon I was down to Gunsight Notch where I grabbed my skis and down climbed to a reasonable place to ski up. IT WAS TIME TO GET SOME TURNS!

Th first few turns were on some very wind effected, almost bulletproof, snow (very similar to Quandary winter conditions in my opinion, just steeper, which is actually easier on that stuff), but as I got lower and lower down, it continually softened up. I remembered that the 4-6" of recycled powder had a texture that was not even and smooth, but looked like it had a lot of spots on it (weird, but I don't know how else to explain), and so when I was on top of the start of that section, I knew there was some fun to be had! Being on my 85 underfoot skis, I wasn't going to get the best flotation, but how much flotation do you really need on 4-6"?!

I began making large turns, letting my speed gain as I headed down toward the slight ramp that would lead be back to the valley floor. The snow was pretty darn nice and those few turns were just icing on the cake. I know a lot of people would probably write this whole mission off as stupid and not fun, but to me, I've learned to find enjoyment in pushing myself and seeing what I'm capable, so I thoroughly am happy with the few turns that I did get! Sometimes I think I enjoy ski mountaineering more than winter backcountry skiing not because I don't like powder conditions, but because winter backcountry skiing doesn't allow you to get in these amazingly aesthetic alpine areas much because of avalanche danger. If I asked a "powder hound" if they wanted to do this and that they MIGHT get 20 turns on 4-6" of recycled powder, they likely just laugh. Again, I've found enjoyment in the "pain" and I think I enjoy ski mountaineering for the setting I get to ski in, rather than the snow conditions.


20029_15
My tracks down from the west gully, icing on the cake.


Once I was done skiing the apron, I pointed along my skin track, back to the right (North) and so began a long and annoying de-proach. I soon had to transition back to skins, as the entire approach wasn't uphill (there were uphills with long flat sections between). I skinned most of the way out and the weather improved, it really made me miss and long for spring! I switched to skiing for a short little stint and came to the annoying realization that it would just be easier to skin out... (Sad face).


20029_16
Beautiful weather for a long slog out!


4:00pm (18 Hours):
6 hours from being on the summit of North Maroon, I arrived back at my car. NO MORE WALKING! 18 hours (almost exactly) after starting, I was back in the loving and comfortable arms of modern society. Its always nice to be out, if only to make you appreciate how good we have it in the modern life! I promptly got my darned boots off. My feet were both drenched from the lake escapade in the AM and they were not too happy with me. No blisters, but they were nice and clammy and smelled something great! I made haste and headed to the El Jebel City Market to get my Pat Gibbs inspired recovery potion: TruMoo Whole Chocolate Milk. If you don't know, now you know. After taking care of my recovery nutrition, I grabbed a coffee and made the long 4 hour drive back to Littleton, where I assumed vegetable mode that night and the entire next day, and I tell ya what, it felt great!

Closing Notes:

If anybody would like to link up for some BIG objectives or link-ups this Spring, I am very eager to do as much as I can. Probably need to be able to do multiple 6-8k days in a row without much issue so we are on a relatively close wavelength. My current job gives me every other Friday off, so I am a weekend warrior, plus a little! Some of my goals are to link up North and South Maroon ski descents in a day, repeat Landry in proper condition if possible, repeat Sneffels (climb snake, ski birthday chutes, climb lavender couloir, and ski snake out), and many many more! Leave me a comment and lets see if we can make plans!




Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24


 Comments or Questions
angry

Incredible
02/25/2020 07:23
I don€„˘t skimo, but you are a man after my own heart. Beautiful, demanding, rewarding days like this is what it€„˘s all about. Well done!


Kiefer

Tight!
02/25/2020 07:30
I love that traverse shot ya posted!! Solid work in getting this bad boy this winter! And props for doing it solo, so much more challenging but the reward is greater!
Awesome! Interesting with the cached skis.


ltlFish99
Excellent report
02/25/2020 15:51
That is indeed one of the coolest trip reports that I have read on here.


mattr9

Responses
02/25/2020 20:11
"angry"
- It was definitely one of those days that reignited the fire even more.

"Kiefer"
- The traverse was definitely the least secure section haha And the skis were a god-send, it wouldn't have really been feasible without them. No safe skiing on the peak at this time of year in my opinion, but got "a few" good turns from gunsight...

"ltlFish99"
- Thank you! I enjoy reliving the adventure while writing it and I'm glad you enjoyed it too!


Will_E

Dude
02/25/2020 20:14
You€„˘re my hero!


RyGuy

Congrats and Maroon Peak
02/25/2020 21:26
Congrats Matt! It looks like you got some good weather and overall a great day!

Do you have any photos looking over at Pyramid or Maroon Peak directly? I realize you had some lower clouds, but hoping to see at least a bit of either peak.

-Ryan


mattr9

RyGuy
02/26/2020 05:29
The only photos of South maroon are the ones of its NW aspect in a few of the trip report photos. And unfortunately I stayed on top only for ~2 min before beating feet back down so I didn't get a great look at Pyramid. The bells traverse was looking pretty snow covered, so that might be a good indication that Pyramid and South Maroon are pretty nicely covered in snow.


Kevin Baker

Video
02/26/2020 06:16
Solid effort to day trip that, Matt. Would you be able to post the video you got from the summit?


mattr9

Kevin Baker
02/26/2020 06:29
Yep! I'm working on putting some clips together and will update the trip report when I do. I had my GoPro horizontally but it took video vertically, so my summit footage is sideways. I'm trying to troubleshoot that, but likely will just have to leave it and post as is


RyGuy

Video help
02/26/2020 07:18
Hey Matt,

Yeah, I get it's sometimes hard to stay on a summit long in winter. The video Kevin mentioned would certainly show the areas on Maroon and Pyramid I am hoping to see a bit closer. In fact, I have some good friends who are AV editing experts and it's easy to rotate the video back to normal. I'd be happy to help with that.

Would you be willing to share it?

-Ryan


mattr9

RyGuy
02/26/2020 07:52
Definitely! I am at work currently and can't access my Gmail email, but can email or send you a link to the video this evening. That would be awesome if he could rotate it 90 degrees, been playing with it in iMovie to no avail.

Send me an email at matthew.j.randall13@gmail.com and I'll send it over this evening.


desertdog

Thanks!
02/26/2020 11:31
Great read and pictures! Sorry about Gasherbrum II, but I am sure it was still a huge adventure.


mattr9

Desertdog
02/26/2020 11:33
I'm currently looking at summer 2021 to make the return to Pakistan to finish business on G2. Learned a lot and am bummed I got so close and ran into trouble, but it just fuels my fire and it will be that much more rewarding when I finally do ski off the summit of a 8000m peak!


desertdog

I know the feeling
02/26/2020 15:10
Heading back to give Everest another go this season. Good luck to you!


mattr9

Desertdog
02/26/2020 16:12
Best of luck! Thats awesome! North or South?


desertdog

North
02/27/2020 06:32
I tried South last season but got altitude sickness at C2. I thought I would mix it up and go north, unfortunately I am worried the coronavirus is going to make us call the game. Still some time to let things settle though.


mattr9

Desertdog
02/27/2020 06:50
Best of luck and hopefully things cool off with COVID-19. Seems like organizations are finally starting to actually respond adequately instead of saying everything is good and under control... If you end up going to the South side though, my buddy Rilyn Vandemerwe is running around all of the trek routes right now and will be in the Everest Khumbu region in spring. Great guy and phenomenal climber/endurance athlete!


Jay521

Video
02/27/2020 08:44
I look forward to seeing that vid! Solid, solid day! You must be in killer shape to pull that off.


mattr9

Jay521
02/27/2020 08:47
"RyGuy" sent the summit video back right side up so I'll add it to the trip report tonight! Working on throwing together a bunch of short clips into a little movie eventually and will throw that up as well. It includes some footage of my ski/skin turning into a popsicle after breaking through into the creek/pond haha


dannyg23

Burly
02/27/2020 10:15
Nice work dude.


Yikes

humbled
02/28/2020 12:37
I thought it was rough with 3 people and 3 days. great job on the single push.


mattr9

"Yikes"
02/28/2020 12:48
Going light and fast has its benefits if able for sure. Had I brought overnight gear and not just my personal minimum requirements, I'd have been too weighed down for this to be feasible. Possibly giving Capitol peak an attempt in similar fashion starting tonight at midnight.


SchralpTheGnar

Nice work
03/02/2020 21:14
Looks like a good day out in the mountains but you€„˘ll need to start hanging out with AspenBoulder crew if you want a partner, no one in Littleton can hang with that.


mattr9

SchralpTheGnar
03/02/2020 21:24
Just went on a single push of Capitol solo, I definitely enjoying the solo aspect! As long as I can mitigate avalanche concerns, I really do enjoy the mountains solo but it would be nice to have a partner to suffer with on these long days haha


mattr9

Video Added
03/05/2020 13:45
Added the youtube video to the trip report! Check it out and hope you enjoy!



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