Peak(s):  North Maroon Peak  -  14,014 feet
North Maroon Peak  -  14,014 feet
Maroon Peak  -  14,156 feet
Belleview Mtn A  -  13,233 feet
PT 13,039  -  13,039 feet
Date Posted:  07/29/2020
Date Climbed:   07/11/2020
Author:  mattr9
 Mega-Maroonal Traverse: A Choss Lover's Fantasy  

Mega-Maroonal Traverse
Beta for A Choss Lover's Fantasy
July 11th, 2020

Overall Stats/Info:

Overall Route:
Bike approach and exit (Dang reservation red tape...)
Maroon Lake TH --> Buckskin Pass --> North/South Maroon Peaks --> Belleview Peak --> West Maroon Pass --> Maroon Lake TH


Total Vertical Gain: Approx. 8,100'
Total On-Foot Powered Miles: ~22.7 Miles
Total Bike Powered Miles: ~20 Miles

Pikas Crushed: 1 (Poor little dude)
Rock Pro Pieces Scavenged: 1 (Tricam, also found a small cam on the Bell's Traverse, but it was wedged inside a smaller-than-finger crack)
Alpine Pond Dips: 1


Mega-Maroonal Traverse Video


Approach:

Based on the bells area looking to have an solid few days of good weather, I figured it would be a good time to go give the Mega-Moronal Traverse a go!

This is a big traverse that connects the Mega-Maroonal and Mega-Mydal Traverses. Basically, it would encompass gaining Buckskin Pass and then staying on the ridge over the bells, Belleview Peak, West Maroon Pass, and all of the sub-peaks before (and including) Pyramid peak, then descending the standard Pyramid route. Mega-Maroonal is the ridge from Buckskin Pass to West Maroon Pass (Which is what I would end up doing), and Mega-Mydal is the ridge from Pyramid Peak to West Maroon Pass.

I have my GPX file downloaded so that you can view my exact track, it's located at the bottom.


20338_31
The Mega-Moronal Traverse, you can go either way. You could also start from Crested Butte


20338_30
The Mega-Maroonal traverse in Blue, which is what I ended up doing instead


I drove up midday Friday from the Denver area and went through Glenwood Springs to meet a guy I've been chatting with through Social Media, Albie Binkley: super cool and nice guy that shares similar passions for adventure and having a good time! Cheers to meeting you and your buddy Alex!

Grabbed some food and continued on to Aspen where I stayed the night in #Hotel4Runner in the "Tiehack" parking lot, opting for a bike approach since I 1) didn't want to deal with the reservation process and 2) because why not!

Woke up to my 12:30am alarm, drank some coffee, and had an avocado before hopping on the bike at 1:08am and pedaling the ~10 miles to the Maroon Lake Trailhead. The bike ride was peaceful and went by smoothly, just a few cars heading to the trail head for alpine starts I assumed. I arrived to the trail head about an hour later and by 2:30am, after using the restroom and locking up my bike, I was ready to rock and roll!

Maroon Lake Trailhead to North Maroon Peak:

Route Beta: From the Trailhead to Buckskin pass, just follow the trail/signs, there was only one small section that dead fall concealed the trail but it was easy to pick it back up quickly. From Buckskin Pass, the ridge is nice and mellow to Pt 13,039', which is a nice grassy plateau that probably has great views during the day. From Pt 13,039' the route-finding became more and more annoying. I was staying ridge proper and constantly getting cliffed out. Not really wanting to risk down climbing on too much of the choss, I would often bail down a gully enough to skirt around on a ledge or something. Compared to the bells traverse, this was much more heinous and loose. This probably sees 1/100th the traffic that the bells traverse gets, so there is loose-rock-a-plenty. Don't really have any great recommendations on this section other than don't be afraid to descend gullys pretty far to access mellower terrain, it's just some extra credit vert at the end of the day haha

Temperatures were super comfortable for easy running, allowing me to reach Buckskin Pass in a little over an hour and a half. Only saw one deer along the way, which gave me a nice little startle, before it bounded off into the darkness. Alpine starts are becoming such a sought-after experience for me... I used to struggle to wake up early and get moving, but after having done it enough, I've truly fallen in love with the peaceful tranquility that I think you can only experience when being up above the trees in the dead of night... If you know, you know!


20338_09
Sweet Silhouette


Immediately after gaining Buckskin Pass, I headed along the ridge line towards the dark silhouettes of the bells in the distance. Initially the terrain was easy and progress was smooth, but soon, the "yellow brick road" gave way to #HellaChoss. This would become my reality for the next ~8 hours or so!

I maneuvered my way to a long grassy plateau-like peak (Pt 13,039' I'm assuming) which was an awesome perch to look upon the landscape from. Sunrise colors were making their first appearances as I enjoyed the calm of night on my grassy little piece of heaven.


20338_10
Pt 13,039' Summit Register


20338_01
North Maroon (L) and South Maroon (R)... Just wow!


20338_03
Cool lighting on the snow


20338_18
Snowmass bathing in the morning light


20338_02
Snowmass with the last bit of sunrise colors


The difficult route-finding made the going really slow and it took ~2 hours to get from Pt 13,039' to the Gunsight Notch, where I finally stopped to appreciate the sunrise colors and found some #Booty that people had left behind there (I left it all there, so if it's yours, should still be there!) I'm pretty sure I did not summit Sleeping Sexton, and if you look at my GPX map, you'll see where I had issues with route finding as it looks like I just wandered around in certain places haha

At one point, I was down climbing and as I stepped down, a cute little Pika ran out from a crack... He managed to time it perfectly (Unfortunately for him) so that he was right under my foot as I stepped down... Poor little dude basically committed suicide right in front of me! He had a few seconds of convulsions before submitting to the darkness and leaving our world. I kind of chuckled to myself as I said to it's lifeless body "Why'd you go and do that, little buddy?!"


20338_22
Poor little dude lol


20338_04
Views from Gunsight Notch aren't half bad! Looking back towards Crater and Maroon Lakes.


20338_11
A pretty new looking CAMP ice axe and some ski poles that have seen better days... Up for grabs at Gunsight Notch!


From Gunsight Notch the going was super easy and it brought back some good memories of my 18hr single push ascent from this last winter (https://www.14ers.com/php14ers/tripreport.php?trip=20029&cpgm=tripmine). The consistent 4th class terrain was most appreciated after the sketch low 5th down climbs and route finding from Pt 13,039' to Gunsight Notch.

I arrived on the summit around 9:30am and enjoyed one of my favorite places in CO for a few minutes before beginning the down climb to begin the Bells Traverse over to South Maroon.


20338_05
From the summit of North Maroon, Buckskin Pass is on the right where the grass and snow meet. That section of ridge took a solid 3.5-4 hours haha


20338_06
From North Maroon looking at South Maroon with the Bells Traverse in between. Walk in the park compared to the last sections.


North Maroon Peak to South Maroon Peak (Bells Traverse):

Route Beta: The route finding and rock quality on the Bells Traverse is vastly different from Buckskin Pass to Gunsight Notch... Much more traffic has likely gotten rid of much of the loose rock through trial and error (Hopefully not much error!!!). It felt really nice to once again feel efficient moving through the mountains, even if only for a 45min period. You can stay ridge proper and do a few low 5th down climbs/climbs, or you can always pop off onto either side of the ridge and find 3rd/4th class ledges to traverse, truly is a "make your own adventure" traverse.

By this point, I noticed a slight lag in my energy and mental prowess, but still arrived on top of South Maroon 45min later, matching my time from last summer. At this point I was already about 7 hours in, which made me hope the worst was behind me or I'd have a REAL long day ahead of me haha I ran into my humans of the day, a group of 4 that were making good progress on the traverse. As I passed, one of them said to his friends "This wedding is horseshit" to which I chimed in "I ordered Salmon, I said it 4 times!" to which I heard no response haha

On the traverse I found a few pieces of gear left behind from previous climbers. The first piece was a small cam that was either placed way deep in a pinky size crack, or has just walked itself back due to the numerous attempts I'm sure it has had to liberate it from it's rocky tomb. Regardless, my efforts were futile, but someone with a nut tool might be able to get that sucker out! The second piece was a Tricam that seemed to have just been left... It took 2 seconds for me to get it loose and throw it in my bag, thanks!!!


20338_12
Tricam that must have just been left accidentally... or on purpose???


I hung out for a good bit on the summit of South Maroon as I stood in awe of my surroundings:
To the west are some of the greenest valleys around.
To the Northwest are the granite beauties: Snowmass and Capitol.
To the Northeast is Crater lake and Maroon lake.
To the East is Pyramid peak.
And finally, to the South was my fate: The long stretch of ridge line that culminates at West Maroon Pass before turning North again towards Pyramid peak.

South Maroon Peak to Belleview Peak:

Route Beta: From South Maroon you can either stay ridge proper, where, again, you'll probably have to drop off on either side and down climb gullys to ledges, or if you are a little more competent/daring with climbing, you can probably stay ridge proper with some spiciness. After you get past where the standard route for South Maroon reaches the ridge, there is only a few more sections of funkiness before you reach a mice area of tundra that is quite enjoyable after all the choss, and then it is mostly mellow choss to the base of Belleview Peak. Going up Belleview Peak is very straight forward and is similar to the NW ridge of North Maroon. Just some 4th class scrambling to the summit.

Still feeling good, I made my way down South Maroon Peak at a good clip, staying ridge proper for the most part rather than taking the South Maroon standard route "trail". I ran into another 2 fellows who were on their way to South Maroon, no idea if they were doing the traverse or an out-and-back on South, but seemed like really nice fellas!

Pretty soon after passing where the South Maroon standard route meets the ridge, my knee started to tell me it wasn't too happy anymore... Been nursing a sore/pissed quadriceps tendon and was hoping that the strength work I'd been doing recently would make it happy, guess not. It was at this point that I made the decision to forego the big plans of doing the entire Mega-Moronal Traverse and just "settle" with making it to West Maroon Pass to complete the Mega-Maroonal Traverse.

Making this decision was actually the beginning of a splendid day! Since I no longer needed to try and hold a pace and didn't have to worry about how the Mega-Mydal Traverse would be after 10+ hours of movement, I began my leisurely and utterly beautiful stroll through the Elks alpine. As if on cue, I was soon presented with a beautiful section of tundra that felt like a velvety blanket under my feet! Not having to worry about rocks sliding around for a stretch was very nice, albeit short lived.


20338_19
Belleview Peak in the distance, from the tundra section


20338_24
Beautiful valley to the West


After the tundra, it got chossy again and would remain chossy until West Maroon Pass. Getting to the base and getting up Belleview Peak was enjoyable, and I was able to scope out a nice little pond down below... It was time for a refreshing dip!


20338_21
Fun scree slopes, yahoo!!!


Belleview Peak to West Maroon Pass:

Route Beta: This section is super straight forward. After everything you've been through on the ridge, thihs is a walk in the park and all downhill to the pass. I opted to sidehill on low angel scree for a bit but got tired of it and opted to down climb the choss on the ridge. Pick your poison.

I down climbed towards the alpine pond and ran 2 individuals who were heading up to Belleview Peak from West Maroon Pass. They mentioned they were going to fill up on water at the pond and I told them my plans for some refreshment... But they had no issue and said they had good filters! Alpine pond dip was a "go"!

Taking a quick little dip in the pond really sealed the deal for a very enjoyable day in the alpine! I was surrounded in gorgeous terrain all day and now that it was getting warmer, I had a perfect little pond to cool off in. It doesn't get much better than that!

I threw my clothes back on and made my way up a high point, catching a last glimpse of the amazing views before it was time to head to West Maroon Pass and out.

The down climb to the pass went smoothly and soon enough I was at the pass where a few groups had converged that were either backpacking or running the 4 pass loop. Saw more people here than I did the whole day so far!


20338_07
My little alpine pond, Belleview Peak, and South Maroon in the background (The SW Couloir looks "in" eh?... haha just kidding)


20338_26
Looking down towards West Maroon Pass, can make out the trail if you look hard


20338_27
Chossy ridge line, low angle scree slopes, and some of the most beautiful freaking views!!!!


20338_28
Almost to the pass, more choss!


West Maroon Pass to Maroon Lake Trailhead and Bike Back to #Hotel4Runner:

Walking down the trail was slow due to my knee not being happy, but boy oh boy, I enjoyed it! Everywhere I looked it was green and just gorgeous. Really could not have been happier!

I passed many groups that were backpacking and a few that were running the 4 pass loop, even saw some campsites in the valley.

I stopped at a small stream and refilled on water, and due to it being a lower elevation water source I threw a few iodine tablets in, just in case anything sketchy was living in it.

After an hour and a half or so I reached Crater Lake, and about an hour after that, I was back at my bike and ready to change shoes. On the way to Maroon Lake and the trail head, I figured I would see the "horde", but due to the reservation system, I actually didn't see many people at all! It was quite nice! As long as it keeps traffic down, I'd totally be fine with an easy 1hr bike ride for future Bells area trips.


20338_08
Even with a little hobble, I couldn't help but just be happy!
The whole walk down took 2.5 hours and not once did I feel unhappy! That might be the first on a long exit! ha

I ate the rest of my snacks and started the downhill cruise back to #Hotel4Runner. There were a bazillion moths flying around the road and my face acted as a car windshield and just took the beating like a champ haha Once I got to my car, I had plenty of dead moths stuck to my shirt haha I found one of my windows/doors scratched up, likely from a bear trying to get through my cracked window to whatever goodies I had accidentally left out... Whoops!

Friends, Legends, and #DadStyle:

I got unpacked and changed and headed immediately for Highlands Ale House, they have a pretty damn good burger that I got after this seasons ski descent on North Maroon Peak in May. After indulging in some real food and a beer, I headed to "The Jerome" in Aspen to hang out with a friend that works there and does amazing photography work. If you have a second, check out Joe Kyle at http://www.joekyle.net/ and on instagram @the_elks. Super nice guy and amazing photography work! Got a few drinks on the house from Joe and drove to an overnight parking area to catch some ZZZsss!

The next morning after a restful night in #Hotel4Runner, I got a reply from one of the local legends of Aspen, Mike Marolt, agreeing to let me have coffee with him and chat for a bit. Mike Marolt is brothers with Steve Marolt, who were 2/3 guys (Including Jim Gile) that were some of the first American ski mountaineers to take skiing to the greater ranges. I saw their movie premiere of "Beyond Skiing Everest" which documents some of the ski mountaineering adventures that they did besides Everest (You can find the movie at http://geni.us/SkiingEverest?fbclid=IwAR3HZ0iJ7A8rQHD_agMomqxj_ZwUHCNyYLvxhcyxr80b2jMO8UAgp5MGwDk).

To be able to sit down and have coffee with this role model of mine was truly cool! We talked about ski mountaineering in the past, present, and future, and he even wanted to check out my #Hotel4Runner build and liked it haha It was awesome and I feel blessed to be able to have shared some morning coffee with such a stand up guy!

I began my drive back home, this time opting to go up and over Independence Pass for the views and because its faster, double whammy! Once on top of Independence Pass, I did something very tourist-y and got a picture. I like to try and keep it loose in the mountains and not take myself too seriously, which is why a few summers back I started to wear Hawaiian shirts in the mountains. I brought it back this summer and along with my fanny pack (Highly functional, especially when you're wearing running shorts with no pockets) and Tevas (If you like Chocos, I'm sorry), I think I pull off the #DadStyle pretty damn well hahahaha

Disclaimer: I am not a dad


20338_29
Rocking my #DadStyle on Independence Pass doing #TouristThings
Teva Sandals
Hawaiian Shirt
Fanny Pack
Goof Grin


Thanks for reading, hope you enjoyed my misadventure!
"Get busy living, or get busy dying!"


My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):




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 25 26 27 28 29 30 31


 Comments or Questions
ltlFish99

Excellent report
07/30/2020 00:50
That was a great report with incredible pictures.
hose views certainly are wonderful. Someday soon, I need to go for the 4 pass loop.


mattr9

lylFish99
07/30/2020 06:30
I've never done the loop but from the ridge it looks like one of the most beautiful things you can do in summer! Would definitely recommend!



   Using your forum id/password. Not registered? Click Here


Caution: The information contained in this report may not be accurate and should not be the only resource used in preparation for your climb. Failure to have the necessary experience, physical conditioning, supplies or equipment can result in injury or death. 14ers.com and the author(s) of this report provide no warranties, either express or implied, that the information provided is accurate or reliable. By using the information provided, you agree to indemnify and hold harmless 14ers.com and the report author(s) with respect to any claims and demands against them, including any attorney fees and expenses. Please read the 14ers.com Safety and Disclaimer pages for more information.




© 2020 14ers.com®, 14ers Inc.