Peak(s):  Maroon Peak  -  14,163 feet
North Maroon Peak  -  14,022 feet
Date Posted:  08/14/2012
Date Climbed:   08/04/2012
Author:  Scott P
 Ringing Hell's Bells   

I have been doing several climbs with my 10 year old son Kessler, but the class 4 peaks such as Pyramid (completed on June 30) are no longer very challenging for him and he wanted something a bit harder.

After admiring the Maroon Bells from Pyramid Peak, the thought of climbing the traverse was certainly looked appealing. The only problem was that the Maroon Bells Traverse seems to have a rather fierce reputation among climbers. Photos make the route look quite difficult. Could we do it? Were we ready? The ridge is long on class 4 and 5 terrain and is considered to be one of the more difficult connecting ridges between 14,000+ foot peaks in Colorado. Kessler and I had certainly done several technical routes together. Should we just climb one of the peaks and see how things go?

On the weekend of August 4th, several members were also planning on the traverse, which was worrisome because of rockfall, but good because we hoped to find some partners. We expressed our interest in joining up and were ready for to attempt the climb.

In the evening, Kessler and I hiked to Crater Lake to look for a campsite. Luckily we found an unoccupied campsite and we set up camp before heading to bed. Unfortunately I had trouble sleeping (one reason was that I had forgotten any type of pillow, the other was that there were several animals stirring in the bushes).

Today was the big day. We got a later start than we had wanted to and didn't start until 6:30 AM. We made our way quickly up North Maroon Peak. Because there were several people on the route, we wanted to get ahead of them to avoid rockfall. We passed probably 15 people on the way to the summit and summited in a rather quickly 3 hours 20 minutes. Along the way we climbed several of the cliff bands directly, both for fun and to avoid crowds.

Once we were on the summit, there were two other climbers preparing to climb the traverse. We asked if we could join them until after the rappel. They accepted and because they were leaving right then we immediately left the summit of North Maroon without stopping or even snapping a summit photo.

We made good progress along the traverse and passed the members near the rappel. Our group of four rapped down the rappel, but there were still many climbing obstacles between the rappel and the notch/lowpoint between the Maroons.

We made steady progress and basically stayed on route until the low point. On the climb up to Maroon Peak, Kessler and I got into a nasty gully that was a pain to climb. We were a bit off route and this was the worst part of the traverse.

Eventually Kessler and I summited Maroon and decided to eat lunch. It has taken us 1 hour 40 minutes to complete the traverse, which is supposed to be a pretty good time. We waited for the other two climbers (we never did catch their names!) at the summit before bidding farewell and heading down the mountain.

On the way down we got a little off route because we stayed too close to the ridge crest right from the summit. We crossed a notch and followed a cairned route up the other side. The cairned route eventually petered out at a sub-peak and we were forced to backtrack, losing almost an hour. This route was the only route on any 14er where I have ever gotten off route so far.

The descent of Maroon Peak was a pain and after making our way back to the standard route and along all the ups and downs, we were "home free" as all as we had to do was descend directly down to Maroon Creek. The route down was relentless and loose though and seemingly took forever. It took us longer to descend Maroon Peak than it did to climb North Maroon and do the traverse.

We arrived at camp rather tired, so we took a short rest before packing up and heading for home. On the way down we chatted with several people.

The Maroon Traverse was a good one, but with much loose rock, it has a higher risk factor than most other 14er routes. The route was fun to the summit of Maroon Peak, but the descent of Maroon Peak is relentless, not too aesthetic and isn't a route I'd care to repeat. Other than the descent of Maroon Peak, Kessler had a blast and is excited to do more 14er traverses. I had a good time too, so it was a very successful trip.

Comments or Questions
Very cool!
08/14/2012 21:45
Your son looks like he has no fear

08/14/2012 22:35
Kessler has done a lot in his young life!

This was inspiring
08/14/2012 23:47
Great job! Seeing this report bumped my desire to climb this route way up; your son and you make it look so simple and fun!

Scott P
08/15/2012 00:37
”your son and you make it look so simple and fun!”

It's a fun one, but the route finding can be tricky.

I hope we didn't make it look too simple! Have fun if when you go climb it. I see that you have already done the Crestones Traverse, so this one should also be good.

When to loosen the reigns ?
08/15/2012 22:46
Scott, A job well done to you both. I too climb and hike with an aspiring alpinist and I was wondering how you bridged that gap of starting to let them fly, whilst keeping them as safe as you can?
My son Zach is 9 and now wants to tackle everything that has the word difficult in the description, but I find myself climbing to close to him or over analizing all potential fears. I saw Kessler rapelling himself (big props) and then I question myself that I would still lower my son Zach just out of fear and that my wife would make me do it !! I guess that you both rock climb ? I am planning on getting Zach onto the Kelso ridge and a Tour D'Abyss. Are there any others that you and Kessler did that provided steps up to the next level ? Thanks and happy climbing.

”K's” the ”man”!!
08/16/2012 00:56
Scott and Kessler, way to go. Keep up the safe climbing! Always enjoy your adventures and reports!

Scott P
Loosening the reigns
08/16/2012 01:36
”I too climb and hike with an aspiring alpinist and I was wondering how you bridged that gap of starting to let them fly, whilst keeping them as safe as you can?”

That's a hard question to answer. I guess the simple answer is to let them fly whenever they are really ready. For me, that time came when it became painfully obvious that Kessler could outclimb me (on rock) (unless reaching the handholds is an issue). On a few obstacles in canyons, for example, we had to let Kessler climb the (non-exposed) chockstones adn lower us a handline for us to get up. After that it seemed kind of silly to not loosen the reigns since we were using him as a climing aid anyway.

As far as rope work, we do some rock climbing, but more canyoneering. Both kids were lowered until last year. Then I took Kessler's sister Shaylee to Dominica for some canyoneering. The drops were all pretty short so she learned to rappel. It was easier too since we were rappelling into pools of water and you could set the rope end right at water level so she was already immediately off rope right when touching down in the water. After we came back from Dominica, she liked to rub it in to her brother that she knew how to rappel. After that Kessler didn't want to be lowered anymore. He's actually really proficient at rappelling and belay work now. Only after proficiency would I allow him to do something like the Bells Traverse.

You can see the kinds of things we're used to doing on a regular basis in the link below:

I hope this helps answer the question.

08/16/2012 04:15
Your son is one badass kid!!!!! Awesome pictures!!

01/31/2013 01:00
What an incredible experience to share with your son. Love reading trip reports of you with your kids. Keep it up.

   Not registered?

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. 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 and the report author(s) with respect to any claims and demands against them, including any attorney fees and expenses. Please read the Safety and Disclaimer pages for more information.

Please respect private property: supports the rights of private landowners to determine how and by whom their land will be used. In Colorado, it is your responsibility to determine if land is private and to obtain the appropriate permission before entering the property.

© 2022®, 14ers Inc.