Peak(s):  North Maroon Peak  -  14,022 feet
Date Posted:  05/30/2013
Date Climbed:   05/26/2013
Author:  SchralpTheGnar
 North Maroon North Face   

I first saw the north face of north maroon 13 years ago, and after looking at it for the first time in person, I finally got a chance to climb and ski it this past weekend. On Saturday, the bro and I with some friends did a recon hike up to Maroon Lake to scout the line and met a couple of dudes that had climbed and skied the route that day. The word was that the bootpack was in to the summit and that the route was mainly skiable save for a couple of short downclimbs. All this information was rather agreeable to me.

Recon trips are easy, drinking beers at Maroon Lake.

Most of the ski reports I read of north maroon said "we started around 3am, summited around 10am and should have started earlier". Since we are slow gapers I figured we'd better start around 1am, that would put us on the summit around 9am. We were camped at the difficult campground up towards independence pass, so we set the alarm for 12am, got dressed and did the 30 minute drive up to Maroon Lake. Dancing the sorting gear dance in the parking lot, packs thus assembled we began the languid march up to the crater lake trail at 1am under the light of a full moon.

Do you see that? That's the moon.

The trail up to the junction went smoothly and before you know it we were heading up minnehaha gulch, from the junction you want to climb up about 600 vertical feet and a little over half a mile. We dropped in too soon and lost some elevation, but were quickly back on route, and didn't lose too much time. In snow season, it's difficult to say if there really is a good route up to the upper basin. Just cross the river, then try to find an open looking snow gully and climb it. The snow was awesome up to this point, solid, the black diamond whippets and sabertooth crampons enjoying the task at hand. We crested the gully into the upper basin as the eastern glow awakened a new day.

First light of the day is always a special time.

A beautiful sunrise is sure to cure whatever ails you.

We switched over to crampons and ice axe around 5:30 am and began the climb up the face. I'd read enough trip reports and guidebooks to know the general way, but it's a maze up there for sure so we were happy to have some tracks to follow. The lower gully that lead to the first snow field was firm and narrowed to about 4 feet at one point. The initial gully is about 40-45 degrees and Mike took the lead.

Above the first cliff band you do the traverse up and left, just heading towards the less obvious center gully. We went a little too high initially but easily navigated around the rock bands. Walking on snow like this is fun.

Keep climbing and don't look down.

There was a section towards the top of the middle section where there were no more ski tracks and you could see where the previous days group had downclimbed and traversed over and around an exposed cliff band. I'm not sure if there is usually a ski route through there or we just missed something, but we planned on doing the same as that looked like our best option.

Mike about to get serious.

Taking a break before it gets too serious.

Once through the gnarly middle section you want to do another traverse up and to the left aiming for the left edge of the punk rock band.

Once at the punk rock band, we decided to climb the rock to the upper snowfields, we didn't really see a snow route, so a little 4th class move got us up and over and we planned to downclimb this as well on the descent.

Finally, at 8:30 am, we arrived on the summit. The climb up had gone just about as well as one could hope. The descent seemed like it was going to be a little involved but doable. Due to some early morning clouds,we waited on the summit for an hour for the snow to soften and started the descent at 9:30am.

Happy climbers with S.Maroon peaking off of the shoulder.

I'm anxious, nervous, and excited all at the same time, let's get this thing going.

The upper snowfield is nice and mellow until it gets to the punk rock band, we didn't see a snow route down this so we took the skis off, downclimbed 10 feet, and reattached the skis at the base of the cliff. Lots of exposure up in this spot, which is why there are no pictures, I was too gripped to take the camera out. After the rock band it's a traverse down and right to connect back up with the upper middle section.

Negotiating the upper middle section.

Starting the downclimb, steep snow to a rock band and then the skis went back on, maybe descended 50 feet but it was slow going.

Mike taking his time across the steep snow from the above rock band, we had spotted a small platform that the previous crew had flattened out and set our sights on it.

Skis on with the cliffs above that were negotiated earlier, you can see Mike just below the cliff band getting ready to make some turns.

Once below the lower middle section it was back to the lower snowfield above miners ski jump, that smile says it all "only one certain death cliff from this point on"

Once across the lower snowfield and back to the entrance gully we negotiated the narrow section by side slipping down some rocks, then dropping down about 3 feet to the snow below. The lower apron, oh dream of joy, it felt good to be here.

River crossing steeze.

Looking back from near the creek crossing at the lower headwall and the upper slopes of the north face.

Back on dry ground, we trudged our way down the trail. After 13 hours total we were back to the car with cold beers waiting for us. That was a good one, incredible climb, good ski, would have been a better ski with more snow, but I would fathom we had average conditions. These are genuine smiles of two joyful and relieved skiers to have been so fortunate on North Maroon.

Comments or Questions
05/30/2013 23:04
On a tough climb and ski! I'll be looking forward to this one, with maybe a bit more snow, hopefully!

teener stoke
05/30/2013 23:08
Love the teener stoke -- great work bro. You are the best mountain partner a brother could ask for.

05/31/2013 01:04
Glad to see that went well for you guys. BTW, no one who skis the north face of North Maroon is a gaper. You are automatically disqualified from gaperdom if you ski that line. Congrats!

05/31/2013 02:53
sweet climb and congrats!

05/31/2013 03:55
Nice work! That looks like a really rewarding day, thanks for sharing

Da Bells
05/31/2013 05:24
You both got em both now, sweet! Congrats on having a grand time on one of the greats. Thanks for sharing.

05/31/2013 15:57
On a fun and challenging classic. Glad to see someone post a TR on this one this year. I'd have expected the cruxes to be a tad more filled in last weekend, guess it just goes to show how fast everything's melting out. Good work pushing through it nonetheless.

05/31/2013 18:05
Congrats on a great line! Glad to see you're still skiing.

If the family didn't have me in ”summer” mode, I'd get up there and take advantage of that bootpack. Oh well, off to the beach...

thanks all
06/01/2013 23:21
that was an awesome day, definitely one of the top 14er climbs I've done. As far as the coverage goes, it was amazing seeing the difference from the the front range/ten mile/mosquitos to the elks. Way more snow further east, if this coolish weather keeps up we'll be skiing in the indian peaks till july.

4th Classing in ski boots!
06/03/2013 14:29
Nicely done, wish you had more pictures. Looks like the snow was in great condition for this!

more pics
06/04/2013 15:25
I try to keep the number of pics in a TR, limited to just what I think are the best but still tell the story. I wish we had more ski pics, but was so focused on the descent that thinking to take pictures didn't come too mind too often.

the full album of all the pics from the weekend is here, you're welcome to look through to see if you see anything useful in there.
more pics

Great Work!
06/05/2013 16:16
Great work accomplishing such a challenging route and being able to safely ski it!

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