Peak(s):  Maroon Peak  -  14,163 feet
North Maroon Peak  -  14,022 feet
Date Posted:  07/28/2014
Date Climbed:   07/26/2014
Author:  michaelgrundy
Additional Members:   rohit
 Route? What Route?   

The Maroon Bells was a pair of mountains that made me nervous back when I first started hiking the 14ers. I had heard horror stories about their awful rock and the extreme exposure from friends and colleagues alike. It wasn't until Monday, the 21st of July that I had even put any thought into climbing them. Rohit and I had just completed the Little Bear to Blanca traverse 2 weeks prior and we felt that we were ready to take on our 2nd of the "4 Great Traverses".

The drive out of town on Friday wasn't too bad since we decided to ditch I-70 and take the longer but faster route of 285. We arrived in Buena Vista around dinner time and decided to fill up at the Coyote Cantina. The food was good but the service was slow. I suppose I can't be mad at a $10 prime rib meal. We finished up our meal and was back on the road by 7. We pulled in to the Lost Man trailhead parking lot on the west side of Independence pass, parked, and got ready to catch a few hours sleep in the back of the Honda Pilot. Unfortunately, we didn't get much sleep since the parking lot wasn't very level which made it difficult to get comfortable. I think I may have gotten a total of 1 hour of sleep. The alarm went off at 1 AM and we started our 40 minute drive to the trailhead.

We pulled in to the day use parking lot around 1:40 AM and noticed that there were a few other cars in the parking lot. The forecast was calling for a 70% chance of rain after noon so we were trying to get up Maroon Peak quickly and complete the traverse well before the predicted storms were to come in. We got geared up, double checked our packs, and started hiking at 2:15 AM. We were a little behind schedule already but that was alright. We started down the trail past Maroon Lake and before we knew it, we were approaching Crater Lake. Once we made it to the lake, I began to pay closer attention to the rocks on the right side of the trail. I was searching for the cairns that indicate the turn off for Maroon Peak and I had heard several stories of people missing this turn off. We found the trail, turned, and began our steep ascent up the 2800 feet to the saddle.

The route up the hill started off mellow (thanks CFI!) but soon we were past the trail modifications and making our own slow progress up the route. Around the half way mark we had somehow lost the trail and were traversing further to the south than I had anticipated. After a little more ascending, I decided we were too far south and I decided to change direction. We started to climb straight up the slope and eventually started to angle back to the north. After some tough elevation gain, we were topping out on the saddle about 50 yards south of the saddle shown in the route description. Success! We made it to the top of the saddle at 6 AM! We traversed back to the route and decided to stop, take a few early morning pictures, have some food, and try to shoo away our new goat friend.

Sunrise over Pyramid.


The remainder of the route was pretty easy for us to follow now that the sun had come up. The chimney was pretty easy to spot and we were making good progress through all of the climbing portions.

The chimney.

The entire time we were climbing, our new goat friend was keeping a close eye on us, never more than 15 yards away. We made our way over to the second gully and started to climb up towards a ledge at the half way point of the gully.

Looking at the gullys.

Rohit enjoying the exposure.

Looking into the void... (Photo by Rohit)

What the mountain looks like.

Climbing around. (Photo by Rohit)

A few more moves and we (including the goat) were cruising up the ridge to the summit at 7:15 AM! We snapped some pictures, had some shots, hydrated, ate some food, and started looking at the traverse.

The goat.

Snowmass and Capitol Peak.


North Maroon from Maroon Peak.

After a 30 minute break on the summit it was time to get back to what we were here for... the traverse. The weather had been holding strong and now it was go time. We began our descent down to the Bell Cord Couloir and once we made it, we spent a little time admiring the views and shoo away the goat .

Looking up at Maroon Peak on the descent to the saddle.


After we passed the couloir, we spent most of the traverse off route... again. We aren't exactly sure where it happened but we started by following cairns around the side of the mountain. There were a few places to do some climbing but the elevation was staying pretty consistent. Eventually we had traversed around to an area that I felt was too far, even though there were cairns. We were spending a lot of time looking at the route description and were unable to identify any of the features in the pictures... $hit!

Rohit on the traverse.

Climbing on the Ledges (Photo by Rohit)

Rohit climbing up the wall.

Still with us.

Traversing...(Photo by Rohit)

It was decided that we needed to start climbing up. We made a couple of low class 5 climbs up to various cliff bands and soon made it to a spot that we recognized from the pictures! Somewhere in this mess we lost the goat, finally. We were able to follow the route up to the summit ridge and we soon topped out on North Maroon Peak at 9:20 AM, 1 hour 15 minutes from the time we departed Maroon Peak.

Maroon Peak from the summit of North Maroon.

Summit! (Photo by Rohit)

The feeling that I had gotten when we topped out on the summit was amazing and indescribable. We had talked of these peaks in years past but never really thought we would be doing it any time soon. Now, here we are, sitting on top of North Maroon peak after completing one of the "4 Great Traverses". If I weren't so manly, I may have been so moved to shed a tear or two. We had the summit to ourselves so we took some pictures, ate, changed gear, had shots, and took in the views. After 45 minutes on the summit, it was time to depart, just as a group of 4 guys showed up. We wanted to get going before the weather had a chance to turn on us.

Looking down to Maroon Lake.

The route off of North Maroon was easy to follow at first but after we made it to the upper portion of the 1st gully, we lost the route... (are you seeing a theme?). We spent the next 30 minutes moving back and forth over a ridge trying to locate the next cairn. Our backup plan was to sit tight and wait for a group of climbers to descend so we could just follow them. Fortunately, from the ridge, I was able to spot a path lower in the gully. We traversed to the other side and started to follow a path down.

View on the descent. (Photo by Rohit)

Random flower!

Rohit on the descent.

Finally, we started to see some cairns and were able to follow that the rest of the way down. Soon enough, we were crossing the boulder fields just before we entered the trees. A little while after that, we were back to Crater Lake, and finally, back to Maroon Lake. The weather had stayed perfect the entire day!

The Bells.

This was an amazing hike that tested our abilities more than almost any other mountain. Obviously we still have some work to do with route following... but at least we can find our way back to it when we lose the trail! The views on this mountain are simply amazing! I am very proud of the way Rohit and I were able to work together and achieve these summits. It is amazing to finally climb the mountains that had me so nervous just a few short years ago.


0215 : Left car
0600 : Top of "2800 ft of suck"
0715 : Summit of Maroon Peak
0745 : Depart Summit
0920 : Summit of North Maroon
1005 : Depart Summit
1320 : Back to Car

Total : 11 hrs 5 min

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

Comments or Questions
Nice Pics, Good Narrative
07/28/2014 16:57
Congratulations on completing a difficult route. What was your round trip time?

07/28/2014 17:04
I edited the report and added the times at the bottom.

07/28/2014 17:17
Mike and Rohit,
All is well that ends well. Congratulations on climbing these two beauties via the traverse. Glad the weather was good for you two.

Super trip report and thanks for the photos.


Exiled Michigander
Another Fine Job
07/28/2014 17:48
Good work, boys . . . you make a great team. That traverse looks intimidating as hell!

Thank goodness you weren't on Maroon the day previously when Stiffler_from_Denver was on it; I don't think Maroon's summit could have handled two Yinzers at the same time.

07/28/2014 17:55
Last year on Longs Peak I met another person carrying a Terrible Towel. Needless to say... it was an awesome summit! HAHA.

Steve Climber
07/28/2014 18:06
Is a trip report

nice work Mike and Rohit!!!

07/28/2014 19:52
Thanks for sharing the pictures! I think I am still several years away from not feeling so nervous about those 2 peaks!

Bells vs. LB/Blanca
08/27/2014 15:10
How did the entire route compare? I know difficulty is a little subjective but LB/Traverse/Blanca vs. Maroon/Traverse/North Maroon?

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