Peak(s):  Pyramid Peak  -  14,029 feet
Date Posted:  08/23/2015
Modified:  04/15/2016
Date Climbed:   08/05/2015
Author:  MtnHub
Additional Members:   msoane
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 Pyramid Perfection   


Pyramid Perfection


August 5, 2015

Trailhead: Maroon Lake
Elevation Gain: 4,500'
RT Distance: 8.25 miles

Climbers: msoane (Mark) and MtnHub (Doug)


Introduction:


Ever since I bagged Capitol Peak a few years ago I've wanted to get back into the Elk Mountains again. Pyramid or North Maroon were especially tempting since I've never seen the Bells and that is such a fabulously scenic area.

Living out of state and not having anyone in my immediate family to climb with, it can be somewhat of a challenge to find climbing partners ahead of time. And since I don't do overnight camping, I also need to make motel reservations well in advance, especially in such a busy area as Aspen or the surrounding towns where lodging fills up quickly. So earlier this spring I found a room to rent in Glenwood Springs hoping I would be able to scare up a climbing partner by that time.

My wife and I spent the first part of our 2015 vacation in the Denver area visiting relatives. I did manage to squeeze in a climb in the Never Summer Mountains with some friends that first week. And I was lucky enough to find a partner for the Crestone Needle a few days later as well.

We then spent a few nights in Leadville, once again visiting a cousin living there, and I was thinking about just getting in a quick repeat climb somewhere nearby in the Sawatch during that stay. Although I wasn't originally planning to do another Notch Mountain/Holy Cross loop since I had just done that last year (that is a favorite of mine!), I answered a late request for a partner who wanted to go over the Halo Ridge so I got that climb in too.

The weather was even cooperating with me in all of these outings and I was feeling pretty fortunate at this point. We were into our second week, driving to Glenwood Springs to spend a few more days in a new place. But I still hadn't found anyone interested in joining me for an Elk climb.

I took a couple of days to recover from the Holy Cross climb and we just enjoyed the town, reading, hanging out at a coffee house, and going to the library. I put one last partner request on the site two days before we were to leave for Estes Park for our final week in CO. I knew it would be a long shot to find anyone this late, so in my mind I was beginning to accept the fact that I may have to go solo, and may only go as far as I felt comfortable, scoping out the route this year to finish it next season. The more technical parts of these mountains are not ones I wanted to do alone.

The day before my climb I did receive a couple of inquiries, but they both fell through. But about two minutes before my computer time expired at the library, I received an email asking if I still needed a partner. I wrote him back literally seconds before my session closed down and gave him my cell number. Ten minutes later I received a call from Mark. He sounded very promising and we made arrangements to meet at the Maroon Lake parking area the next morning at 5:00am. He ended up being the perfect partner for a perfect climb.


The Climb:

After having one of the best pre-climb nights I've ever had (I must have slept almost 5 hours!), I rise at 3:00am feeling good. I take the drive up to Aspen at a slow and leisurely pace. I've learned the early hours of the morning are a prime time for seeing (and possibly hitting!) wildlife and the last thing I want to do is get into an accident before I even arrive at a trailhead. I counted 7 deer at different times grazing along the side of the road driving to Tigiwon Road a few days ago. And last year, driving to the Longs Peak Ranger Station, I had to swerve into the other lane along Highway 7 to avoid hitting a big bull elk walking toward me on my side of the road.

I reach the parking lot around 4:30 and wait for Mark who arrives about 20 minutes later. He immediately strikes me as an excellent partner as we chat and get to know each other better. He was a board member for the CFI for 15 years.

We start up the trail shortly after 5:00 as planned. He has done Maroon, so he is somewhat familiar with the valley trail. When it branches off to the southeast, it climbs steeply up the slope. Our hiking styles are similar and our pace is very compatible. Already I feel very fortunate to be doing this climb with him.

The higher we climb the higher the sun gets and soon its blazing light illuminates the glorious Bells at the end of the gulch. It is as marvelous as I anticipated! Even better! And the way the light shines on the opposing ridges is simply stunning!
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The Maroon Bells bathed in sunlight.


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Maroon Lake.


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Love the way the sunlight catches the ridges!


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Rich, luscious, green-robed towers!


We climb above the trees in a series of tight switchbacks, and the trail turns into boulders and talus arcing over a ridge. Very soon we get our first glimpse of Pyramid Peak.
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Our goal is in sight; coming up to the amphitheater.


Just below the amphitheater we need to cross two large but fairly level snowfields.
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Mark crossing the first snowfield, heading up to the amphitheater.


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Looking back from the snowfield.


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Now above both snowfields.


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Looking back once more.


It is entirely a rock-hop anymore and when we rise into the amphitheater itself, we see the floor is not flat. We need to climb down and over several waves of talus to reach the far corner where the trail climbs up a gully.
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At the amphitheater, aiming across to the gully we need to ascend.


The gully is quite steep and loose and the going can be slow. We both need to stop and catch our breath many times.
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A third of the way up the gully, looking back down into the amphitheater.


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Mark making steady progress up the gully.


But as we climb higher, the views across the way become evermore beautiful. The perspective of Snowmass and Capitol from this point of view are difficult to describe in words! I could gaze from here forever!
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Love this perspective of Capitol and Snowmass!


There are still large sections of the gully that are very loose and slippery, and whenever we can, we opt for the solid rocks on the side.
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Trying to avoid the icky loose stuff in the middle.


But we finally make it to the saddle and we take a moment to rest again and look over the route ahead of us. We still need to climb over 1,000' in about a mile's distance. But this is what really draws us. We get to become more intimate with the mountain and discover its every nook and cranny.
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Finally coming up to the saddle.


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Now comes the fun, but trickier stuff.


It's almost impossible not to come across goats in this area anymore. We don't see a lot of them, but do encounter a few who study us closely. Fortunately they stay their distance and are not a nuisance. You always have to be aware of any above us so they don't kick rocks down on us.
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Guardian of the moon.


Regularly spaced cairns lead us up the route well. It is rare that you don't find any in critical places to direct you and keep you on track. The rock can be loose but with care and close observation it is an amazingly fun climb. Pyramid offers such a wide variety of climbing -- scrambles, ledges, chimneys, etc!

We come to the famous "Leap of Faith" but as I expect it is nothing to be too concerned over. A person with long legs can almost step across it. Immediately after turning a corner we come upon the "Ledges" which again really isn't a big deal. It looks so much scarier than it truly is, and falling off them would only drop you down about 25-30 feet, not thousands. Certainly far enough to get seriously hurt or killed, but it is not like looking down sides of Capitol's Knife Edge. But they are still immensely fun and they offer super photo opps.
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Crossing the narrow ledges.


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But there is still a lot a great climbing to be done. We weave over to the section called the Green Rock. This is a steep, knobby rock surface that grants you excellent climbing. It reminds me a lot of the rock I recently found on the Crestone Needle. It is knobby enough to feel secure with good hand and footholds but steep enough that you want to use 3-point contact at nearly all times. Consequently I didn't have a free hand often enough to get any pictures during this part.
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Climbing up towards the Green Rock.


And the views just keep getting better, if that's even possible.
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What a wonderful view!


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Looking down the trail.


Mark arrives at the Pyramid summit around 10:45 and I follow right behind him. We congratulate each other and take a few pictures. No superlatives can properly describe my feelings! This has been one of the best climbs of my life!
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Nearing the summit.


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MtnHub coming up to the summit. (Photo by Mark)


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Doug and Mark: partners in climb.


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The beautiful Bells!


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Snowmass and Capitol, and red rock in between.


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Too stunning for words!


Calm and mostly sunny, we enjoy a good 30-45 minutes of pure pleasure on the top before we finally need to begin our descent. It is still fairly slow going because of the terrain, but certainly less exertion than it was climbing up.
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Headin' down again.


We have more fun on the Ledges again.
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Back on the ledges.


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(Photo by Mark)


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(Photo by Mark)


Just as we come to the saddle at the top of the gully, we meet a lone climber coming up. He is only the fourth person we've seen today and he asks us a few questions about the route.
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Aiming towards the saddle.


I was really dreading the slick, loose stuff in the gully, thinking I would be falling on my butt several times, but I don't find it as awful as I expected. The talus floor of the amphitheater, however, seemed to go on much longer than I remembered, and I normally like boulder-hopping.

Once we hit the valley I take one last shot of the royal mountain peeking over the trees bidding me 'goodbye.' I may be back to see you again!
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One last look at Pyramid before following the Creek trail out.


And now that we have daylight to see the Bells over Lake Maroon, I spend a lingering moment there as well.
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The marvelous Bells at Maroon Lake.



Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions
rajz06
User
Excellent...
08/24/2015 18:10
pictures and description. It’s certainly shaping up to be a fruitful summer in CO for you!


MtnHub
User
Thanks, Raj!
08/25/2015 11:02
Yes, unlike all the problems with weather and partners that I had last year, this year everything fell together perfectly. I feel very fortunate.


Jay521
User
Nice!
08/25/2015 11:19
I will be reading this one many more times in prep for my next try. Thanks for posting this, Doug!


MtnHub
User
Thanks, Jay!
08/27/2015 21:20
And if you don’t get it in before next July/Aug, let me know. I would seriously consider doing this again next year, or even making it another annual climb. Would be great to have a partner lined up ahead of time.


Filip
Thanks for the review
09/15/2015 19:50
great descriptions. I had some worrisome thoughts about the leap and ledge. Good to hear that I shouldn’t over stress it. Thanks for the insight and pics.


MtnHub
User
L & L
09/18/2015 14:09
I didn’t find them particularly scary at all; really quite fun! Just stay focused and don’t be careless and you should be fine. Good luck!



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