Peak(s):  North Maroon Peak  -  14,022 feet
Maroon Peak  -  14,163 feet
Date Posted:  08/12/2019
Date Climbed:   08/09/2019
Author:  daway8
 One Bell at a Time   

The Deadly Bells - that's the nickname I heard when I first visited the Maroon Bells years ago and I remember thinking 'I'm never going to try to climb those mountains!' Well now I've climbed them and am only one peak away from having climbed all 58 14ers in Colorado!!

Here's an overview of some key things to be covered in this trip report - see section headings in bold to jump to info of interest:

  • A detailed breakdown of the infamous class 4 chimney on North Maroon
  • Lots of photos of the gullies on each peak with people for scale (thanks everyone who teamed up with me at different times!)
  • The crazy parking situation at Maroon Bells with breakdown of alternatives and costs
  • Discussion of the bear situation and the aggressiveness of the park rangers on behalf of the bears
  • Evaluation of the use of microspikes for travelling on loose dirt/scree sections (as suggested recently by various users on this site)
  • Comparisons on the overall difficulty of the routes and route finding vs. other key peaks
  • A breakdown of my times

The Bells (North Maroon in front, Maroon Peak back to the left) as viewed from Crater Lake.


I'll start with some comparisons:

Difficulty: I felt the Chimney on North Maroon was the most difficult technical section on any standard 14er route (having only Little Bear left to do). I rank it as more difficult (but much less exposed) than the Sunlight summit block. See detailed analysis later in the report.

Steepness of gullies: The Bells look so epic from afar that you'd think the gullies would be crazy steep but I had trekking poles in hand for much of the time for the gullies on both peaks, as opposed to Crestone Needle which was so steep I felt I absolutely had to stash my poles. The Maroon Peak gullies felt steeper than North Maroon.

Exposure: There are many spots where the trail comes close to pretty epic exposure - close to the same league as the far side of the summit on Uncompahgre - but, like Uncompahgre, you don't typically have to go up next to the most epic spots if you don't want to. There are however various spots where there is unavoidable exposure but none with the same feel as the first descent from the summit of Pyramid where it bulges out leaving you seeing only sky below for a moment. Still, if you're bothered by heights these peaks will give you some trouble.

Route finding: These peaks definitely had much more challenging route finding than your average 14er but if you study the routes in advance, have photos with you of at least a few key spots (esp. getting into/out of the gullies) then it's not too bad overall. The ending section on Maroon Peak feels a little more free-form than most other peaks that have just one definite path to the summit.

Length of challenging sections: Many peaks have a long, trivial approach with perhaps a short challenging stint near the end. Both the Bells have a long easy approach to begin with but in both cases, once you hit the gullies things get more challenging and stay that way for a while. Take that under consideration when estimating the time required (see my times with full breakdowns at the end of the report).

Beauty: Unsurpassed - there's a reason so many tourists flock out here...


Parking can be a significant nuisance especially if you're planning to stay in the region more than one night as I did (since I wasn't doing the traverse). Last year, when I did Pyramid, I just waited to around 10pm to drive up the road, paid the $10 fee in the self service station, drove past the "Lot Full" signs and managed to get an open spot in the overnight lot next to Maroon Lake. Then I just napped in the passenger seat of my Jeep for a little bit before starting the hike at 2:45am. Tent camping in this area is clearly prohibited. Sleeping in your vehicle is a bit of a gray area - lots of people have done it but I've heard of a person or two getting slapped with a fine of $100 or more for doing so.

So this time I decided to make sure I was fully official, especially since I was planning to stay 2 nights to allow early starts for both peaks without needing to do the 4.5 hour drive on the same morning as the first climb. Since I was also trying to minimize vacation time being burnt I did a half day on Thursday and got to the ranger booth just a little bit after 5pm on Thursday August 8. There were several cars already in line and once I reached the front of the line I was told "sorry, I just sold the last available slot for the overnight lots to the people in the vehicle right in front of you." AAAAHHHH!!! I asked about the overflow lot and was told that was full as well. The only option, I was told, was to try to get an Uber ride to the lake.

Frustrated but determined I returned to Aspen Highlands (where tourist hop on the bus to go to Maroon Lake), parked in the garage, found a spot with cell coverage, signed up for Uber, downloaded the app (without WiFi), and submitted a request for a ride. Once the request was placed I think it only took about 10-15 minutes for my ride to show up and by 6:15pm I was finally being dropped off at Maroon Lake.


$25 for parking in Aspen Highlands garage (inside fully shaded area) from Thursday evening until Saturday at 4:45pm (I had expected worse hearing it was $25/day so I was glad it was only $25 total).

$17.62 + tip for Uber ride from Aspen Highlands to Maroon Lake (I was very grateful he got me there quick so I gave the guy a $10 tip)

Bus ride from Maroon Lake to Aspen Highlands - no charge (that was a nice change!)

Total costs incurred = $52.62 Ouch.

What's even worse was that the next day one of the guys I met up with said he came in later Thursday night and found the overflow lot half empty!!!! AAARRRGGHH!!!

Alternatives: The road to Maroon Lake is closed to all except buses from 8am to 5pm. The ranger booth is reportedly staffed from 7am to 7pm. If you come before 7am or after 7pm you can drive by the ranger booth, pay at the self service station, ignore the Lot Full signs (I understand they're left up 24/7/365) and hope you get a spot in the overnight or overflow lot. If not, and you're only there one day you might risk parking in the day use lot (with a possible quick 'nap' in the vehicle before starting) but that would be bending regulations pretty far and depending who's on duty that night you might get burned. Otherwise if you get there between 8am and 5pm you could ride the bus but be aware they only have space for about 3 or 4 large backpacks on a given bus (as I found out on the return). Or you could maybe park on Castle Creek road or some other place that's free and get an Uber but since they charge according to distance/time that may or may not be cheaper than parking at Aspen Highlands.

One other tip - when I was waiting in line at the ranger booth (where the vehicle in front of me got the alleged last spot for the overnight lots) several people with some manner of pass got waved by the booth (a ranger had come up to me while I was waiting and asked if I had one). If I do something like this again maybe I'll research that pass so I can bypass the booth and find out for myself if the lot is really full.

So in short, don't overlook the potentially bothersome parking issue, especially if you're spending more than one night in the area.

Bears/Camping at Crater Lake

Bear canisters are required when camping at Crater Lake!!! The park rangers will literally hunt you down and send you back to town to get one if you don't have one (fortunately I did but someone nearby didn't and was sent packing...). I believe they said an Ursack is acceptable too. So the designated campsites next to Crater Lake are set way, way, way back from the lake. Despite the numbered signs you'll think you must surely not be on the right path since it seems you have to walk so far back from the lake (but that's good since the masses of tourists do make it out to Crater Lake in only a little smaller number than Maroon Lake - as I was surprised to discover).

But the park rangers patrol these campsites heavily because a few years ago they had major bear problems where the bears would raid campsites, slash open tents, etc which made them have to kill several bears, all because some people were too careless to properly store their food. There have been no further incidents with bears in the last few years since the park rangers are extremely vigilant about patrolling around and enforcing proper food storage.

How vigilant? Well I did have a bear canister but it was inside multiple layers of additional protection including an odor proof bag and a pack cover, among other layers. But all the park ranger could see when they came across the spot where I stashed my food was the pack cover wrapped around the rest. I returned to find a long note (politely) threatening a $100 fine and basically suggesting, in a polite manner, that I should leave the backcountry and camp elsewhere. I later came across the young lady in ranger uniform who left the note and explained my layering system. She was happy to hear that but said she already radioed in a report and that someone else would be stopping by to check. Sure enough, a while later a young park ranger named Caleb stopped by the campsite and made me open up everything up to prove there was indeed a bear canister inside.

So in short, they are very, very serious about enforcing proper food storage at Crater Lake - they will make you leave if you don't have a bear canister or Ursack!!!

North Maroon

Sunrise silhouettes going up North Maroon.
Sun about to rise with Maroon Lake barely visible in center.

The Bells are some of the most rugged and beautiful peaks in the entire state. It's no wonder the masses flock out there. They are also not trivial peaks and the final approach to the summit for both is long and time consuming and probably not fun locations to be caught in a storm. Thus early starts are even more highly recommended than usual for these peaks. I prefer to time hikes like these such that I try to get to the base of the difficult sections at about the time it starts to get light.

For North Maroon this meant getting to the rock glacier just before the gullies right around sunrise. It was here that I stopped to put on my microspikes since there was a short but somewhat steep section of loose dirt to go up. I had taken a couple steps up onto it with just my boots and slid with each step. Once I put my microspikes on (based on reading recommendations on this site) I was able to stroll right up this loose dirt with zero slippage. Given how much loose dirt/small rocks there were on this trail I left my microspikes on for much of the route up until near the chimney and was extremely pleased with their performance. I'll give a more detailed evaluation a little later in the report...

In the meantime a guy named Adrian caught up to me as I was putting on my microspikes and climbing helmet and we did the remainder of the route together.

Rock glacier just before the gullies on North Maroon - this was the first spot where I pulled out the microspikes for going up loose dirt.
Adrian going up the first gully - much of the route is loose dirt/rock of varying degrees of steepness.

I had been concerned about the gullies given how epic these peaks look from a distance but the 1st gully in particular was absolutely trivial, though I was happy to have the microspikes on since they allowed for sure footing. I looked behind me from time to time and saw no evidence of doing any damage to the trail - if anything I was perhaps reducing wear on the trail by avoiding the slips that erode the steep sections.

Towards the top of the 1st gully
Partway up the second gully. Again lots of sometimes steep loose dirt for which microspikes prevented slipping on.

Both of the gullies were very trivial to go up. By trivial I mean zero technical moves required, but it does take a good bit of time. The 2nd one is steeper, especially near the top but you can comfortably descend facing out so it's not like you're going up a rock wall at a climbing gym. I emphasize that just because of how extreme these peaks looks from down near the lakes. But the harder stuff comes after the gullies on North Maroon...

Adrian coming up to some class 3 scrambling above the 2nd gully.
The terrain gets steeper and more exposed above the gullies.

More scrambling up...

There were a couple spots where we momentarily lost the trail in the section above the 2nd gully and added a couple class 3+ moves as a result but nothing too dramatic - although with the way some of the photos above are framed they look much more dramatic than I recall it feeling at the time - but I'm not bothered by exposure as long as my feet are firmly planted on the ground, as they always were through these sections.

North Maroon Chimney

It's a little hard to spot the chimney until you're right up next to it.
Guide to the moves needed to get up the chimney

As I did for the infamous summit block on Sunlight, I'll also offer a step by step breakdown of the infamous North Maroon chimney. I felt like this obstacle was MUCH more difficult than the Sunlight summit block - but I'm the guy who jumped off the summit block and wasn't bothered by the epic exposure up there. This chimney has no where near the exposure of Sunlight but the moves were, in my opinion, much more technically challenging, and there is real danger of significant injury here if you were to fall in the wrong way - you probably won't die if you fall off but could very well break some bones. I'm not a technical climber, as you will likely be able to deduce while reading this, so I hope this breakdown and accompanying pictures will be useful for others who don't have much in the way of technical climbing skills. If you are a true technical climber you'll probably laugh this obstacle off as a fun little warm-up, but if you're like me you'll pause for a moment or two debating if you really want to go up this thing...

Even so, on the way down I thought at one point we might have somehow bypassed it and I was actually really disappointed thinking I wouldn't have the chance to see how I could handle the downclimb. so I was happy once I realized we were indeed on course to go back down it - though I had some second thoughts for a moment upon looking down it...

Position 1 - getting up here is one of the most difficult parts.
Position 2 - an easy step up followed by possibly bracing your back up against the wall as you pull up to position 3

Position 3 - atop the large rock in the middle
Position 4 - a somewhat stretchy move stepping and reaching over to pull yourself up on top.

I led on the way up and the way down so have shots from both directions of Adrian taking this on which helps to see what's involved.

Position 4 - descent. Step down off the top onto a small rock.
Position 3 - nice big comfy rock in the middle of the chimney

Position 2 - lowering yourself down onto a small lip of rock.
Position 1 - feet on first large landing area. Note below on left and right are the only footholds to get back down.

So here's a written overview to go with the images above:

Step 1: Pull yourself up onto position 1. You'll note from the last photo above there are no good footholds high enough to step up here (at least not for a rookie climber). I had to pull myself up with my arms.

Step 2: If you made it up to position 1 it's easy to get your feet up to position 2. You might want to push your back up against the wall as you mount up onto position 3.

Step 3: Position 3 has some excellent handholds that help you get up on here and this is a large flat rock that gives you a comfortable place from which to evaluate what's next.

Step 4: There's a small foothold over from position 3 and some very good handholds in the form of some cracks which allow you to pull up onto the top. But this move did require a little stretching for me (I'm 6'2" FYI). There are a few possible hand and foothold options here for folks without the same reach.

Step 5: Wipe the sweat off your brow - you made it!

In reverse:

Step 5: You'll want to study your hand and footholds since it's hard to see as you lower yourself in.

Step 4: You'll probably want to lead with your left foot to step over to position 3, so make sure you position yourself accordingly. There's one sort of long rock lip that can accommodate both feet on it.

Step 3: This is the easiest spot and a good place to stop for another quick study of the holds below.

Step 2: easiest if you face your back to the opposite wall so you can brace your back against it if needed.

Step 1: stepping down onto position 1 from position 2 is really easy. Lowering back down to the ground is where it gets freaky. There might be a better way to do it but the only option I could work out was to peek down at where the footholds were then lower myself by my arms with my feet dangling and feeling around blindly for the footholds I knew were below. The left foothold is where I landed first, after a nerve wracking couple seconds of thinking 'come on, where's that foothold at?!' But then my left foot touched down and I was able to easily lower my right foot to it's spot and finally step down. Someone shorter than me might struggle more but I don't think my arms were quite fully extended on this move so it's not a show stopper - plus I've heard you can go around if needed.

Overall evaluation: Having completed 57 of the 14ers (only Little Bear remaining) I can easily say this was by far the most challenging/uncomfortable move I have made on any 14er. It lacks the dramatic exposure of the Sunlight summit block but, in my opinion, is more technically challenging. I'm the kind of guy who is more unnerved by needing to put all my weight on my arms (an especially that blind lower down on the way back) than am I by exposure (I walked across much of the Knife Edge on Capitol and thought it was fun!). So based on those details you can decide for yourself how you're likely to feel taking on this obstacle. If technical climbing is your thing I doubt you'll even blink an eye at this.

North Maroon continued

A few more notes on things past the chimney. On the way up we swung way out to climbers left past the chimney when we should have just continued straight up the ridgeline. That route worked but it was really ugly, loose rocks on a steep slope over significant exposure. Not something I would chose to repeat (if you look at the GPX file embedded below it's easy to spot on North Maroon where the tracks swing way up to the NW of the ridge on the way up. Don't go that way - stick to the ridgeline.

Adrian atop some impressive cliffs below the last pitch to the summit.
Far point is where you should come up from after passing the chimney. We came up from center left of photo.

View of Maroon Peak from North Maroon. Traverse looks deceptively easy/short from this angle - don't be fooled!
View looking over at Snowmass (with plenty of snow) and Capitol's infamous Knife Edge.

Finally, just a couple more words on the descent. The photos below give a little more scale to the gullies and also give some feel for how much loose dirt/small rocks you'll be descending. I found the microspikes to be invaluable for helping me keep rock solid footing the entire time. This became even more apparent on Maroon Peak so I'll give additional analysis of the microspike issue below in that section.

Only other climber we saw all day - turned back below chimney due to iffy looking weather.
Again the gullies on North Maroon look imposing but are surprisingly easy to walk up/down.

One more photo with Adrian providing some scale after coming down the 2nd gully. It's big but not hard.

Maroon Peak

I again started well before sunrise with the thought of trying to get to the ridgeline where things get ugly at about the time the sun came up. But an early morning storm that hit just as I was struggling in the dark with some route finding issues spooked me enough to stop and shelter near a large rock formation for a while, waiting to see if the storm would pass and waiting for enough light to evaluate the clouds, plus studying the terrain/maps to see what viable areas I would have to shelter at what points along the trail if lighting started up (it never did). I stalled out for a good 30 minutes while studying options and debating what to do but eventually the rain lessened, the sky got lighter and I decided to continue up with a careful eye on the sky.

I ended up going across a small patch of snow that only had mountain goats tracks in it but which got me back on track with the main trail.

Oh, one note about the patch between the campsites and where you start going up the main climb - there is a ton of foliage down in the lower section of the trail and it's overgrown enough that if there was rain the night before you can expect to get wet head to foot passing through it - dress accordingly...

Small patch of snow I crossed to relocate main trail.
Example of the ugly, slippery dirt on much of the 2,800ft ascent up to the ridge - this is where microspikes shine!

Microspikes on dirt/small loose rocks

Ok, so now it's finally time to do a more in depth look at the microspike issue. I saw some threads not long ago in the forum about people using microspikes on loose dirt/scree/etc. My initial reaction, as was the case with many others, was that seemed really bizarre, didn't sound like something that would work and seemed like it would destroy the microspikes. There was the usual amount of debate about the perks and pitfalls of using microspikes this way but I saw enough people giving strong reviews of having done this for a long time that I decided to give it a try. The results were phenomenal.

The above picture shows some of the loose dirt that is typical of the long, long, long section of getting up to the ridgeline on Maroon Peak - from which point you enter into the ugly terrain on that peak. But there's 2,800ft of going up loose dirt to get there. On the way down it was even more dramatic than the way up. I caught up to some guys descending as if they were standing still. I paused for a brief chat and one of the guys said "this is abysmal!" I told them I was flying down it no problem with my microspikes to which he replied with a mildly disgusted look on his face, "yeah, I noticed."

Far from his evaluation of the trail that it was "abysmal" I was actually thinking something I would have never conceived of thinking before: "this is actually pretty cool!" I went down almost the entire thing face forward with toes pointing downhill (note I did have trekking poles for balance but never had to catch myself with them since the footing was so solid). There were only a few times that I decided to side step a really steep section but that may not have been really necessary.

2,800 feet of descending down loose dirt - down in 1 hour NOT ONE SINGLE SLIP!!!

Also, going up the gullies - as you'll see in a little bit - I strolled right up the center dirt sections and got to the top with enough time to leisurely study the route photos while the rest of the folks I was with slowly climbed up the rocks along the edge. And again - no slippage going up or down the gullies!

Finally wear and tear: inspection upon returning home showed no breakage and fairly minimal wear.

Cautions: One thing to note is that if you leave these on while going over solid rock you'll want to step very gently, as that's when you're at most risk of breaking them. You don't want to be stomping in these or jumping down onto rocks, etc. Yes, there's a risk you could destroy your spikes by using them on something other than snow/ice but frankly, after using them on these mountains I wouldn't hesitate a moment if I needed to buy a new pair for every single mountain I climbed - that's how profound the difference was. And all indications are mine are going to last a good while yet, just as others have reported using the same pair for years on similar terrain. You'll obviously need to take these off going up the Chimney on North Maroon and while going over extended sections of solid rocks and use common sense when deciding how steep of a route to go up or down, especially if there is much exposure.

One more caution - sometimes I was lazy and left the spikes on while scrambling over large rocks. They are surprisingly grippy even on smooth rock faces - so much so that a time or two when trying to slide my foot along a rock I was going over I found that I couldn't because the microspikes had so much grip. You could potentially trip yourself this way if you're not careful. That's why I'd recommend removing them for rock scrambling.

What about wear and tear on the trails? Valid question. I have three observation from which you can make your own conclusions:

1) On much of the dirt trails I saw no more marks left on the trail than from regular boots. Sometimes it leaves minor divots.

2) If left on when taking a few steps over solid rock they can leave scratch marks on the rocks.

3) When used on steep, loose dirt people in regular boots create a lot of erosion by slipping, sliding and knocking dirt/rocks all over. With spikes on you can go down the identical section (such as the photo above) with ZERO slipping and therefore practically no erosion compared to people without spikes.

Conclusions: Microspikes on loose dirt/small rocks make as much difference as wearing climbing shoes vs. tennis shoes going up a rock face - it'll blow your mind how solid and sure it makes your footing on what otherwise, in the words of that hiker, tends to be "abysmal." I'm sure some people will still freak out over this - if you don't like the idea, don't do it. If you're worried about wear and tear maybe have one pair for winter and one pair for summer. But personally, I don't think I'll ever set foot on a mountain again without a pair of microspikes in my pack (and no I'm not being paid by Kahtoola - or anyone else - to write this trip report, lol).

Maroon Peak continued

Ok, enough about microspkes for now. Let's take a look at where Maroon Peak gets more challenging.

The red speck in the middle is another David taking a direct line to the ridge.

While I was hunkered down waiting to see if the rainstorm was going to become a thunderstorm, I noticed a headlamp above me which seemed to pause for a while too and then keep going. As it became light I recognized this climber was not on the standard route but, where the standard route swings way to the south to pick up the ridge, he just took a straight line towards it. Not knowing if that was intentional or not I called out and waved with my poles to indicate the direction of the main trail. He seemed to notice but kept on going up. Turns out despite his "shortcut" I made it up to the ridge a little before him and waited for this other David to get to the ridge, at which point we stuck together until the summit.

The challenging terrain begins at the ridge for Maroon Peak.

This section actually starts out with a really easy to follow trail.

The other David at the top of the chimney. This was trivial in the extreme compared to North Maroon.
The large crack at the top of the chimney. In the photos this looks tricky but it's super easy to just step right up.

There was a group of 4 that came up to the ridge shortly behind me but took a break there for a bit before later catching up and sticking close for much of the climb to the summit. Unfortunately I didn't get their names typed into my phone so I'll just refer to them as the "Group of 4", or G4 for short. They caught up to us just as we were getting to where the route finding was becoming a bit more tricky. One of them remarked on the summit that the route finding wasn't really all that bad on this peak. "Yeah," I responded, "because you weren't in the front." This is definitely one of those peaks where it's really useful to have the route photos downloaded on your phone (with hardcopy backup) and to stop and look ahead, especially when getting ready to do the gullies, so you know where to come out.

If you've done that, and studied the route, I suppose I would agree that the route finding wasn't really all that bad but it's certainly not like Bierstadt which you could almost walk up blindfolded - you do have to search around at times to get in/out of gullies and find turns, etc. Plus there's a bit more free-form near the end.

Rough overview of the route up gully 1, over to and up then out of gully 2.

There's a large, long dark crack at the bottom of gully 1 where there was a little water flowing down through. The easiest way up is to start just to the right of that dark crack. As others have noted, gully 2 is full of loose dirt and rocks while gully 1 is generally more stable. There's one oddly shaped whitesh/gray rock just above where you come out of gully 1 to the crossover ledge. That served as a good visual marker along with the cairns on the ledge - which is hard to see in the photo but stands out better when you're actually there.

Looking back up at the G4 after we dropped down to the bottom of the gullies.
On the right is a false gully that would take you to the right of the large rock in top center - don't go there. Stay just to the right of the dark crack at left.

Once we dropped down to the gullies it was surprising how totally the appearance changed. There's a false gully just to the right of gully 1, that at first glance, standing below I couldn't tell which was the gully I was supposed to go up so I called up to the G4 and asked which one was gully 1. They couldn't even see the false gully from their viewpoint (see photo above with route marked out) and I didn't at first recognize the large dark crack from where I was standing. On the immediate right side of that crack are some good footholds to walk up into gully 1 from.

Gully 1 with the other David midway and the G4 just starting. Picture makes it look much steeper than actual.
The other David demonstrating how the rocks on climbers right of gully 1 make a decent staircase partway

At the top of gully 1 (cairn in foreground) with the G4 coming up. Again the angle looks exaggerated.
From crossover looking up gully 2. The exit is just below the snow bank where the gray and light rock meet.

For gully 1 generally staying along the right side worked well as part of the way it was almost a staircase. Microspikes were very useful in spots where you had to walk on the dirt/loose rocks. The photos make the gullies look crazy steep but they really didn't feel that bad in person (but I've been hanging out at the top of 50 foot walls in the climbing gym to get myself used to such sights so I might be more numb to the exposure than people who haven't been up stuff like this before).

For gully 2 again staying on the right seemed best and this time the microspikes were worth their weight in gold as this gully was mostly loose dirt and small rocks on a steep angle. The spikes really earn their keep here.

David just leaving the crossover to come into gully 2.
The G4 on the crossover with David coming up gully 2. Taken from the top of the gully - this climb is much shorter.

This robot-shaped rock mentioned in the route description is HUGE!!! Wish I had taken a photo of someone next to it. Views all over are awesome!
David walking the ledges over to the Robot and the leader of G4 atop gully 2.

After going round the corner by the Robot and then dropping down a bit you come to the "broad gully." It's several times wider than the earlier ones. I plowed right up the center on what was mostly dirt while David and the G4 stuck to the rocks along climbers right. My microspikes allowed me to once again zip up the entire gully without a slip and got me to the top quick enough to relax and review photos of the upcoming route while waiting for the others to catch up. Can you tell I've really fallen in love with using microspikes on loose dirt sections like this?

David and the G4 coming up the broad gully.
David travelling the 150' climb - easier to go to climbers right midway up before turning back left to the edge.

Coming up out of the gully look for some subtle cairns just before and to climbers left of the notch. There's again some route finding involved and then even more as you come around to the cliffs where the route description mentions a 150' climb. On the GPX tracks you can see how I was going up to the NW then cut sharp to climbers right to more easily ascend before cutting hard left again. But on the way back down I stayed atop the ridge almost the entire way and then dropped down on what would have been climbers extreme right on photo above of David making the turn. This was from oversight rather than intention (there were some cairns here) but there were only a couple mildly sketchy moves needed to make it down.

Just before the push up to the final ridge the trail drops down. David is standing at the top of this section.
David and the G4 coming up a crack onto the final section of ridge below the summit.

The section going up to the final stretch of ridgeline dropped down a good bit before doubling back to gain the ridge. I'm not sure that drop was really worth it though it does keep you on very reasonable terrain. From there you still have another good chunk of ridge to get to the summit but it's very easy going. The summit views are amazing but they seem to limit it to 50 photos per trip report so I'll leave some of the views for you to discover.

One quick shout out to the young lady who was part of the G4 who made it to the summit of Maroon Peak with it being only her 3rd 14er! Way to jump right in there! (If anyone else is considering that it's probably good to follow her lead and team up with others. It's "only" a class 3 route but it's far from a trivial one and not a good one to go solo on with little experience unless you're just big on taking risks...).

On Maroon Peak with a marmot eyeing the other David's furry friend.

The descent was fairly straightforward other than the aforementioned diversion along the ridge. The microspikes were again highly valued when going down the loose gullies and a thousand times over when descending the never ending hill off the side of the main ridge. Somehow I bypassed the chimney on the way back without noticing it (it wasn't much of a chimney anyways compared to North Maroon...).

The main ridgeline coming back from the harder sections of the climb up Maroon Peak. This goes on and on and on...

I was shocked on the way back at how it seemed to take forever to get back to the end of the ridgeline after getting past all the gullies and such. This section seemed much shorter on the way up but never-ending on the way back.

After breaking down camp and hiking out with my full pack it was halfway amusing, halfway sad how easily I blew past all the tourist even though I had started the trail at 3:16am, had climbed a 14er with pushing in the neighborhood of 5k in elevation gain and was lugging a pack that weighed just under 40 lbs! In an attempt to be polite I would call out "Hey! How's it going?" or "Hello, how you doing?" as I came up behind them. Most didn't respond other than to step aside. Some whispered things to each other after I passed and in one case there was loud rapid speech in Japanese right after I passed by... I was glad to get one of the last spaces on the standing room only bus where there was just barely enough room to cram my pack into the storage space with 3 other packs.


North Maroon Friday August 9

4:24am start from campsite 4 at Crater Lake

4:34am at Maroon-Snowmass trail junction

~6am put on microspikes at rock glacier; joined by Adrian

6:48am base of 1st gully

7:22am crossing to 2nd gully

8:30am base of the infamous N. Maroon Chimney

9:13am North Maroon summit

9:28am start down

10:09am bottom of Chimney

10:54am bottom of 2nd gully

1:11pm back at campsite 4 by Crater Lake after leisurely descent chatting with Adrian

Maroon Peak Saturday August 10

3:16am start from campsite 4 by Crater Lake

3:37am pass by campsites 10, 11 = well beyond Crater Lake

4:19am turnoff for Maroon Peak trail

5am first rain drops - slow pace while examining terrain and debating what to do

6:47am continue up east slopes after first a pit stop in the willows then a long delay debating on whether to continue up during rainstorm

8am finally reach top of east slopes and gain the ridgeline. Rest for bit, chat with G4 when they catch up, then go over and wait up for a bit for the other David to come up the "shortcut"

Not sure when exactly we got moving...

8:42am sitting near base of the gullies, studying the route while taking a snack break.

9am start up gully 1

9:13am reach 2nd gully

9:17am top of 2nd gully

10:22am summit

11:11am begin descent

12:08pm bottom of first gully

12:35pm back at the far, far, far, far, far end of the ridgeline - why did that ridgeline seem so much longer in this direction??

1:30pm back down at 10,800ft after making excellent time down the loose dirt trail thanks to my microspikes (again zero slips the whole way down!)

2:42pm camp torn down, on the move

3:20pm on the bus

*Note: For some reason it's not letting me upload my combined GPX like I've done before so I'm just sticking the North Maroon tracks in for now - perhaps later I can edit and get the combined tracks to work, since they only let you upload one gpx file...

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 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 50 51 52 53

Comments or Questions
Great job!
08/13/2019 06:41
Another top notch report! Gets me fired up for south maroon. Congrats on almost being done!

Very Awesome!
08/13/2019 11:13
Thanks for such a great report! The pictures were fantastic, also!

08/13/2019 11:25
This is an extremely useful report. Great pics, great info and great insight. Looking to get up there soon. Thank you!

Great report!
08/13/2019 15:50
I can definitely confirm that the N. Maroon chimney is a lot more intimidating in person than it looks in pictures. My girlfriend really struggled climbing back down through it.

I don't think any individual thing on the Little Bear standard route is as hard as the chimney, but it's much longer and more sustained, plus it's a bit wetter this year due to all of the late snow.

08/14/2019 07:23
I'll be using your trip report on my summit attempt as well as the website.

Thank you
08/14/2019 20:26
One the best reports I have read in a long time.

Crater lake
08/15/2019 18:20
Great report and tips! Are all the sites designated? Did they all look occupied both nights? Wondering about site and parking availability arriving late on a Friday, or if chances are better car camping at Lincoln Creek.

Re: Crater lake
08/15/2019 21:15
At Crater Lake it is designated sites ONLY - strictly enforced by patrolling park rangers (as is the bear canister rule). There are 11 sites and they're set so far back off the trail I didn't bother to investigate the other sites since I got lucky and found campsite 4 open (it was the first I decided to check). Adjacent campsite 5 was in use Thursday night but open Friday night and nearby site 3 I think I heard people on at least one night (so that campsite 3-5 cluster is worth trying). But if they are filled there is dispersed camping available about 1 mile past Crater Lake towards Maroon Peak. Parking is a total gamble. I'd say go after 7pm when the booth is closed and just drive up and look. Or arrive very early am if just doing a one day hike - not sure at what time it becomes legit to park in the day lot...

Re: Crater Lake
08/15/2019 21:23
thanks, I heard about some distance like a a mile past those being less/unrestricted, that's a bit of up and down backtracking though and not sure if there's good spots exactly a mile out. Will likely be getting there a bit after 7, but it seems easier to find a spot off 82 and do a day trip. Not sure if those sites are filled by peak baggers or loopers - figure the 4PL would go in more than 2 miles.

One for the microspikes!
09/02/2019 18:13
I think i talked about using them in some reports and people thought i was bizarre. I brought it up again on the forum because i believe in them that much. I think they cause less damage than banana peeling for sure and certainly safer for the hiker. To me they have been invaluable. Good luck on little bear, you'll love it. Agree with above, its longer but fun. Little scary down climb. We stayed more to the left side to avoid the wet rock. Great report, love the organization.

Excellent report
05/07/2021 14:40
Thanks for this highly detailed report with wonderful photographs.
I agree completely with your opinion of how great microspikes are when traveling on loose surfaces.

   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.

© 2023®, 14ers Inc.