Peak(s):  Maroon Peak  -  14,156 feet
Date Posted:  07/19/2020
Date Climbed:   07/16/2020
Author:  Benclimber
 Ringing the Bells   

It all began back some years ago as a kid. We took a camping trip to Aspen and off course one day we decided to visit the Bells. As soon as I got off the shuttle and looked up at the rocky peaks, I was in awe and something clicked in my head. All I could think about was how much I wanted to be up there on the summits. Viewing the peaks in real life is truly breathtaking and will make any climber want to add it to their bucket list. Fast forward a few years, I gained lots of rock climbing experience, route finding skills, and many more peaks bagged so I finally decided it was time to attempt the traverse. I called up my two most trusted climbing partners and we set a date. I knew these peaks were not to be taken lightly so I spent hours reading maps, looking at route descriptions, and watching plenty of youtube videos of the traverse. When the day finally came, I loaded up my car and drove up to Aspen from Denver. The whole car ride was filled with suspense and some anxiety about the next days climb, I visualized and kept going over in my head the route and what the next day was to look like. When I finally got to Aspen, I parked at the shuttle lot (Aspen Highlands) and checked in. This is where the experience begins! it reminds me a lot of DisneyLand with all the tourist and way they run the shuttle. You load up with all the tourist and head up to the lake with a full out tour from the bus driver on the way up. After about 20 minutes, you arrive at the lake and get out. All the facilities at the lake are super nice and maintained well. There are rangers walking around able to answer questions and about a Thousand tourist walking around getting the iconic Maroon Bells picture with the lake. Once you walk to the end of the lake, the trail to crater lake starts to ascend through the trees and you leave all the tourist. I signed the register and made my way up. Once at crater Lake, I found a campsite and set up camp (around 5:00 P.M.) It rained a lot so I just relaxed in my tent. Now my two friends were getting off work late so they didn't arrive until about 9:30 that night. I talked to them briefly once they arrived and went to bed, excited for the next day.

Our Alarms went off at 2:00 A.M and we shot up getting breakfast ready and preparing for the hike. We finally Set off at 2:40 and headed up the West Maroon trail. We got to the Trail junction at about 10,400 feet at 3:17 and headed up the Maroon Peak Trail. There isn't a sign marking it but if you know what it looks like, then it will be easy to find. We then started upon the 2,800 feet slope of suck. It was truly dreadful and will burn your calfs as it ascends pretty much straight up. We took it slow and steady and also put on helmets as rockfall is common. After a few miserable hours, we arrived at the notch on the south ridge at 5:07, just as the sun was coming up and lighting up the tundra around us. We traveled the ridge until the chimney and headed up then left through the Notch. Then traversed again until the two gullies. Cairns lead the way and are easy to follow. We ascended the first gully half way then traversed into the second gully and headed up. Then, We saw the famed "Robot Rock" and headed that way, following the cairns. The route keeps traversing and then working up another big gully. There were probably about three false summits. We finally regained the south ridge and followed it until we finally reached the summit of Maroon Peak at 6:20 AM. We forced some food down and took pictures while studying the crazy looking traverse in front of us.

After assessing the weather and our energy levels, we decided to go for it and made our way down towards the traverse. Downclimbing was slowgoing but we made it to the top of the Bell Cord Couloir Safely. This is When the Traverse really starts. We were dialed in as far as route finding and knew where our endgame was so we made our way up the three spires or cruxes and didn't have to backtrack at all. The first spire was super fun and was around 40 feet of climbing. Some Cairns marked the way. The second spire was the real crux. There are two really exposed chimneys to choose from but they were slightly overhanging so we climbed the face. It was the most exposed move and I would rank it at 5.7. This was the only part that we were really off route. Once at the top, we walked along the ridge for a while, navigating the "Leap of Faith" and continued to the third spire. We then traversed on a exposed ledge to the base of North Maroon. Here, you kinda choose your own adventure and head up with the summit in sight. Finally, we topped out and were standing on North Maroons Summit at 8:20. We took another break and got some pictures and looked around at the astonishing views of Capitol and Snowmass.

After about 30 minutes, we decided it was time to make our way down the dreaded North Maroon. Again, we were dialed in so we knew exactly where to go on the descent and had no back tracking. First, we followed cairns down to the Precipice and were joined by some Goats. We walked the precipice and turned left and had to down climb the Chimney (Crux of descent). After the chimney, we descend the First Gully. We went slow and made sure to not send rocks down. It is super dangerous so travel with care. We finally arrived at the traversing ledge and crossed into the second gully. This gully was a lot easier to follow and had a trail. At the traverse ledge, we passed through some trees and down climbed a little bit more until the rock glacier. Here you just traverse across until you hit the trail. Then its really easy to follow as it winds down the slope eventually intersecting with Maroon-Snowmass trail. We then headed down and got back to camp at crater lake around 11:40. We were exhausted but still filled with adrenaline so we tore down camp, packed up, and headed back to Maroon Lake. We snapped a few more pictures and took in the beautiful view while celebrating our accomplishment. I then Hopped in line with the other hundred tourists and waited for the shuttle, filled with joy and now feeling myself hit the wall with low energy. After the Shuttle, I got back to the car and headed up independence pass, making my way home.

Looking Back, this was a Hell of a climb. It is exhausting and requires much concentration so make sure you are in shape. Always gauge the weather and make sure it is safe to continue on the traverse,. Starting early helps. The rock is horrible so whenever you step on it or grab it, double check that it will hold. Always assume every hold us loose. If you send a rock flying, call it out as loud as you can. This route was incredibly beautiful and it already has earned the name as most fun 14er I have ever done. Cant wait to return!

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions
07/20/2020 18:10
Amazing man ... Congrats and thanks for sharing!

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