Peak(s):  Maroon Peak  -  14,156 feet
North Maroon Peak  -  14,014 feet
Date Posted:  07/06/2021
Date Climbed:   07/05/2021
Author:  harryschmach
Additional Members:   peakbagger23
 Maroon Peak Traverse   

Maroon Peaks (South to North) Traverse - 05 July 2021 (Stars, Saddles, Scrambling, Soloing, Storms, and Scree)

Early Start

After many variable (classic early Colorado summer) weather reports of afternoon rain / thunder / clear skies, we opted to wake up at 3am and ideally be on the trail at 3:15 after making the short drive from the West Maroon Portal Overnight lot to the Maroon Lakes main lot. After nature calls (carbo / electrolyte loading the night before can wreak havoc on a body), we were on the trail at 3:30am! Absolutely amazing star visibility since the moon was a dull crescent (waning I'm guessing!). With the Milky Way above, and saying hello to the only other party in the parking lot (Pyramid Peak climbers), we broke out with a quick pace on the trail. My Garmin watch says we averaged 2.7 mph with a max speed of 6.3 mph to get to the trailhead split off. Along the way, we saw a couple deer, first was a magnificent buck in the twilight, all around Crater Lake enjoying a pre-dawn drink or walk. Generally speaking, it was hot and humid on this walk, surprisingly so.

Not a lot of light at 3:30 am. Sent out some messages to let family know our location.

The Suck

As we did South Maroon out-n-back last year, we were no strangers to the grueling ascent that follows the trail divergence. With the first smattering of sun rays creeping over the eastern peaks, we took off the headlamps, nutrition'ed up, and started moving up the loose dirt and rocky hillside that eventuallyy gives way to the talus 3rd and 4th class routefinding before the summit. This time however, we were constantly stopping to admire the amazing colors of the flowers blooming. Remarkable Columbines in all different phases of their purple-to-white blooming cycle. Deep Purple to Violet bells in patches. "Paper Bag" plants (a wonderful lady told me they're called Green Gentian/Monument Plants). Dandelions. The red ones! It was such a colorful climb that we nearly forgot that we were crawling on our hands and knees up the steep and unforgiving hillside.

Eating and getting ready to ascend the hillside...
Looking South towards the Maroon Pass
Human for reference on the steepness - Flowers Abundant
Looking North to the rising light - Blooming (Gentian) Plants
It's colorful Colorado for a reason!

Some of us (me) put the head down and one foot in front of the other on parts like these....

"Left foot, you got it! Right foot, your turn! No back talk!!!"
We don't say "are we there yet?" just "nice day for a walk"

South Routefinding

We took Gully 2 since Gully 1 had some moisture and precarious rocks. Here is the last corner to carefully shuffle around before the final ascent of South Maroon.

This is a dangerous area, but smiling is always good for the nerves.

Summiting South

We Summitted South Maroon Peak at 9:01am. We took a couple nature call, rehydration and nutrition, and brief conversation with other party breaks along the way. The second ascent is always easier, and we were pleased with our timing since we wanted to leave time for a rest on the summit to regain breathing and composure before our planned 2 hours for the traverse and ideally summit North at noon. This time table would leave us with 1-2 hours to get to a low altitude before any afternoon summer storms rolled in. As always, the views are unbeatable.

Western skies and thin clouds
Eastern Pano with Maroon Valley
If you don't have a Melanzana, did you even mountain things?

Looking towards the Traverse

View from South Maroon
View after descending some 4th class of South Maroon


The most dangerous part of the traverse - we felt - was the 4th class downclimbing and shuffling along exposed faces. It is not for those without a resilience or resistance to vertigo. Spontaneous summer showers and fluctuating humidity had left some rocks damp and even wet from moss-runoff, so every step and palm-down lowering was double-tested for weight. We saw lots of Pika who naturally wished us well.

"Get off my Lawn you dirty peakbaggers!"

After the precarious downclimb of the 4th class found on the north spine of south maroon, we found ourselves at the bottom of Pitch 1 which was a short boulder problem solved with a stemmy compression and palm-down mantle-out.

There were ample cairns to find the bottom of Pitch 2 was the hardest of the 3 with a "roof" move requiring either cajones of iron or a short sidestep and intermediate hold to the right which enables an easy high foot and mantle. A guide was taking a client up. This is a view of their climb. As well as some photos of my climbing partner, Ian's, ascent.

The bottom of Pitch 2 with a jutting "roof" move
Finding the good feet
Palm down mantle

After traversing across the spine, we found the base of Pitch 3 which was a "chimney" problem consisting of many solid and positive handholds. All the rock we found in each 5th class section was reliable and solid.

We felt comfortable soloing the traverse as we have ample climbing experience and we brought climbing shoes and chalk (and LOTS OF RESEARCH AND BETA FROM MULTIPLE SOURCES) on the traverse. We felt in control and secure on every move of 5th class climbing we encountered, this was a calculated and premeditated endeavor which ended favorably due to PREPARATION. don't sue me

Summit North

We summitted North Maroon at noon. Very aligned with our projected time table including breaks and snacks and water. Speaking of water, the clouds hung low and dark, we felt a couple drops of rain and knew it was time to go. We snapped a quick selfie and began the descent.

North looking back at South. Gotta see where you started to appreciate where you're at.
Those are rain clouds back there


Again, the 4th class downclimbing proved to be the most treacherous - requiring full stops and thorough examinations of the terrain and possible foot/hand holds. We made it into the green gully on the NorthEast face of North Maroon just before the rain started to fall.

We were just entering the scree field when the hail started to fall. And claps of thunder boomed overhead. We knew we wanted to be off North Maroon around 1 or 2 since the varying forecasts predicted rain / no rain and storms / no storms. We felt descending to get to a lower elevation was the right call in case lightning struck the valley. Scrambling across the scree field through the hail was quite a time. We found the trail-termination and took it down to the reconnect point with Crater Lake.

A 90 minute descent off North Maroon was not preferred, but it was necessary. And our knees are unhappy.

Soaked, stoked, and feeling like antisocial blokes, we opted for a quick selfie instead of asking the many around Maroon Lake for a photo. These smiles were somewhat forced, full transparency.

The kinda wet that you feel in your bones.

All in all, magnificent day. The traverse was a glorious experience that offered unreal views, fulfilling exposure, and safely enjoyable 5th class climbing on (what I believe to be) phenomenal rock. Maybe a repeat is in the future, but for now, it's time for beeR&R with sights on the other Colorado Traverses.


Segment Duration (h:mm:ss) Distance (mi) Comments
Parking Lot to 14er Trail Divergence 1:19:51 3.43 Saw two deer near crater lake (1 stag, 1 doe), 2 foxes drinking by stream crossings. Motivated to blast to 14er trailhead
Trail Divergence to Summit South Maroon (The Suck) 2:48:47 2.83 The hillside ascent was bone dry, no need for spikes. Flowers blooming beautifully. We opt for 4WD (hands on the earth) for some sections
Traverse 1:31:12 1.09 Stunning views. Magnificent exposure. Absolutely amazing. Would recommend familiarity with climbing mechanics/technique before attempting.
North Maroon Descent, Cross Scree Field 1:30:49 1.52 Class 4 descent with ominous clouds. Hailstorm and thunder booming during the lower 12k-11k descent across the scree field
Scree field to Maroon Lake 1:26:52 3.21 Tree cover at last! Never has the Crater Lake to Maroon Lake section felt sooo long
Totals 8:37:31 12.08 Knees hurt. Time for BeeR&R.

My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions
Great job
08/07/2021 09:00
Congratulations and thanks for the trip report, pictures and videos. We're planning to do this same thing over Labor Day.

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