A strong appetite, average palate, and weak writing, mixed with outdoor adventure.

A strong appetite, average palate, and weak writing, mixed with outdoor adventure.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

North Maroon

  • Route: Northeast Ridge (standard)
  • Distance: ~9.2 miles
  • Elevation Gain: ~4,500
  • Start time: 4:00 AM  
  • Time: 8.5 hours (including an hour on the summit) 
  • Climbers: Alan and Sandy

North Maroon, composed of sedimentary rock, is a rarity in Colorado and known for its broken and downsloping rock. The mudstone that makes up the Bells give it its characteristic color, but also weathers poorly, leading to an incredibly scenic oversized pile of choss.

We made short work of the trail leading to Crater Lake and ascended Minnehaha Gulch, took a hard left, quickly pumped some water and began climbing in earnest. It was full on Indiana Jones style with a trail running with water, grabbing roots for handholds, hopping small rock walls and vegetation squeezing in from both sides.


Looking back at Crater Lake and Maroon Lake


Down low, hopping up mudstone plates

The vegetation quickly thinned, talus creeped in, the rock glacier rolled out its welcome mat along the trail and we turned the corner into the 1st gully. What welcomed us? Mountain goats! My first mountain goat spotting of the year. Like most mountain goats on popular trails they were interested in only one thing: urine. They are seeking the salt and are habituated to human presence, so if you merely stand there with your hands near your crotch they start walking towards you. With a propensity for balance and endurance, not to mention sharp horns, this can be an intimidating experience.


Alan at the corner before the start of the first gully


Me at the same corner


The first of two goats


Oh hai!


Looking back at Robert and Bill, a father/son combo climbing. At this point the goats were laying on the trail, playing a high stakes game of Red Rover. I wanted to shout “just pee” as they would move, but that seemed an odd thing to shout at what were then strangers.

We made quick work of the 1st gully and turned the corner into the 2nd gully. As advertised it was loose and we took care not to dislodge rock on the party below us as we moved upward. Upon hitting the summit ridge, the crux quickly came into view. The rappel anchor that was visible added a certain gravity to the situation, but given our long arms and legs we found the moves to not be intimidating and the solid rock a welcome relief amidst a sea of shattered rock.


Alan climbing the 4th class chimney


Me in the base of the chimney


Me on the summit ridge, above the crux


Alan following me on a route harder than necessary

We hit the summit pretty quick once we were above the crux. It was calm, quiet and warm. Plus, we had it to ourselves for 30 minutes, and with dignity left at the trailhead time to have some fun.


Headstand with Maroon Peak in the background


Alan throwing down the Karate Kid

We were joined by Bill and Robert on the summit. Bill was from Connecticut and flew out and threw down on North Maroon with his son, Robert. I always admire anyone who flies in and climbs high peaks without the advantage us Coloradoans have in terms of acclimation.


Alan, me and Robert


Sucker punched for having snored through the night


Summit 23 for Alan for the year, 21 for me


A view of Snowmass and Capitol from the summit

The four of us descended together through the 2nd gully, which minimized rockfall risk.


Beginning the descent


Perched on the ridge


Walk down that junky slope? You bet!

The descent was quick and featured a trail run along the last mile. The trail becomes more populated as you near the trailhead and there is certainly a relationship between BMI and trailhead proximity.


No shutter speed can capture the speed


My head is bigger than the Bells!

Could we look more similar?

The celebratory shot was not working so we opted for dueling handstands. It was great though, as an English couple and their son began trying jump pictures and timed karate kicks too, we all got a good laugh at one another. Multiculturalism!


With plans to meet some friends for camping at Lake Dillon and the stench of a big mountain upon us we opted for a dip in the Roaring Fork River. It is fed by snowmelt and upon jumping in it was a competition of discomfort: the feeling of being stung by a swarm of bees due to the very low water temperature versus testicles desperately climbing into one’s abdominal cavity. It was a short lived effort at hygiene.


Do not zoom in, you may see the tears

As always, the drive over Independence Pass was stunning and provided an excellent bookend to a day of alpine fun.


A lingering cornice amidst green slopes and playful light


Alan literally ripping into chocolate milk. This man throws down chocolate milk like a 3rd grader and kills it on broken terrain above treeline. Is there a correlation?

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