I arrived at the overnight parking lot for Maroon Lake around 1130 P.M. and slept out in the back of my truck. Just before six, Sam and I started up the easy trail past Maroon Lake. A photographer was setting up his gear by the lake for yet another of the most photographed sites in the world--the view of the Maroon Bells from Maroon Lake is startlingly beautiful. I'm not surprised at all that it is such a popular destination. At 6 in the morning, even on a Saturday, I had it nearly all to myself.
Nearly two miles past Crater Lake and just before the trail crosses the creek there is a climber's trail that steeply ascends to the south ridge of S. Maroon. I walked right by the large cairn before a camp site 50 yards before where the trail crosses. Not seeing the trail I just started up the slopes. When I crossed the trail as it traversed left I ignored it because it wasn't going up. My mistake.
Once up to the cliff bands I tried a gulley, but Sam would have none of it. Then I tried a snow couloir, but again Sam seemed to want to move left of the problems. So we drifted left, eventually reaching the climber's trail and the easy route to the ridge. Still it takes you well south of the peak and the ridge traverse is long and a little tricky, though not hard at all. Sam the Wolfdog managed everything under his own power, though I did have to "spot" him twice.
With the problems finding the right way to the ridge and the long traverse it wound up taking us five hours from the trailhead to the summit. Just before reaching the top a solitary climber was coming down after "ringing both bells" from north to south. Looking across to North Maroon I could see at least three other parties making the traverse on a perfectly clear, warm, sunny day with no wind. We sunbathed and enjoyed the summit for a full 45 minutes before heading back the way we came. With Sam the Wolfdog along I elected to forgo the traverse and left an ascent of N. Maroon for another day.
This was Sam's 44th fourteener and my 45th. Total time: 9 hours.