Date: 26 July 2003
Route: Ascent - Northeast Ridge from Maroon Lake Trailhead; Descent - Traverse To Maroon Peak
Difficulty: Class 4
Elevation: Base - 9,600 (est); Summit - 14,014; Elevation Gain - 4,450
Distance: From Maroon Lake Trailhead to Summit - 4 miles (est); Summit to Maroon Peak (Traverse) - .5 miles; Total Distance - 4.5 miles (est)
Time: Start - 05:15 AM; Summit - 10:30 AM; Finish - North Maroon Peak Summit to summit of Maroon Peak 12:50 PM; Total Trip Time - 7.5 hours
Trail: The 2 mile hike from Maroon Lake to Crater Lake, and then up the Buckskin Pass trail was uneventful. Early morning hike was very peaceful only a couple of other climbers encountered (I would link up later with these folks Rob and Julie from Denver to do the actual climb and then the subsequent traverse). Currently there is a snow field over Minnehaha Creek, which precludes fording. The trail up to the lower end of the basin on the east face of North Maroon Peak is a steep climb, through intermittent willows, talus, grass, dirt, etc. A tough climb, but the reward was a beautiful grassy meadow with wildflowers at timberline, just prior to the boulder field. I took a break at the boulder field, put on shorts and a T-shirt, and then did the walk over the talus.
I linked up with Rob and Julie in the boulder field and we decided to climb the NE ridge together. We were the only climbers on the ridge as of 7:30 AM. Rob did route-finding, and we were able to climb the grassy gullies described in the guidebooks without incident. The route is reasonably well marked with cairns, but climbers have to be continuously vigilant, in order to remain on route. We never had to back-track. The climb was as tough as the books describe, but with care, there were few if any unsettling situations. I thought the exposure on Mount Eolus was greater than the NE ridge of North Maroon. We gained the ridge and then climbed steadily for a couple of hours. We reached the summit at 10:30 AM and met two other climbers that were just beginning their descent. Once on the summit, we spent 30 minutes eating, drinking and taking photos. The weather was fine and we decided to traverse to Maroon Peak. Report for this traverse is contained in the trip report for Maroon Peak.
All in all, an outstanding climb, with wonderful weather and good climbing companions. The climbing was tough, Class 3 and Class 4, after the boulder field, but it certainly doesn't require any technical skills or equipment up to the summit. Because there is considerable exposure at times, the time required to summit is consistent with guidebooks. Even the fittest climbers, on their initial climb of this route, should expect 4 to 4.5 hours climbing time to gain the summit.
Conditions: Weather - Sunny; Temperature - 65 Degrees @ trailhead (morning); 70 degrees at summit; great weather bright and sunny. Hot on east face in early morning sun. Thunderheads formed in afternoon.
Climbing Companions: Rob and Julie from Denver