Southern Bell
(an incredibly gorgeous day in the Elks)

20 Aug 2009 - by Patrick Lilly


This was just an "easy" climb of Maroon Pk. by the standard S. ridge route, but it was a real effort nevertheless. We camped near the trail junction on the W. Maroon Creek trail, to take some distance off the climbing route, and got a lazy start at 6:15 MDT. At about 12,000 ft., we deliberately avoided the more obvious trail to climber's right, and veered left on a less obvious trail. This led to gaining the ridge crest (actually a SE branch of the S ridge) at a lower elevation and considerably farther south, but it was very much worth it: It offered a less steep way to the ridge crest, and it enabled climbing on MUCH more solid rock after reaching the crest. The fact that a couple of minor ridge points had to be scaled along the way to the saddle at 13,300 ft. was a plus, not a minus.

After leaving the ridge crest at the saddle, and climbing the chimney (which is the technical crux of the route), the route finding difficulty begins. Persevere; don't give in to the temptation to climb up too soon. Get around Pt. 13,753 before coming anywhere near the ridge crest, then look carefully for the cairns which lead around the blind corners before climbing back to the ridge crest. If you go far enough, you can choose how much of the ridge you would like to walk. It's easy, but exposed.

We topped out at about 11:15 MDT, and found numerous other people already celebrating on the summit. We also found not a cloud in the sky! After 40 minutes of views, food, water, and pictures on the summit, we headed down.

The descent was uneventful, except that the "Hill of Death" can only be made a smidgen faster going down than going up, due to its looseness and steepness. We arrived back at our base camp some 10 hours after setting off, with a two-hour hike down to Maroon Lake still awaiting us. A fabulous day in the Colorado mountains!

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