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Home Forums TR Archive Colorado North Maroon Peak, 5.8.09-5.9.09

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    My partner and I went to Aspen, intending to climb and descend the East Face of Castle Peak, but a conditions report provided by member “Luca_Brasi” convinced us that we would find better snow on north facing aspects, so we changed our focus to the North Face of North Maroon Peak.
    We arrived in Aspen around 1:00 PM, and road our bikes up the (closed) Maroon Lake Road seven miles to the TH.

    The first view of the North Face from the road is quite daunting.

    The view a little further up the road proves that the face is indeed somewhat serious.

    We stashed our bikes at the TH, and hiked, and then skinned in to a nice campsite at 10,800′, we had perfect weather. We cooked dinner, and set the alarm for 4:00 AM, giving us plenty of time to summit by 10:00. Unfortunately, the alarm must have failed, and we awoke at 5:00 AM, we hurriedly cooked and packed, and were on the move by 6:00. Perfect snow conditions allowed fast cramponing up into the basin below the North Face proper.

    ABP in the basin below the North Face. The route begins by climbing the wide couloir through the first rock band at the climbers right side of the face, then traverses left to the central couloir system.

    ABP climbing on the long traverse above the first rock band.

    We had left our rope and harnesses at the car, justifying this decision by deciding that a ropeless ascent/descent would be in the purist style (and we are lazy, and did not want to carry the weight). The central crux appeared unrideable, and perhaps very difficult and dangerous to downclimb unroped; luckily, we perservered and found that a slight leftward traverse on a snow arete got us around the difficulties.

    Barrows, out on the arete. Photo by ABP

    The upper rockband required a left traverse onto the North Ridge to pass; this was accomplished by a couple of easy, though insecure rock/mixed moves around the corner to the left, and then back to the right onto the left edge of the North Face. The rock in the Elk Mountains is among the most dangerous in the country, so it is wise to avoid rock climbing here whenever possible. The rock we encountered basically appeared to be just a bunch of horizontal plates, stacked one atop the other, teetering around and not solid or stable in any sense. After passing the upper rockband, the summit was just about 100 feet higher.

    Barrows on the summit, South Maroon Peak in the background. Photo by ABP

    My partner was feeling a little mentally exhausted, and did not feel he was focused enough to safely ride the upper parts of the route, so he decided to downclimb the upper part of the route. I clicked into my bindings, and made about 12 or so short radius turns down the upper face in about 4-5 inches of old recycled powder to the point where we would have to turn the corner around the upper rock band. Here I switched back into my crampons to downclimb around the corner and back onto the North Face under the rockband. Back out on the main North Face, I clicked back into my bindings and made turns down the second snowfield until just above the next rockband, then I traversed (riders) left to the top of the central couloir line, which I rode down through the next rock band. Now I was at the crux (which was unrideable, unless one is willing to do a 10-15 foot air, to a 50 degree landing, on a hard snow surface, above a very large cliff band). I made a tricky traverse back right out of the main couloir line, and found another line through the rock band (I thought). This line was a slot that narrowed to just shorter that the length of my board, and was about 50+ degrees on hard snow. I side slipped into this slot, and self belayed my way down and through it with my ax. After 15-20 feet or so it opened up and I resumed making turns, until I was cliffed out. Here I removed my board, and donned the crampons for a very delicate traverse across some sloping rock shelves covered with a little snow/ice, and back into the main couloir line. Once back into the main couloir, I rejoined my partner for the descent on the final hanging snowfield, and the wonderful corn snow bonus bowls in the basin below the face.
    We got back to camp, mentally exhausted from the exposure, but exhilarated as well; brewed up some coffee, ate some chocolate, and packed up camp for the return trip to the car.
    As a bonus, while eating in an Aspen mexican restaurant, we got to see Carmelo Anthony’s three point shot to win game three of the Nuggets/Mavericks playoff series.

    Barrows, great snow on the final snowfield. Photo ABP

    ABP hiking out toward Maroon Lake and our bikes (hope they are still there!)


    Cool TR, WOW!


    Awesome! What’s that sweet cooly on the E/NE side of peak? That thing is rad!


    Good stuff! snow looks pretty good surprisingly


    The couloir in between the two peaks is the Belle Cord, it sees descents occasionally, but snow conditions on it are often poor due to the east aspect.
    The snow conditions on the North Face were highly variable, with about 4 to 5 inches of old powder on a firm base on the aspects that faced more northerly (on the open faces, but not in the couloirs-the couloirs were more scoured and hard). The sections of the face that face just a little more easterly were harder, and frozen; these sections did not corn up due to some high clouds that kept the surface temperatures just cold enough. The sections with good snow were really fun, and the bowls beneath face had perfect corn.
    Note that most other aspects (S, W, E) around the Aspen mountains are all just covered with the exposed dust layer.


    I’m always impressed by this peak. Looks like such a classic. Thanks for sharing! :headbang:


    Nice job Barrows! :rock: That mountain intimidates the hell outta me. Its scary enough to climb to the summit, but then I’d be stuck up there like a cat in a tree afraid to descend…haha.

    I like the detailed explanation of how you descended via board and crampons. That’s some useful information for future trips.

    Did you hit up anything else in the Elks?


    Thanks Adam. We headed home after North Maroon, the conditions on most aspects looked really crappy with the dust layer totally exposed most spots. Things are still holding up in the Front Range though.


    Nice work fellas!


    Nice Job. I saw you guys back at the trailhead on your way out. I was the guy painting near the trailhead with a sk8 board that you guys commented on . Nice Job again, next year I gotta remember to bring my bike to Aspen. Would have loved to join ya,10-15 ft air onto 50degree hardpack above cliffs??? Thats just my style :bananas:

    barrows wrote:
    The view a little further up the road proves that the face is indeed somewhat serious.

    ABP in the basin below the North Face. The route begins by climbing the wide couloir through the first rock band at the climbers right side of the face, then traverses left to the central couloir system.

    Wow, nice work. Those peaks are always amazing to see in pictures. They must be so much more so in person!


    skierconqueso-nice to make your acquaintance, sort of! We saw your vehicle at the road closure with the split on top-figured it must be yours because of the paintings on the hood. We would have come back to say hi, but we were really looking forward to getting a meal in Aspen.

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