Sunday, June 16, 2013

Featured Route: Pyramid Peak, Northeast Ridge

Mountain Goat climbing Pyramid Peak in the Elks
The view from the summit of Pyramid Peak in the Elk Mountain Range
Length: 8 miles
Elevation gain: 4,420 feet
Difficulty: class 4 (loose steep rock, moderate route finding challenges)
Exposure: moderate

From Maroon Lake, follow the Crater Lake trail for 1.5 miles to a level clearing filled with glacial moraine boulders. Find a trail on the left (south) side of the trail marked by a large cairn. Follow this trail as it switchbacks through the forest and across some scree slopes to a notch left of a large pinnacle. The trail end at the terminus of a large rock glacier that empties an “amphitheater” at the bottom of Pyramid’s North Face. Follow the path of least resistance up the rock glacier to the bottom of the face, turn left (east) to the bottom of a scree slope left of the main difficulties of the North Face. The approach is over.

A view of the Maroon Bells
A mountain goat up close
Climb steep, loose scree on a well-trodden climbers trail 1,000’ to a saddle a little less than 13,000’. The rest of the route is visible above you. Ascend the ridge, staying mostly on its right side past another, smaller saddle up to a notch with a steep headwall. Descend through some boulders to the left side of the ridge. Find a climbers trail that traverses over a couple rock ribs and across the “Cliff Traverse”, a narrow ledge that pinches down to a narrow crux in the middle. Continue on a strong climber’s trail past another rock rib, across a dirty gully until you reach the Green Couloir.

The gully that leads to the saddle
The Cliff Traverse on Pyramid Peak

Now the fun part begins. Climb the Green Couloir for a couple hundred feet, being very cautious with loose rock (class 3). It might be best to climb this one at a time to avoid knocking rocks on each other. Exit the green rock left at some cairns and climb steepening rock through several cliffbands. There are several ways to negotiate this section, the path of least resistance climbs a small chimney and cliffband crux that are both class 4. Keep in mind that downclimbing is harder for most people. Stay left of the ridge itself and make a few class 3 moves just before breaking loose onto the amazing summit. Enjoy one of my favorite summit platforms.

The Green Couloir
A mountain goat watches a human mountain goat on Pyramid Peak
The narrow summit of Pyramid Peak
The Maroon Bells from the summit of Pyramid Peak

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