|The Maroon Bells in the Elk Range|
I am going to group these two peaks together, as they are part of one massif. North Maroon, though on most people's 14er list, does not qualify as an official peak, as it has only 234 feet of topographical prominence. Anyone who scales this traverse, however, will surely argue that these are two distinct peaks. Just about any aficionado of Colorado mountaineering would raise a suspicious eye if you claimed to have climbed all of Colorado’s 14ers and hadn’t been to the top of North Maroon.
Heading north on Highway 82 from Aspen, find an obvious roundabout and take the turn for Maroon Lake Road. Follow this road for almost 10 miles to the end at the parking lot for Maroon Lake. This is the trailhead.
|The backside of the Maroon Bells from|
Frigid Air Pass.
Maroon Peak- South Ridge (class 3)
This 11-mile route is the easiest way to climb Maroon Peak, but it is very loose and route-finding is notoriously challenging. This route has killed several climbers over the years. The primary threats are falls (usually due to loose rocks breaking), and rockfall. The bottom line is, while this route isn't particularly difficult, it is a rotting mess and therefore not to be taken lightly. Don’t climb below anyone, go one at a time through the worst sections, and for sure without question wear a helmet!
Maroon Peak- Bell Cord Couloir (class 4, steep snow/ice)
Bell Cord is an excellent way to climb Maroon Peak and possibly one of the best snow climbs in the Elk Range. The route ascends the obvious couloir—visible from your car and in all of those famous photos—on the east side of the Maroon Peak massif, ascending directly to the saddle between the two mountains. The best time to climb the Bell Cord depends greatly on the year but usually comes in late spring when the snow is stable but still continuous. This steep gully exceeds 40 degrees for its entire length and is prone to avalanching. An ice axe and a helmet is highly recommended, as well as other technical gear depending on the conditions. This couloir is an excellent alternative to the standard route for the more advanced mountaineer.
|The Bells from Pyramid Peak. The Bell Cord is visible|
in the center
North Maroon Peak- Northeast Ridge (class 4)
The Northeast Ridge of Maroon Peak is the easiest way to climb North Maroon and is generally considered class 4. I have heard some people describe the chimney move at around 13,600 feet as “the hardest single move on any fourteener.” Other people disagree. Regardless, just about everyone agrees that North Maroon is one of the hardest fourteeners. Certainly, this route is considered a classic.
North Face (North Maroon Peak) (class 4, steep snow/ice)
This slightly obscure line is notable because it ascends the middle of the most prominent face of either of the Maroon Bells when viewed from the parking lot (and again, most of the classic photos). It is also the north face, which while doesn’t mean as much in North America as it does in Europe should still count for something. The problem with this route is that it becomes horribly rotten in bad conditions and thus very dangerous. People have sometimes used this route for a winter ascent or a ski descent. There are several variations that tackle the face with varying degrees of directness.
Peak-to-Peak Traverse (class 4-5.2)
|The north face of North Maroon Peak|
The Maroon Bells are made of some of Colorado's worst rock and the pair of these peaks have wreaked havoc on many mountaineers in the past. Take great care when climbing on these peaks, especially if you are new to class 3 and 4 scrambling. THESE MIGHT NOT BE GOOD PEAKS FOR YOUR FIRST CLASS 3 ROUTE!!!
It is also important to note that if you plan to bivy, there are some campsites available at Crater Lake. You do need to fill out a permit and carry it with you at the trailhead before you start.
(none available at this time. Have an epic Maroon Bells story? Email it to Coloradomountaineering2010@gmail.com for consideration to be published on this site)
The Maroon Bells on 14ers.com- a close look with great photos of the standard routes on both of the Maroon Bells
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