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Pyramid Peak is the sister 14er to the Maroon Bells in the West Maroon Creek drainage of Colorado's Elk Mountains. With a successful ascent of the Bells the previous day, we rated our chances high for the easier ascent of Pyramid Peak, an 8.5mi effort that would entail some 4,800ft of gain. We picked up a new companion today, Rolan, a 20-something youngster who Tom had come across a few days earlier while chasing down other 14ers. He was keen to meet me, it seems, and jumped at the chance when Tom offered. Roland is an Army grunt stationed in Hawaii, and was in Colorado to chase down 14ers during a month-long furlough. He had used my TRs on adventures in both HI and the mainland, and was familiar with my activities. We laughed about Tom bringing along a "groupie," but Roland fit in well with our party as a very capable mountaineer. Meanwhile, Scott had been texting Emily, the young lady he'd met on South Maroon the previous day, to see if she'd like to join our Pyramid party as well. Emily was non-commital, not sure if she'd be climbing Pyramid as planned, nor if our start times would be compatible. We decided we did not need as early a start as we had used the previous day, planning to start around 5:30a. Four of us were carpooling in Tom's Jeep to the TH when I realized I had forgotten a few important items back in my own Jeep. This resulted in us getting a later start than planned, but only by about 10min or so.
Our headlamps were unnecessary as we started out, passing by Maroon Lake, quiet at this time of the morning but sure to be bustling in a few hours. We followed the trail to Crater Lake for about half an hour before encountering the junction with the unsigned Pyramid trail, marked by a rather large cairn. We followed this trail for the next 45min, through forest, across talus slopes, and through more forest until it ends rather abruptly near the bottom of a huge moraine flowing down from the North Face of Pyramid. Several large cairns mark the end, more useful for locating the trail on the way back down. We met up here with Emily's boyfriend and two dogs that had accompanied her on a 3a start. Seems his job was to now wait with the canines while Emily went up to the summit and back.
As we continued on, we found there were only a few slivers of snow remaining on the moraine, the way through boulders and talus now marked by the occasional duck. We followed the moraine south and then southeast through the cirque below Pyramid's North Face, aiming for a saddle high on Pyramid's NE Ridge. From far below, we could see a few figures already at the saddle, making their way up - Pyramid would not be as empty as we'd found the Maroon Bells the previous day. There are several trail threads in the steep gully leading to the saddle, and we picked out one of these loose options to make our way up. It was after 8a before we reached the saddle where we found a family of mountain goats behaving not much like wild animals. Instead of being startled by our presence and skedaddling, they moved closer, perhaps hoping we had tasty snacks to offer. Even the little member of the tribe seemed more curious than afraid, staying close to mama, but eyeing us hopefully. We offered no such encouragement, to great disappointment. After our party reconvened at the saddle (and had taken the appropriate amount of goat pics), we continued up the NE Ridge, following more ducks.
The ridge itself was the most interesting part of the day, with plenty of loose rock, some class 3 scrambling, and a wide variety of terrain. We traversed out of the saddle on the NW side of the ridge to start, then onto the ridge directly, through a large blocky sections, some downclimbing, a traverse along a narrow ledge, then some class 3-4 scrambling on the SE side to get back up to the ridge proper. We came across a pair of climbers short-roped to each other (guide + client), and took different routes around them to keep from being in their line of rock fall, or having them in ours. We spent almost an hour from the saddle making our way on or near the ridge, finally arriving at the summit around 9:20a.
The skies were clear today, with little trace of the smoke that had plagued the state earlier in the week. There was a striking view of the Maroon Bells to the west, with Snowmass Mtn and Capitol Peak, two other 14ers, visible behind them to the northwest. Another mountain goat was spotted near the summit, this one posing nicely for shots, like his companions back at the saddle. We hung out at the summit for 20min or so before packing up to head back. We reversed our route as best we could, making some departures from the ascent line, but generally taking the same basic route. The goats were gone when we returned to the saddle, and we wasted little time dropping back down to the moraine. We found a trio of other climbers at the base of the gully, including Emily who was hiking with another male companion. Somehow we had missed them descending from the summit along the ridge while we were on our way up. Having teased Scott about his "girlfriend" dumping him for another climber, I was amused to find that Emily returned back down through the moraine with Scott once he had caught up with her. The other fellow returned on his own. Scott delivered Emily to her waiting boyfriend and canines at the top of the trail, and said his goodbyes. Once our group of four had reconvened for a last time, we headed down the trail and back to Maroon Lake and the trailhead. Like the previous day, we found the main trail between Maroon and Crater Lake crowded with day visitors, and took some effort in weaving through the traffic. It was 12:15p by the time we arrived at Maroon Lake, and only a few minutes more to the parking lot, finishing up before 12:30p - not a bad half day's effort at all.
This put an end to our joint 14er effort. Roland had other places to be, Scott and Tom headed to the Collegiates for more 14ers (that I had done the previous year), and myself off to parts as yet unknown. I had a few more days before I was scheduled to meet Eric in Steamboat, so I went off in search of some solo adventure. I drove back over Independence Pass, stopping in Leadville to get dinner at High Mountain Pies (pizza) where I could use their wifi. While I was there, I found a few interesting ideas to keep me busy for the next few days. Afterwards, I drove up and over Fremont Pass, then on a Forest road heading east to the base of the Tenmile Range where I planned to hike the next morning. I slept quietly near the defunct Boston Mine at the head of Mayflower Creek, undisturbed until the next morning...
For more information see these SummitPost pages: Pyramid Peak
This page last updated: Tue Aug 24 15:29:47 2021
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