North Maroon Peak

  • North Maroon Peak
  • 4271 m.
  • No Rank
  • Primary factor 71 m.
  • Climbed August 19, 2001


How to get there: Take Maroon Road (marked by sign) from the main traffic circle just outside (north) of Aspen (On the main road, US 82, in the direction of Glenwood Springs). The upper part of this road is often (all summer) closed to private vehicles in the period 0800 to 1700, but any serious climber should be there much earlier so this has little practical consequence. If you intend to stay overnight in the Maroon Valley you may drive up any time of day, a fee of US dollar 10 may then be charged at the entrance station. The road ends at a clearly marked parking lot. We arrived when it was still dark, had breakfeast in the car and started hiking at 0540, just as the trail became visible.
Route description: The trail leaves the parking lot, runs along the flat valley floor, then starts a gentle climb on the right side of the valley. There are signs saying Crater Lake that should be followed. The slope eases and the trail continues first flat, then gently down towards Crater Lake. Before the lake one arrives at a fork in the trail and a big sign with various information. The trail straight ahead goes to Crater Lake and further onwards to the slopes of South Maroon. The trail to the right has a sign saying Snowmass. This is the trail to follow, it climbs gently for about one kilometer, then levels out and crosses a small meadow. There is a cairn here indicating a (smaller) trail that goes off to the left and quickly descends to the creek and crosses to the other side. On the other side of the creek, the trail climbs more steeply, but it is well marked by cairns. The trail continues uphill, partly in the forest, partly on grassy slopes and partly in an area of (smaller) rocks, making small zig-zags. North Maroon is clearly visible and its north-east ridge is sharply seen as the horizon.
The trail reaches a plateau and heads directly towards the steep ridge. In order to get there one first crosses an area of boulders, (Norwegian: "ur") that originates much further to the right and continues at least partway down the slope to the left. On the other side, one is on the mountain proper, the trail runs horizontally south along an easy, grassy ledge. Right next to some small trees the trail abruptly turns uphill, there is a large cairn marking this point. The trail climbs a rather small gully that is blocked (nearby) uphill by cliff bands. The trail bends further south (left) below these cliffs and enter what looks like a rather large gully leading uphill. The trail crosses over to the left (south) side of this gully and zig-zags uphill. The trail is quite good and there is limited danger of loose rocks. It looks like heavy use has cleared most of the dangerous rocks near the trail away. Obviously, care is needed, one should keep an eye on any party higher up and make sure that loose rocks will roll into the center of the gully and thereby reduce any risks to hikers down below. Higher up, one can clearly see the rock band described in the book by Gerry Roach. One can further see the "crack" that provide a path through somewhat to the right. However, after a traverse somewhat to the right (center of the gully), the trail bends sharply left and contours below the cliff band, turns around a corner (south) and descends slightly into a new, very distinct gully. This route is not described by Roach, neither by Lamport, still it seems to be the "de facto" route today.
Once in this new gully, the route again climbs up on the left (south) side, the trail running in such a way as to minimize the danger of loose rocks hitting parties below. Higher up, there are two choices. One can continue up along what looks like a dry creek, there is a couple of short, steeper parts where one need to use hands, however nothing beyond class three climbing. This route will reach a more rocky area with ledges and small cliffs in the very upper part of the gully. Alternatively, one can traverse back across the main gully to a small, distinct ridge that marks the division between this gully and the top of the first, large gully that the route followed further down. This ridge is mentioned in the route description by Gerry Roach. His description assumes that one stays in the first gully, climbs through the rock band there and thus reaches this ridge from the opposite side. In any event, from this small ridge, there is a distinct ledge that further climbs into the very upper part of our second (main) gully reaching the same area of rock cliffs and ledges.
The route continues up, very well marked by cairns showing the easier climbing, mainly class 2+ with some class three moves. The route traverses quite far to the left before turning and reaching the main crest of the north-east ridgeline. From here, the route continues in a few switch-backs on the north side, now among looser rocks, but on terrain that is less steep. The path leads quite directly into a V-shaped, more vertical rock formation. A closer inspection reveals a very distinct chimney, this can be climbed in essentially two moves, first up and into the chimney, then a few easier steps and one should locate a very good handhold about 35 centimeter in on the flat top of the rock to the climbers right. Thus, this final move is indeed quite easy. This short chimney is still the technical crux of the route. Further up, one arrives back on the main ridge, this time on a very flat, section with a considerable drop on the climbers left. One is now in the very final section of the ascent. The next rocky outcrop has cairns indicating routes on either side, however, the easier route is on the right (north) side. From here, the trail is quite easy leading up to a very nice summit plateau of quite reasonable size.
Unless one continues the traverse across to South Maroon, one should carefully follow the same trail back down. It is easy to make a wrong turn and find more difficult, dangerous terrain.
Comments: I did this climb with Jan-Frode Myklebust. We started at 0540, I made the summit around 1045, we left the summit at 1135 and were back at the car at 1500. On the way up, we met a female climber just before crossing the rocks to get onto the mountain proper. She had spent the night there with a sprained ancle. A rather large rescue party came up while we were on the mountain and got her down. It was told that this was her last fourteener, what a way to finish climbing 54 peaks.