Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Maroon Bells Abort

[Previously posted on FB 7-September-2016]

Needed a day off the bike and went for a hike. Had planned to go out to Belleview Mtn in the Maroon Bells Snowmass Wilderness, a "13er." I chose this peak because a) it would be challenging, b) there would be few if any people heading to it, and c) the views of the Maroon Bells would be fabulous.
There was frost on the ground heading out. Burrrrr! The trail was busy. Many shuttled hikers doing point to point, from Crested Butte side of Wilderness to Aspen side. Hiking the West Maroon Pass trail was like walking on a sidewalk. Packed hard with very few rocks. So easy compared to New England trails. But when you want to hit peaks, surprise, there are no trails nor marked routes. You must find your own route.
Even after reading trip reports with photos, I was still confounded with problems I faced on the ridge out to Belleview. There are these things called cliff bands here. You have to pick one and contour around obstacles to get where you're going. The deal is, all the rock is "rotten" here. It falls apart and everything under foot is unstable. Slip off a cliff band, you could go for a serious fall.
I could not find a route I felt comfortable with hiking by myself. I turned around. When I got back to West Maroon Pass, I wondered what the ridge was like going the other way. It was steep, but the rock was solid. It was more like climbing in the Whites. I headed out to explore.
I went out to an unnamed peak just under 13k. There were no people along this ridge and the view was grand. Primary objectives for the hike had been achieved.
During my traverse of this ridge, I noticed another did make it out to Belleview. It took him upwards of 2hrs to cover the approx. 0.5 miles! It probably took another 2hrs to come back to the pass too. Just as well I didn't do it.

Heading out on West Maroon Bell trail #1970. False summit of Belleview in distance.

Looking ahead at West Maroon Pass. See the three silhouettes?

The ridge I will have to traverse. Falling off band above and out of sight could lead to falling over these.

A grand view of the Maroon Bells, Maroon Peak on left, Pyramid Peak on right, with Maroon Pass Trail in valley.

How do you plan route across this that doesn't result in doom?

Part way across ridge to Belleview.

Where I had to turn around. Notice vertical drop lower left. Slip off a band here, you're going over a big cliff. All this rock was rotten and loose under foot with no stable holds.

Belleview knob right of center. Wasn't going to happen.

Really cruddy stuff to crawl around on.

Even if I did make it out to Belleview, how do you scale up that thing with serious exposure all the way around?

The valley to Aspen. Belleview on left, Maroon Peak center and Pyramid Peak right (very challenging 14ers).

Rustler Gulch and Gothic Mtn cetner. Trail 401 I rode yesterday is just below this view.

Looking up Rustler Gulch to Precarious Peak, a 13er.

The peak I went out to, center

The cliff bands heading to false summit of Belleview. The middle group confounded me

Talus field out to peak I did hit. It moves and signs to you, but no fear of death

Looking down ridge as I head out to "my" peak

Looking back along the ridge I traversed with Belleview in distance on right. I could track silhouette of guy heading out on my way to where this photo was taken. He reached the summit as I got back to the pass.

Panoram of the Maroon Bells

Belleview, false summit on left, true summit on right. Even if I did make it out to true summit, how do you climb that knob with exposure all the way around?

Maroon Peak (and North Maroon Peak) left, Pyramid on right.

Still some fall flowers around and marmots alerting my presence wherever I went.

Almost a knife edge with precipitous drop to right that was easy to stay away from. West Maroon Pass trail snaking over pass. I came up from the left.

Looking back up the trail near end of hike.

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