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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2003
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    The Ranch
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    3,537

    TR: Maroon Peak - Bell Cord\East Face

    For some people a trip up and down Maroon is just another day in the mountains, but for someone who skis only about 10 days a year now, mostly on groomers with my kids, it is a full blown adventure out on the edge. That's what I thought it was going to be and it ended up the same. Each year mortality sinks his teeth in a little deeper, but happiness and a fullness of life increase with even greater speed. The source of motivation for heading into mountains comes under closer scrutiny. Is it for the challenge and beauty or the pictures and the tgr tr, maybe its just to get away from the daily grind of work and do something different? Obviously it's some combination of all those things but one thing becomes clearer as the years go on, I don't want to die anytime soon. So with that in mind I have one goal every trip, come back alive, everything else is secondary.

    For an intermediate ski mountaineer Maroon Peak packs all the challenge you need, 10 years ago we started the Memorial Day weekend ski tradition. We climbed and skied the Y couloir on Maroon but never summitted. The Crater Lake area of the Maroon Bells is simply a perfect place to camp and ski, so the tin anniversary would find us back where it all started.



    We had a group of friends camping up near Independence Pass but my brother and I wanted to camp by the lake, so that's what we did. The original plan was to climb and ski Maroon on Saturday and N.Maroon on Sunday. However, while packing up the night before I noticed that one of the rivets on my boot had broken. We decided to do a test climb and ski first before taking it any higher. So on Saturday we climbed up to the entrance to the Bell Cord, kicking steps in soft snow. The missing rivet was imperceptible and we had a nice morning out.

    Kicking steps


    Climb2ski taking the lead.


    Back in camp around noon, our group of buddies hiked up some beer and we had a nice afternoon reminiscing over the the past ten years. A lot has happened in that time, we skied 30 fourteeners on these trips over the past 10 years. However, nothing can touch the marriage to my beautiful wife Becky and the birth of our three amazing children. Nothing else even comes close. I have a permanent picture etched into my minds eye of them and they are with me on every kicked step and jump turn. With those thoughts in my mind we called it a night around 7pm and drifted off to sleep. At 1 am the alarm went off and we were on the trail by 1:30am.

    As we climbed higher a full moon lit the valley below but the east ridge of Maroon kept us in the dark. The temperature was perfect and the previously kicked steps welcomed.


    The eastern glow languidly crept into the sky, entering the Bell Cord couloir the magic hour was upon us and climb2ski headed higher.


    We knew that at some point we were supposed to leave the Bell Cord and traverse out onto the east face of Maroon, as this provides a complete snow climb to the summit and is the preferred ski route as well. There are several shelves that leave the Bell Cord and they all look equally probable so we picked one and started climbing it.


    At this point I was concerned about how steep the route was getting for a ski descent of this tricky traverse.


    After climb2ski lead a nice pitch over a small cliff band we got up onto a small ridge on the east face. The views were opening up below and the exposure increased with each step.


    Fortunately after about 200 feet of climbing we saw the traverse that is usually used for the descent, it looked much more like a nice ski traverse than a certain death slope, so I was relieved. The climb up the east face was outstanding, perfect snow, perfect weather, perfect partner. I couldn't have asked for more, so rather than asking for more, we just kept on climbing. Here climb2ski is just moments from the summit.


    Happy brothers on the summit, but those are nervous grins as the exposure on the summit was intense and the summit ski was going to require all of our nerve.


    Geared up and ready to go.


    After making some turns down the east ridge to the start of the steep snow, I headed out onto the face but didn't like the feel of the snow. It looked rotten and soft for about 100 feet above a small cliff band. At this point I climbed back up to the ridge and prepared to downclimb the 100 feet to the main face. While taking my skis off I lost control of one of the skis and watched in disbelief as it flipped and headed to the abyss. Miraculously it stuck in the snow just a few feet from the edge of a large cliff. It had stopped but getting down to it wasn't going to be easy. My bro climbed down to me and we set up an anchor with a couple of ice axes and he belayed me as I downclimbed about 40 feet to retrieve the ski.


    It's not clear from the picture but the ski was perched in a bit of snow only a couple of feet wide with loose looking rocks to the left and right. I had to gingerly climb down to the ski so as not to accidently dislodge it. I really didn't feel like hucking a 200 foot cliff on one ski today. Fortunately it all went well, the belay was solid and we were soon below the small cliff band. At this point a couple of skiers were heading up and they reaffirmed that the correct entrance into the couloir was not the way we climbed up but the ledge just above it. The day was getting better already. Now clicked into our skis, the turns on the upper east face must have been amazing, but I honestly don't recall them. We didn't get any pictures up there because we were both probably a little gripped from the experience, but once we finished the traverse the Bell Cord felt oddly safe and comfortable.


    Ireallyliketoski in the bell cord couloir. I really do.


    climb2ski enjoying the 2nd half of his board name.


    Half way down the bell cord we could see the traverse ascent route that we took up.


    The views down valley on this route are incredible.


    climb2ski about to enter the garbage dump


    Ireallylike2ski getting spit out of the other end.


    The unexamined life is not worth living and it is in these moments of introspection where most of our personal growth occurs. It was a successful trip and there will be more, just probably not Capitol.
    Last edited by Ireallyliketoski; 06-02-2010 at 04:09 PM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    under the hogback shadow
    Posts
    2,316
    nice. glad you got your ski.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2004
    Location
    Eagle, CO
    Posts
    2,237
    Woah, glad the ski didn't go any further! Awesome looking day

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    Posts
    69
    Great TR. Maybe see you on the trail again sometime!

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Location
    Posts
    7,320
    That was a very cool TR.

    You got lucky on that lost ski, ¿que no?
    山、川、森林、砂漠、海、空

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    Location
    Ogden
    Posts
    4,474

    Thumbs up

    Nice pics, thoughts well written, solid work!

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    Location
    A Material World
    Posts
    1,610
    Good stuff.
    "Unfortunately, Meadows mgmt/marketing found out about the PR stash and published it on their trail map."

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Location
    Crested Butte
    Posts
    2,010
    Ireallylikethistripreport!
    Chocolate? This is doodoo, BABY!

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Posts
    3,111
    Very nice. Great introduction write up. Couldn't say it any better myself.

    The unexamined life is not worth living and it is in these moments of introspection where most of our personal growth occurs.
    Like on Mushrooms?
    "The skis just popped me up out of the snow and I went screaming down the hill on a high better than any heroin junkie." She Ra

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Location
    Where the Butte is Crested
    Posts
    3,339
    Another good day in the Elks.
    -
    14erskiers.com

    "Don't be afraid of the spaces between your dreams and reality. If you can dream it, you can make it so." - Belva Davis

    "There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle"--Albert Einstein

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    Location
    Camden, innit?
    Posts
    2,178
    great TR!
    (and musings on ageing...)
    fur bearing, drunk, prancing eurosnob

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    Location
    Baltimore, MD
    Posts
    5,049
    Aging sucks. But you know what sucks even more? Aging and being stuck on the snowless east coast with no money.

    Good stuff!

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    what
    Posts
    199
    sick, i've always wanted to ski that, great pics.

    damn -- lookin pretty thin over there
    |-------------------|----3333-------------|------------------|--------------------|3333
    |-------------------|-------------0---0-|--------1111--------|--------------------
    |-------------------|-----------0--2---|-0--------------------020----0--------
    |----------------0-|-------------------|-----2--2222-0h2-----02------20--
    |-2----2---3------|----2222--------------|--3333--------|------------------|2222
    |-------------------|----3333-------------|---------------------------------------|3333-

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    SLC
    Posts
    1,146
    Great TR. Good thoughts on skiing and life. Also, in my experience, any ski trip is a little more rewarding if I get to do it with my brother.

    Oh yeah, glad you got that ski back. Close call.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    Location
    Denver
    Posts
    706
    Nice work bro... Love the teener stoke.
    We hold daggers in the side of the Moon...

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Oct 2002
    Location
    STL
    Posts
    2,118
    dude, nice - that pic of the ski on the ledge =


    glad you got it!
    "When restraint and courtesy are added to strength, the latter becomes irresistible."
    Mohandas Gandhi

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Location
    Aspen, CO
    Posts
    119

    Crazy!

    I cant believe how lucky you are. I skied that same line on Memorial Day. That spot where your ski stopped is the most exposed spot on the route. Literally miraculous! A couple more feet and your ski would have gone for several hundred feet of flight. I chose to drytool over those rocks at the top, in a sketchy situation like that I feel much better with skis on my feet. We were wondering about your tracks traversing over that lower cliffband because ther were no descent ski tracks. We continued to the top of the Bellcord to rest and assess our situation, then downclimbed about 30 feet to the preferred traverse out onto the East face before making the final push to the summit. Those turns on the east face were great, i do remember them but I also remember that they were kind of automatic survival mode turns. Quite an adrenalin rush. Good line, good work making it home safe. I shudder to think about what it would have been like to downclimb 4000 vertical feet if your ski had not stopped...





  18. #18
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    Denver, Co.
    Posts
    1,426
    excellent.

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    Location
    PRB
    Posts
    15,200
    holy crap did you get lucky!!!

    Excellent TR.
    "fuck off you asshat gaper shit for brains fucktard wanker." - Jesus Christ
    "She was tossing her bean salad with the vigor of a Drunken Pop princess so I walked out of the corner and said.... "need a hand?"" - Odin

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Location
    Colorado Springs
    Posts
    780
    Best lost ski recovery ever.
    Change is good. You go first.

  21. #21
    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    Location
    The Ranch
    Posts
    3,537
    What we witnessed was a miracle and I want you to acknowledge it.

    Thanks for the comments, that's a great line, a 14er classic for sure. In retrospect I probably just should have side stepped down through the rotten snow and cliff band, I'm not sure what I was thinking as I too definitely prefer to keep my skis on as much as possible. Oh well live and learn, with live being the key. That was definitely the wildest experience I've had on a 14er ski descent. It feels good to have one of the more difficult peaks done.

  22. #22
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Location
    Aspen, CO
    Posts
    119

    Miracle

    Yes, it was a miracle. Seriously, losing that ski could have even been fatal, the extra time it would have taken to downclimb the route would put you on late morning east facing snow. A slide on almost any part of the route could be disasterous. A close call, but a grand descent nonetheless. Are you going for all 54?

  23. #23
    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    Location
    The Ranch
    Posts
    3,537
    Losing that ski would have been disastrous, I probably would have just glissaded down the east face and used my backpack as a parachute over the lower cliffs.

    As for my goals, that's the plan, to try to ski or snowboard all 54. I've been working on this project since 98, just taking my time to smell the flowers along the way.

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