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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Location
    Boulder
    Posts
    247

    For Whom the (Maroon)Bells Toll... (sic)

    ...Time Marches On.

    Untitled by jason.killgore, on Flickr From TH

    A few years ago I found myself reading a TR from Jordan White et al (https://www.14ers.com/php14ers/tripreport.php?trip=9872) on trying to link the Maroon Bells in a day trip. He proposed a sneaky link up between the S/SW couloir on Maroon Peak, exiting to a notch that allows access along the west side of the Bells, then ascending to another notch in the NW ridge of N Maroon and finally up the W face and down the Stammberger (North) Face. They made it close, but ultimately felt it was too warm. The hook was set.

    For the past few seasons, linking up the Bells has ranked near the top of my to-do list. Early spring is clearly the optimal time for such an adventure, but that brings with it uncertainty about stability, weather and an extra 6 miles of snowy approach. The approach was workable, but how often do we get early stability that gives enough confidence to venture into a mostly-unknown-to-us range. Enter March 2017, bone dry weather, improving stability, and a trickle of reports of bigger lines being skied in the Elks. And it's still winter.

    Partners bounced various ambitious lines around, but my mind was stubbornly set. I had to convince CB to cut his San Juans trip short and TH to spend another day away from his wife. Luckily my persuasion succeeded cause as TH said in paraphrase: "kinda have to go the elks". Just to guarantee failure, I said we'd ski Pyramid too (spoiler, we didn't). To maximize home time, TH decided we should do it all as a day trip from Summit. Ugh. Midnight alarm set...

    An hour or two of half-sleep and I was out of bed. Felt decently awake, facilitated by a few frappucinos. Having left breakfast on the counter (so not really that awake), we stopped at the 7-11 in Glenwood or Basalt (I frankly can't remember which it was). The cashier seemed relatively pleased to have what I imagine were his first sober customers in hours.

    We rolled into the trailhead a bit before 3, and as often happens at that time, gearing up took about 3x longer than usual. Skins went on and we hit the road. Then TH said we had to rip and start skating; fuck. Nothing like a little aerobic work to kick off a long day. We skated for a couple miles, then thought better of continuing to burn calories at such a rate. Skins back on.

    At Crater lake we ran into a group that were just gearing up to head out. We went over to say hello and found out they were headed to the NW ridge on Pyramid. Another party looked to have had an early start up the west face of Thunder pyramid. Pretty busy for a winter day, but everybody still gets to have their own mountains.

    We kept our routes flexible for the day. It seemed like the garbage chute to right-Y would be the easiest ascent option. Approach was beautiful, travel mostly easy (a bit of slabby snow above garbage chute), sunrise spectacular, and weather phenomenal.

    IMG_4393 by jason.killgore, on Flickr

    Copy of DSC01014 by jason.killgore, on Flickr From TH

    IMG_4400 by jason.killgore, on Flickr

    IMG_4409 by jason.killgore, on Flickr


    We topped out sometime around 9 with a plethora of ski choices. Direct east face and east face to Bell Cord looked to both go clean from summit. S couloir was looking firm and not connected at the top, but it would keep the day a little shorter. There was concern that the Cord would be a big nasty runnel, but it also seemed like a classic that shouldn't be missed. And besides, when would it ever be better than early march? The snow was excellent for skiing, but not quite the consolidated spring snowpack we anticipated. Down on-sighting the ledge traverse kept the stress up a bit. Then we entered the Cord and were pleasantly surprised to find that the runnel could be completely avoided for NE facing chalky untracked pow. At one point I tried to mention how good the skiing was, but I was told to zip it, lest we jinx our good fortune. Eventually the chalk gave way to corn, which gave way to ripper mellow slopes all the way back to crater lake.

    IMG_4480 by jason.killgore, on Flickr

    IMG_4495 by jason.killgore, on Flickr

    IMG_3063 by jason.killgore, on Flickr From TH

    IMG_4872 by jason.killgore, on Flickr

    Back at crater lake, the best case scenario was holding up. No ski pen, plenty of stoke. We set our sights on N Maroon.

    As we skinned the lower pitch, my skins decided they hated me and would rather glop up every step from hot to cold. A fair amount of cursing while trying to keep up, finally got me to the upper valley and our first full view of the face. Looked cold; actually getting shadier instead of warming. One section looked questionably thin, but we figured something must be there. We reached the access couloir and I asked if we could boot early to avoid more glopping. Thankfully the team was okay with that.

    IMG_4983 by jason.killgore, on Flickr

    The snow felt great. Cold and soft. Nonetheless, with the opening traverse exponentially increasing the consequences of a mistake, we dug a pit. (Some layers, low quality shear, no propagation). Still felt heady, but what else could we ask for? The whole climb felt fairly stressful. Compounded by finding that the thin section we saw from below really was that thin and thin meant faceted sugar over rocks. This section would weigh over us for the rest of the climb until we passed it again on skis. Above the thinness we were back on track, eventually catching some day old tracks at the NE ridge. Up through punk rock and we were soon on top.

    DSC01119 by jason.killgore, on Flickr From TH

    The general feeling was tired, dehydrated and a bit scared of the coming descent (at least that's how I felt). We could have waited for hours, but it wouldn't have created any water, nor made the descent seem any mellower. The skiing wouldnt be particularly steep, but the consequence was just so puckering. Luckily, the route gave up just enough to ski clean. Punk rock was pretty easy, but still managed to sacrifice CB's pole. The lower thin crux had navigable spice with good dry-ski beta from TH. Everything else was great skiing. Getting through the thin crux dropped my stress level massively, completing the final traverse even more so. At the base of the face, stoke was all time.

    IMG_4994 by jason.killgore, on Flickr From TH

    IMG_5003 by jason.killgore, on Flickr

    LPMK5656 by jason.killgore, on Flickr From TH

    DSC01160 by jason.killgore, on Flickr From TH

    DSC01169 by jason.killgore, on Flickr From TH

    From there it was just a bit of isothermal mank back to crater where we heard from the folks on Pyramid about their equally enjoyable climb and ski. Then, just a long slog-to-skate back to the car for beers.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2014
    Location
    Colorado Front Range
    Posts
    1,645
    Awesome report, thanks!

    ... Thom
    Galibier Design
    crafting technology in service of music

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2014
    Location
    SLC
    Posts
    2,858
    Badass.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Sep 2016
    Location
    NNW
    Posts
    54
    Awesome day of skiing!
    It sucks to suck.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2016
    Location
    Denver
    Posts
    43
    Well done!

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Location
    Beer:30
    Posts
    5,135
    Very nice work! That's a big linkup.

    In retrospect we should have gone for one of the Bells instead of Pyramid on Sunday, but hey. Looking forward to getting back to the Elks this year.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Location
    Boulder
    Posts
    247
    Quote Originally Posted by adrenalated View Post
    Very nice work! That's a big linkup.

    In retrospect we should have gone for one of the Bells instead of Pyramid on Sunday, but hey. Looking forward to getting back to the Elks this year.
    I enjoyed your report. I think its rad the Landry is so fickle. Hopefully this next set of storms brings it back in (sounds like the lower runnel was pretty melted), and few folks can get another shot at it.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Location
    Beer:30
    Posts
    5,135
    Quote Originally Posted by trogdortheburninator View Post
    I think its rad the Landry is so fickle.
    Totally. The logistic challenges are part of what make that line special.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Nov 2002
    Posts
    4,849
    Strong to very strong! I'm such a shitty spring skier. I've done some this year but it just hasn't been lining up. Thanks for taking the time to put up a TR.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Posts
    3,378
    Rad TR!

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Nov 2012
    Location
    gnArvada
    Posts
    2,634
    You bring the stoke! Last year you had that ridiculous Sangre TR too.
    Content like this makes TGR great

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Location
    In the swamp
    Posts
    4,594
    Awesome TR and accomplishment. Love the Bells.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Location
    Sydney/Avon
    Posts
    490

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Location
    lake level
    Posts
    997
    I got the heebie jeebies just looking at those pics of you guys climbing thin CO winter snow and all that crumbly rock. Siiiick!
    I really lack the words to compliment myself today. - Alberto Tomba

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Location
    Missoula, MT
    Posts
    18,027



    FAK!!!

    Is that a trick of the camera or what?
    No longer stuck.

    Quote Originally Posted by stuckathuntermtn View Post
    Just an uneducated guess.

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Location
    Boulder
    Posts
    247
    Quote Originally Posted by stuckathuntermtn View Post



    FAK!!!

    Is that a trick of the camera or what?
    The whole day's just green screens and animatronics
    In this case, I think the morning light and angle definitely make it look a lot worse than reality.

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Sep 2010
    Location
    Golden/Breckenridge
    Posts
    5,244
    Yeah, that part of the climb is a bit steep but not entirely puckering.

    Nice work!

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Location
    Walpole NH
    Posts
    5,751
    Well written, enjoyable read. Thanks for sharing.
    crab in my shoe mouth

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Jun 2006
    Location
    Ventura Highway in the Sunshine
    Posts
    19,727
    Well played sir(s).

    I have come to realize at my age I am just going to enjoy these puckery TRs from the safety of my computer.

    I agree it is a constitutional right for Americans to be assholes...its just too bad that so many take the opportunity...
    iscariot

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Nov 2003
    Location
    none
    Posts
    5,308
    Glad you enjoyed our little corner.
    Next time say hi.

  21. #21
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Location
    Boulder
    Posts
    247
    Quote Originally Posted by Shredhead View Post
    Glad you enjoyed our little corner.
    Next time say hi.
    Darn nice place you live

  22. #22
    Join Date
    Sep 2009
    Location
    heart in terrace, ass in cowtown
    Posts
    2,270
    Awesome TR man, thanks. And, I believe you have the best name on the forumz.
    www.mymountaincoop.ca

    This is OUR mountain - come join us!

  23. #23
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Location
    Not Brooklyn
    Posts
    4,393
    Great work. Thanks.

  24. #24
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Location
    Fraggle Rock, CO
    Posts
    4,963
    Jeepers! What a freaking day in the hills! Thanks for writing it up.
    Brandine: Now Cletus, if I catch you with pig lipstick on your collar one more time you ain't gonna be allowed to sleep in the barn no more!
    Cletus: Duly noted.

  25. #25
    Join Date
    May 2006
    Location
    Flavor Country
    Posts
    2,437
    Well played. With the way the snowpack has set up this season big shit has gotten done out our way. Glad you guys where in on it.
    "They don't think it be like it is, but it do."

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