Gear: The usual snow travel stuff. Harness, crampons, head lamps, helmet, ropes, pickets, ice axes, small rock rack to share. Lots of food, water, and bad weather clothing which was not needed.
The route: Backpack from the overnight parking lot below Maroon lake to the camp site above Crater lake, total about 2 miles and 600' vertical. Depart Crater lake camp at ~10160', 2AM, up "garbage chute", then up the right "S" coulior to the saddle S of the summit. Then scramble up the W face to the summit at 14 156' , ~8AM ish.
Conditions: Excellent snow for kick steps in the chute without crampons. The upper snow, due to the higher angle, was suitable for crampons and we had 3 rope teams. The angle for those who have not done this variation is between 40 and 50 degrees at the steepest by my gut feel. From the saddle to the summit we found the guidebook descriptions of class 3 to be pretty good. But, as usual some found some easy class 4 climbing.
Descent: At about 8:45AM Bob Jr., Derek, and Ryan, our strongest rock and fittest climbers headed for the N peak. The second hand tale was they did not use the rope and did not stay on the ridge. Their descent from the N peak was close to the ridge line and since none of them had been there, route finding slowed them. Being off route they encountered some free 5th class effort. They arrived back at camp near 3PM
The remaining 6 of us descended to the top of the ascent coulior and voted to do the S ridge instead. In retrospect it was not the best decision. If there is a next time for me I will go down the snow. Having said that, with 6 people, 2 ropes and 4 pickets maybe we did the right thing. Lots of people at risk for a steep descent, an by then the snow was in full sun with a slick top layer.
Oh Well, The descent to where the up trail hits the ridge was darn tough, mostly 3rd class with a lot of 4 class due to the fact that we kept getting off route. It turns out that we lost the route just about every time we came to snow. The cairns were probably buried. We kept dealing with the situation and got on the ridge at several points with lots of air and even had a couple of ~5.2 moves. All the gear was kept stowed including the rope. and the weary bunch finally found the low angle snow fields on the E face. long rocky glasiades followed and we got back to camp at 2PM.
The snow in the chute will be short lived as at the narrows it was pretty slim. Of course, the upper snow field/coulior will be there for many weeks to come.
There was a reason these athletes cajoled me up the hill. It was my last 14er. After all these years!! My first one was Longs 8/15/65. My first attempt on Maroon resulted in a fall (8/2/69) and my son (age 10) and I ended up alive, all cut up but in the moat at the top of the "S on the same route (my fault). I had recieved the available training in the Denver BMS in '68, but, it didnt help me that day on the snow because snow travel had not yet been introduced. Makes one think and go slower than necessary to pass that place. Thankfully the team members understood and were happy for me. I was pretty slow. I wish I could do a trip like this every week.
Beta note: I would not reccomend doing the S ridge. It is a dangerous way to get to Maroon peak. Just wait for the snow to stabalize and make the round trip with a small group on the snow coulior of your choice. They all come together above the garbage chute.
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