Maroon Peak 14,156′

Maroon Peak 14,156'

01 September 2016

I left Durango last night at 9p following a company celebration. After four and a half hours of driving – and with just 30 minutes between me and my destination – I got pulled over by a police officer in Basalt. Apparently he clocked me at 64 in a 45. Oops. He gave me a quick, easy verbal warning. Start to finish was under 10 minutes, so that was a pleasant surprise too. “Just slow it down for me.” Well, yessir!

I pulled into the parking lot at about 230a. There were just three other cars there, quite different than the nearly full lot when I arrived at about the same time a few weekends ago. Mid-week and a gloomy weather forecast have their advantages. I climbed into the back of the car for an hour long power nap and ultimately set out beneath an unbroken blanket of brilliantly shining stars. The forecast had originally called for mostly sunny skies with afternoon thunderstorms between 1 and 4p, but upon checking the forecast again while waiting on the officer to finish in Basalt, the update was calling for storms as early as 9a. Hard to imagine with such clear skies at 4a. Ah well, I figured, worth a shot.

I had heard horror stories about route finding on Maroon Peak, but I found the process to be quite manageable. Last time I was up there, I lost the route in the braided trails below the south ridge. This time, though, I skipped the trail and headed directly for the notch in the ridge. Once there, I found some trail segments and cairns, which I was able to piece together to reach the west face. From there, I just took it slow. I never left a cairn or trail segment until I had eyes on the next. There are definitely erroneous cairns and trail markings up there, so I recommend just following the route that feels safe and makes sense to you. Worked for me.

I reached the summit after four and a half hours. It was 830a and to my surprise, the weather was only just beginning to slowly build. I was liking my chances of making it down before things got sketchy. The rain didn’t start until I got back to the car at about 123op, so it all worked out. And even better, lots of folks retreated from the lake to their cars when the sprinkling started. Had Maroon Lake to myself for a few precious moments. And the mountain, I had that to myself today as well save the fleeting company of various wildlife. Between the ptarmigan, the half dozen pikas, the howling and yipping coyotes whose cries filled the valley below, and the four foxes I saw during the drive last night- it’s been a pretty rich 12 hours.

Ticking Maroon off the list means that I only have four left, and all of those in Chicago Basin. Should just be one trip. We’ll see what the weather does these next couple weeks. I really wanna finish the 14ers this season, but it’s not looking too promising. If I understand correctly, there is already snow accumulating in Chicago Basin. Hard to imagine.