This has been the season that just keeps on going. A couple weeks prior we saw a report from someone else who’d been up on North Maroon, and figured it’d still be in acceptable shape when we were able to make it. And so John, Terrence, and myself drove up after getting the kids down for the evening on a Tuesday night. We were able to get a few hours of sleep – all of us sleeping remarkably well for being at a trailhead – and were hiking at 2:45am.
We made quick progress the first couple of miles, until we hit the first debris path left behind by March’s historic avalanche cycle. We got around/through it, continued on, and…had to cross another one. Between the snow and avalanche debris, we found ourselves off-trail for a while and lost a little time – and energy. At 4:45 we were finally at treeline and switched from hiking shoes to ski boots and crampons, and before we knew it the sun was up.
We had put our skins on our skis, but never had occasion to use them. We found a divot in the snow near the base of the face to stash skins and our hiking shoes, and took one last break to eat and drink before heading up, knowing it would be too steep and committing from there to the summit.
I had wanted to start earlier than we did, worried about softening snow for the climb. As soon as the sun hit things started to soften, slowing progress. Fortunately most of the route held enough microfeatures to make finding shadows to climb in easy.
The climb was committing enough that there aren’t a ton of photos from the next hour and a half. I led the way up, looking for small shadows and remnants of kicked steps from whenever the last group arrived. About half way up I heard a shout asking if I’d dropped one of my whippets (whippets are ski poles with a self-arrest pick in the grip. I ski with two on most peaks, but I was using one and an ice axe for the climb – the second strapped to my pack). I checked and still had it. I don’t know how but someone managed to lose a whippet, which was partially melted in to the snow. Terrence didn’t have one, and we were all glad that he now had one.
I worked my way up the face, wishing I could be climbing snow I’d want to ski, but knowing it was more important to get up quickly on firm snow. So I worked my way through the cliff bands, small icy chunks, and narrow sections until I hit the punk rock band – which still held so much snow it was trivial – and topped out right about 8am.
John and Terrence slowed for the final stretch, and were with me on top a few minutes later.
The views were spectacular.
We skied off about 9am, the summit area still very firm thanks to a steady breeze.
A few moments after starting we were back at the punk rock band, which was not trivial on the descent.
We were then on the main face, the top of which had some decent snow for making a few turns.
The snow got softer and softer as we made our way down. For a while it was decent for skiing, but was worse every turn.
Eventually you get through a choke, make a big left turn, and see the exit a simple traverse out in front of you. There are still runnels and thin spots, but the consequences for a mistake drop sharply, making for a big relief.
Suddenly we were off the face, thrilled to have pulled off such a big peak.
It’s here where we got the only wide-open “fun” skiing of the day, so we made the most of it.
We were able to keep our skis on to about 10,600′, which we were all pretty happy with.
We pretty quickly got to the first debris path and hopped a few trees before we looked down the hill to see a bunch of flattened willows all the way to the Crater Lake hiking trail. John jokingly suggested we go down to it and I seriously suggested that we do the same. It was worth it, a couple minutes of hiking down the slide path got us on a fast easy trail all the way back to the car.
A dozen repeated “where did you ski?” “North Maroon” “you skied that?!?” conversations and two miles later and were back at Maroon Lake.
We repacked the car, enjoyed a beer in the sun, and hit the road for home.