Pyramid Peak

by Daniel Weiss April. 03, 2021 200 views

Date Climbed: 8/1/2018

Elevation: 14,026 Ft

Pyramid Peak From North Maroon Peak

Pyramid Peak From North Maroon Peak

Tall, foreboding, with multiple routes deserving the title "classic," Pyramid Peak dominates valley below with an ominous shadow. Unless you're a hardcore peak bagger, mountaineer, or skier, you've probably never heard of it. In fact, most hikers pass this peak without a second glance on their way to see the more famous Maroon Bells; although only a fraction even consider climbing any of the three.

Across the valley from Pyramid

Across the valley from Pyramid

At the time, I had the freedom to use my weekdays as I worked weekends, and so I left the trail just a little past 7 AM with no other climbers in sight. In fact, on the way up to the amphitheater, I didn't catch a living soul (minus the mountain goats that call this place home). Along the way, one goat in particular seemed to take an interest in me and walked alongside me just out of arms reach, stopping at every switchback to look back at me and wait as I approached. It almost seemed to want me to follow it.

As I made my entrance into the amphitheater, a large cairn reminiscent of those found in the Himalaya greeted me. Ahead lay the forbidding and unclimbed north face of Pyramid Peak (a secret goal I've had in the back of my mind for years now).

Pyramid's North Face framed by the large cairns at the entrance

Pyramid's North Face framed by the large cairns at the entrance

The going was slow across the rock glacier. Every boulder seemed loose, and with no clear path, this was possibly the slowest part of my journey. Once I had made it safely across, the next challenge was a steep and loose dirt slope. Going up this slope presented few problems (although it was obvious I'd need new shoes as mine had almost no traction on the loose dirt). Once atop this slope, I had made the shoulder of Pyramid, and all that lay ahead of me were some ledges and route-finding.

Looking from the shoulder towards the summit

Looking from the shoulder towards the summit

At the time, my only frame of reference was what I had read online from people I did not know. As with most things, many people are risk averse, and thus the danger and risk can be exaggerated (although the inverse is also true depending on the group you're talking to- this is called sandbagging for which rock climbers are notorious). From this point, I took a picture for reference and carefully plotted my way up. There were three main concerns: 1- aggressive mountain goats (you laugh, but they've pushed people off of cliffs on this very peak), 2- the "lead of faith", and 3- route finding. I knew I could handle the route-finding, as I felt fairly confident from my winter experiences. I felt a little less confident about the leap, although I knew a workaround if I needed it. The mountain goats were the big question mark: although the ones I met earlier were easy going, I could see some dotting the ledges ahead, and some had kids with them.

Winding my way across the ridge, looking back at the trail

Winding my way across the ridge, looking back at the trail

After navigating a few small gendarmes (none of which required any scrambling), I was on the ledge system. Just as I approached the "leap of faith," a got and kid walked around the corner, barring the way. I began to sweat, as the goat seemed agitated. I had no no desire to go back as I would still have to climb up or down to get out of the way, and the goat had no easy options back either. A cornered animal (especially with a baby) is never a good thing, so I opted to climb straight up and over to the other side of the gendarme above me. In this way, I didn't block the goat and if it did kick down rocks, they wouldn't hit me.

Looking back at the "Leap of Faith"

Looking back at the "Leap of Faith"

Once out of the way, the two goats sped across the ledge and off behind me. I quickly down climbed and continued on my way. Just around the corner, I came upon the "leap of faith," which ended up being more of a step of faith than anything. Once across, I continued maybe another few hundred feet horizontally along the ledge before ascending a loose scree gulley up to another ledge system just below the summit.

My lunch buddy, Thunder Pyramid in the background

My lunch buddy, Thunder Pyramid in the background

From here, the climbing finally resembled class 3 climbing. I was promised class 4, but at no point did the climbing resemble this in any way. Was the rock loose? Yes. Would it be difficult if you lost the trail? Yes. However, the ledge systems were well defined and all that was required was a little walking back and forth to find the easiest route up. At this point, the summit came quickly. From here, I took in the beautiful scenery enjoying a nice lunch of cheese and crackers accompanied by a curious goat.

Looking across at the Maroon Bells

Looking across at the Maroon Bells

At this point, I had not yet climbed the Bells. They were the only 14ers (minus Capitol) that scared me. Little did I know I would end up doing the Bells Traverse, experiencing one of my all time favorite days in the mountains. Even so, to be warned, they deserve their reputation as the Deadly Bells.

Exiting the Amphitheater

Exiting the Amphitheater

On my way down, I opted for a more direct route, rather than walking back and forth across the ledges. The only thing I needed to be careful about was not missing the ledge system I took on the way up. Once on track, I moved quickly back across the previously travelled ground. Back on the shoulder above the loose dirt trail, I took another break, soaking up the sun and enjoying the company of the numerous goats around me.

A little while later on the steep descent, I ran into a couple making their way up. As we passed each other, they asked how far they were and the nature of what lay ahead. I gave them a quick description and began on my way, until a moment later they stopped me again and asked if I could grab a helmet they had dropped on their way up. They had a vague idea of where it had fallen, but as I wasn't in a hurry, I took my time looking down each of the short gullies below. Although my hopes weren't high, I stumbled upon it and handed it off to another climbed on his way up, letting him know to return it to the couple a little ways ahead.

Looking up the valley, Maroon Bells on the left

Looking up the valley, Maroon Bells on the left

The hike back across the rock glacier was slow once again, but slightly shorter as I took a more direct path off to my right. Once at the large cairns, I took one last look back at Pyramid, sent up a silent prayer of thanks, and jogged back down to Maroon Lake and my truck.

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