With incredible views, great conditions, two stellar summits, and 2,300 feet of climbing, this was one of my favorite climbs of the year.
Approach this classic snow/ice climb via the Maroon Bells TH and Crater Lake. Hike about a half mile past the lake to the talus runout below the couloir, then head straight up toward it. A cairn marks the cutoff point. Follow the right side of the runout and a faint trail past the obvious cliff/notch, and traverse in to the left to gain the snow. Climb over 2,000' of steepening snow/ice to the notch between the Maroon Bells and enjoy. The angle reaches about 55 degrees in the upper 1/3.
From the notch, follow the Maroon Ridge to South Maroon Peak (3rd-4th class) or North Maroon Peak (5.4ish) and descend one of the standard routes, or descend the couloir (carefully, with soft snow). Prime time to hit the Bell Cord is late May - June, depending on the year.
An [axe] should be all you need for this.
|By George Bell|
From: Boulder, CO
Oct 31, 2002
Originally read "pro: An ace should be all you need for this."
Pro: would that be that an ace of spades or clubs? Or does this refer to your partner? ;-)
Nov 2, 2002
Doh. That would be an axe. Heh heh. I suppose you could use a club, too.
|By George Bell|
From: Boulder, CO
Jun 23, 2003
Climbed this on 6/21/03. This is a great snow couloir and the best way to climb the Maroon Bells, in my opinion. Much better to climb them on snow than that horrible rock! There is plenty of snow right now, although it is only about 10' wide in the middle. There is a deep runnel in this section and the only place to climb is right up it. This couloir has severe rockfall danger, clearly evident from the large rocks you pass lying on top of the snow all the way up. It also softens very quickly as the sun hits it right at sunrise, even given the hard freeze the night before our ascent. I recommend a very early start (we left the car around 4AM, and topped out in the couloir by 8:30). After the climb in the parking lot we met to a guy who had taken a slushalanche ride down this couloir due to a late start several years ago. Fortunately everyone in his party survived.
Our trip report:
|By Jeff Lord|
Sep 22, 2005
My wife and I did this route on 6-19-05 and I would say that overall, this is an excellent climb. Be careful however, not to get forced down this route in warmer afternoon temperatures. We descended amid a perpetual barrage of falling rock and snow and felt fortunate to exit unscathed...poor planning on my part.
|By Cory Cleveland|
From: Missoula, MT
Jun 14, 2006
Climbed the Bell Cord and the traverse from S. Maroon to N. Maroon on 6/11/06. Conditions were ideal for the climb. We started at 3:30 am from campsite 11 at Crater Lake, and reached the top of the couloir at 6 am, right after sunrise. The early start made the couloir a relative no-brainer, as it removed the rockfall issues from the equation. I highly recommend an early (albiet painful) start.
The S-N ridge also seemed relatively straightforward, given the perfect weather and our luck with route-finding. We carried a rope, but everyone felt comfortable soloing the route. This point should speak to its difficulty in good, dry conditions; 4th class seems accurate under those circumstances. While the quality of the Bells in general is awful, the rock the spots that are usually rapped (from N. to S.) seemed surprisingly secure and the climbing was actually very fun.
As we had feared, the worst part of the trip was the descent. As George notes, the NE ridge of N. Maroon apparently sees very little early season traffic, and our enthusiasm for that option quickly faded. We opted for the NW ridge. It was long and tedious, but relatively easy. We passed most obstacles on the west, with only one obvious exception where the only way through was to the east.
Arriving at the Gunsight left us with a rap on somewhat spooky gear; there was a fixed pin at the top of the gully, but little else in the way of secure blocks or good gear placements. We used the pin as a backup, set up a rap line and downclimbed the still snow-filled Gunsight couloir on rappel. I would not want to do it when it was melted out though, as it gives new meaning to the word "choss." About 120' below the notch, the angle of the couloir eases and makes downclimbing more reasonable. We saw no other evidence of rappel anchors or obvious rappel anchor placements below the notch, but they may be available after snowmelt. Below the couloir the descent is fine, connecting up with the lower part of the NE ridge route.
A great way to climb both peaks, in spite of the loose rock and tedious descent.
|By Rick Blair|
Jun 29, 2011
In this huge snow year, this was a loooong climb. We brought 2 axes, and I was glad to have them. We were able to mix it up plunging both shafts, then some daggering even traversing was nice, because you didn't have to switch hands. The large runnel in the middle is created by falling ice and boulders, stay out. We started at 3am.
35 degrees down low,
39 degrees typical,
43 degrees steepest.