Next on our 14er list was Pyramid Peak, perhaps our most challenging remaining and rated the hardest by many. Our campsite for North Maroon was situated perfect for the approach to Pyramid also, so following the traverse, we caught up on some R&R. It wasn’t the quietest at Crater lake due to all the day-hiking tourists, but at least we were hidden in the trees and out of the sun. Later around supper time, I heard some bustling in the brush and thought maybe a bear or porcupine was passing through. Nope, it was just Uncle Moose. Bruce was joining us for the climb, and we were glad to see him. Not only did he have much needed fuel for supper, but it is also nice to have another experienced climber along for the challenging peak.
The next morning, we got up around 4, and were off at the usual 4:30. Even though this route is “short,” we didn’t want to chance getting caught up high on wet, rotten rock. The switchbacks out of the block weren’t too pretty and we must have scared away anything nearby. I kept on coughing up hack from a left-over cold, and between Linnea and Bruce, it was like one continuous farmer’s blow. We reached the amphitheater area in the dark and had a hard time keeping the trail. Lots of rock scrambling and hoping. Up a little higher, another climber passed us like we were standing still. Turns out he was on the trail just a little over that we couldn’t see in the dark. Later, we met him coming down and learned that he is a local that climbs Pyramid once a week. I really regret not getting his name. Through the nasty rock, rubble amphitheater section, we reached the first gully that would take us 1000′ up to ~13K and connecting ridge to the summit. At this time the sun started to come out.
The gully was quite the warm up and really got the legs burning. Like North Maroon though, it was simple to pick out the well worn path up. At the ridge, we took a quick re-fueling break and took a good look at the upper mountain. Linnea has a nifty 14ers.com app on her phone that has many route pictures and we often use this to help stay on track. A few sprinkles started dropping from a looming cloud. We were all in though and upwards we proceeded. It looked like clouds were forming, but it was still very early and nothing too nasty was overhead.
We quickly hiked up the ridge a ways and found the mini “leap of faith.” It was more like a step of faith and Linnea skipped it by skirting by it on a narrow ledge. On the way back, it did require a little hop.
Next, we had to cross the ledges. I was particular nervous about this section, but it was wider than I thought and probably the most narrow section was 2 feet. Of course I didn’t take any chances and stayed glued to the rock.
Now we were getting to the fun stuff. Just a short traverse over another exposed, loose gully and we had made it to the where the climb goes steep and up. We all walked pretty fast over that narrow gully.
We had found the light colored green rock, and this was our sign to start climbing up. The start wasn’t too bad and plenty of solid foot and hand holds. Just don’t look down too much.
After this section, it got steeper and route finding came into play. The rock gave way to more loose, rotten red stuff and you had to pick your steps carefully. We followed some cairns marked with red tape over to the left and came across more of the slick, green rock. It kept on getting steeper and more exposed and we had to ascend over several class 5 sections. In retrospect, we should have just shot straight up to the summit. Whoever put down the marking tape should have cleaned it on the way down and I’m never happy to see people leaving trash on the mountain. We cleared some of it. None of us were looking forward to the descent, especially me and Bruce, and the exposure near the top was enough to make me hold my breathe!
This summit guarded itself close and the intensity did not let up. No room for error with more steep moves, loose rock, and increasing exposure. Pyramid lived up to the hype, and we had made it to the summit!
The summit was like a narrow ridge with awesome views of the Bells, Snowmass, Capitol, Castle, and Conundrum. I went a little overboard on the pictures, probably because this will be a one and done mountain. The time I think was a little after 8a — around 4 hours up.
I don’t think any of us were all too tired at the top, more just dreading the down climb. I’ve only had this feeling a couple times at the top, and it is hard to relax. Bruce had a solid backup plan and whipped out some 5 hour energy drink. I took a few more pics, ate some oatmeal pies, and finished off the rest of our jelly beans.
After a quick group shot, it was time to descend.
Linnea took the lead on they way down, although I was right in her ear about going straight down and not messing around with the exposed class 5 stuff. We did have some emergency cordelette and slings with us, but didn’t want to use it. She did great and found a much better route down.
The easier route seems to be more or less just a straight shot, and we skirted what I thought was the most exposed area near the top. About half way down, I left some blood on the mountain courteous of a bloody nose. Must be too much time above 13k.
Just a couple hard spots through the green rock and we were back to the ledges — our ticket off the mountain.
Going across the narrow ledge seemed a little bit worse on the way back, maybe because my adrenaline was starting to wear off.
Back at the lower ridge and saddle point, it was time to gut it out and descend the loose gully into the rock filled amphitheater. We found the trail about halfway through the amphitheater which helped, but it still was not much fun hoping over all the rocks. Up until this point, the weather was holding, although the clouds were starting to come together.
We made it back to camp just a little after noon and overall the outing took around 8 hours. The storms were rolling in, so we tore down camp and made the dash back to the parking lot about 1.75 miles down. A little rain and a little thunder, but no problem since we were off the mountain. This will be a weekend I won’t forget and thankful to have such a good experience and fun time climbing these forbidding peaks.