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Pyramid Peak
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Northeast Ridge T 
Northwest Ridge 

Northeast Ridge 

YDS: 4th French: 1 Ewbanks: 2 UIAA: I ZA: 2 British: M 1b PG13

   
Type:  Trad, Chipped, Alpine, 4400', Grade II
Consensus:  YDS: 4th French: 1 Ewbanks: 2 UIAA: I ZA: 2 British: M 1b [details]
FA: 
Page Views: 1,399
Submitted By: Monomaniac on Aug 4, 2009

You & This Route  |  Other Opinions (21)
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Mountain goat on the summit of Pyramid Peak, with ...

Description 

The Northeast Ridge is the standard summit route for Pyramid Peak. Like all routes on Pyramid, there is plenty of loose rock and tricky route finding; however, for competent rock climbers, this is an easy scramble. If you follow your nose and stay on route, the route is fairly tame.

This is a fairly short climb, by 14er standards, only about 8 miles of hiking round-trip; however, there is a great deal of scree & talus hopping, making progrss slow & tedious. This is an alpine summit, so be prepared to deal with altitude, extreme weather, etc.

Begin at Maroon Lake, ~10 miles SW of Aspen. Follow the trail towards Crater Lake, for ~ 1 mile. The trail heads along Maroon Lake, then up a steep hill in the woods. The trail pops out of the woods, and follows a classic moraine for several hundred yards. After ~30 minutes (from the parking lot) there is an enormous cairn on the left marking the new trail to Pyramid Peak. Turn left and follow this trail.

The Pyramid Peak trail begins fairly flat, heading SE across the ancient glacial valley. After ~ 5 minutes, the trail hits the valley wall and begins switchbacking up the steep slope. The trail crosses a number talus fields on its way up to the North Face Cirque. After about 30 minutes of steep hiking, the trail ends at the mouth of an enormous talus filled cirque. This is the North Face Cirque. The impressive N face of pyramid is visible.

Hike due south into the cirque, which probaly has some snow fields. Follow the snow where its safe to do so, otherwise hug the right side of the cirque, following an intermittent cairned trail. After a tedious, steep climb up, a broad plateau is reached, just below the N Face. The NW Ridge splits off here. For the NE ridge, head L (WSW), hopping talus across the basin, aiming for the west wall of the cirque.

Likely the least pleasant section of the route climbs the steep west wall of the cirque via a series of scree-filled couloirs. There is a well beaten trail leading to the correct couloir, and there should be a number of large cairns. Follow this couloir to about half-way up the face, then traverse up & right to the next couloir, which is followed to the top of the wall, to the Northeast Ridge. There is plenty of loose rock in this couloir, so wear a helmet and take care not to knock rocks down on climbers below.

Once atop the wall, follow the Northeast Ridge towards the summit. This route is well cairned, and well-beaten. If you find yourself on untrampled ground, you are off-route.

The first section of the ridge climbs more or less directly on the ridge, with a few short diversions onto the N (right) side of the ridge. Eventually the route turns to the S side of the ridge, and from this point stays to the S pretty much until the summit. The route winds up and down, left & right. Follow your nose, and don't climb over any loose rock. The correct route is totally solid and not sketchy. There are a few key points where down-climbing is required to stay on the best rock, so look down if you don't see the obvious route.

There are a number of short, fun, 4th class boulder problems on good rock that will be required to surmount various rock steps.


Location 

Start at Maroon Lake, Southwest of Aspen.


Protection 

For summer conditions, bring a helmet. A short rope might be useful if you are guiding a novice. For experienced climbers a rope is not very useful. An ice axe might come in handy, but is not necessary.



Photos of Northeast Ridge Slideshow Add Photo
Goat on the summit of Pyramid Peak.
Goat on the summit of Pyramid Peak.
"Leap of Faith" on Pyramid's standard route.
"Leap of Faith" on Pyramid's standard route.
Nearing the summit.  This is one of the few spots where the route actually climbs on the NE Ridge.
Nearing the summit. This is one of the few spots ...
The North Face.  This was taken from the point at which you want to start heading W-SW across the Cirque.
The North Face. This was taken from the point at ...
The route up the couloirs to the NE Ridge.
The route up the couloirs to the NE Ridge.
Playing on a cornice, NE Ridge, Pyramid Peak.
Playing on a cornice, NE Ridge, Pyramid Peak.
View of the summit from  near the top of the couloir.
View of the summit from near the top of the coulo...
One of many short boulder problems on the SE face portion of the climb.
One of many short boulder problems on the SE face ...
The North side of Pyramid Peak from the Crater Lake Trail.  The NE Ridge is the left ridge in the sun.  The route to the cirque climbs up the steep tree & talus-covered hillside, arriving at the saddle to the right of the large patch of trees in the center of the photo.
The North side of Pyramid Peak from the Crater Lak...
At the toe of the North Face Cirque, looking towards the N Face.  The route into the Cirque more or less follows the skinny snowfields.  Where the snow is too steep or slick, there is a poor trail that traverses the right side of the gully.
At the toe of the North Face Cirque, looking towar...
The mountain goats seemed to pretty much follow the climber's trail (or vice versa), unless they were scared off the route by climbers.  So, if you see a goat, follow it!
The mountain goats seemed to pretty much follow th...
Climbing one of the couloirs from the cirque to obtain the ridge.  Summer, 2009.
Climbing one of the couloirs from the cirque to ob...
One of the few points where the route heads on to the N side of the NE ridge.  This is only a few minutes walking from the top of the couloir.
One of the few points where the route heads on to ...
Comments on Northeast Ridge Add Comment
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By Daniel Trugman
From: Los Alamos, NM / Stanford, CA
Aug 5, 2009
rating: 4th 1 2 I 2 M 1b

What's up with the "chipped" status on this climb?

By Monomaniac
Administrator
From: Morrison, CO
Aug 6, 2009

The trail leading up to the North Face Cirque is 100% manufactured. More specifically, there are boulders in the trail that have footholds chipped into them (like Moki Steps in the desert).

By Daniel Trugman
From: Los Alamos, NM / Stanford, CA
Aug 6, 2009
rating: 4th 1 2 I 2 M 1b

Hmmmm, I'm not sure I agree that improving a trail on an alpine scramble constitutes "chipping" but I can definitely see your point. To me, the trail is part of the approach to the scrambling portion of the NE ridge. If this is true, than by your logic, almost any climb is could be considered "chipped" since most climbs have trails to their bases deliberately created for convenience. Holds carved into the rock are more ethically troubling but exist on some approaches. I don't recall any carved holds on the business section of the climb but I could be misremembering.

You should check out the new "aid" route in the Hourglass on Little Bear! People are going hand over hand on a fixed line and saying they climbed the peak! I agree that the rappel anchor needed work, but I think installing 6(!) fixed ropes is a little overkill. It doesn't really make any difference in the end but I personally believe that people should rise to the challenge and actually work for what was once a proud summit.

Anyways, now I'm up on my soapbox and should probably stop ranting. I can see our differences of opinion come from the different contexts from which we are viewing this climb. And by the way, thanks for all your positive contributions to the New Mexico MP community! Good stuff.

Daniel

By Monomaniac
Administrator
From: Morrison, CO
Aug 6, 2009

I was being a bit facetious. But as a student of climbing history, I like to point out that chipping has been around for a long time, and is by no means unique to sport climbing, as many trad climbers would like to believe. For example, Jim Bridwell intentionally sent guys up to pin-out "Freestone" on the Geek Tower in the valley to facilitate his free ascent.

By Daniel Trugman
From: Los Alamos, NM / Stanford, CA
Aug 6, 2009
rating: 4th 1 2 I 2 M 1b

Monomaniac said: "I was being a bit facetious"

That's what I figured, especially after witnessing those arguments in the Cochiti Mesa section. Thought it might make for an interesting discussion, though.

And if you enjoyed this route (which I presume you did as you gave it 4 stars), you might try climbing Capitol. It's the true monarch of the Elk Range (despite Castle being taller) and is a beautiful, fun scramble. The rock's a little better too.

I'd like to call myself a "trad climber" but truth be told, I'm not very good at it.