Wow, wow, wow, and wow! That is all I can say about my first view of the Bells. It was a very dark and rainy day, that made me anxious about the next days climb. The Maroon Bells towering ove 4,500 feet above was enough to make me soil myself.
June 27, 2005
It was 2:00 in the morning when I was ripped from my sleep, as I was getting ready I thought that I was going to fall to the Deadly Bells.
my Mom was not happy about my dad and I doing this, due to the sign at the trailhead. When we arrived at the trailhead, it was an erie site to se a car wide open with gear strewn across half the parking lot and a climber sleeping on the concrete in his bag. By 3:00 we were moving only under the light of our headlamps and the moonlight.
we pretty much hiked in silence except for the occasional "you ready?". When we reached Echo Lake we met a couple leaving their campsite for an attempt of North Maroon. they told us that a climber left the trailhead at 10:00 a.m. summited South Maroon and glissaded the Southeast Col in the thunderstorm and was back to his car at 5:00 p.m. What and idiot! We wished each other good luck and were back on our way.
Soon enough we reach our turnoff and broke out the helmet, axe, and crampons. We started up the snow slope to the garbage slope in the dawn. And reached the Garbage Chute in sunrise and watched the Bells be covered in Alpenglow. The climb through the Garbage Chute was simple and strait forward. We then exited and swung around a patch of ground to the basin under our Coluoir.
We took a break on some huge blocks of ice and snow from a previous avalanche and then begun the real climb. The climbing was easy and no steeper than the North Face of Evans up until we reached the Col is split in half. We chose to climb the northern branch which is steeper and seldom climbed.
The chute steepened and steepened until I got pretty shakey. My dad climbed over to a ledge for a break. I climbed up and then started to traverse over, praying that my kick steps would hold. I came upon a hole which I thought bottomed out on the ledge so I thought I would jump in. Luckily I aborted that action. Before I made it to the ledge I peered in and the hole went down about 10 feet to the talus below. That would have been catostrophic if I hoped in. I had to regain my composure once I reached the ledge.
The view was astounding, Pyramid seemed unclimbable from this angle. The Southe Ridge was heavily corniced and it looked live something from out of this world. We continued on and reached a gully about 5 feet wide that ran down for a loong way. It was filled with ice and rock. My dad made the transition across easily. I carefully made my way across, hardpressed to keep from sliping and sliding uncontrolably down the gully.
We just kept on climbing until the steepness subsided a bit. To get above the steep section you had to climb over a huge snow bank. My dad went around it, I tried to directly climb over it. To my horror it was weak and hollow. The whole right side of my body plunged through and when I wiggled my leg it had no resistance but air. I panicked and let out a girly yelp and scrambled up that thing as fast as I could.
When I reached the top we had to cross the gully again, except the walls were about 7 feet tall this time, and if you fell you would slid down that thing, self arrest would be hard due to the bad ice, even my crampond had no bite. Luckily this was the last time we had to cross the gully because it ended there. It was like a huge slide that winded down through the snow for atleast 500 feet.
We continued up and finally gained the ridge. I thought that there would be a place to sit but the other side dropped out. We downclimbed into it and took a break. The wind was unbearable on that side of the ridge. We took our gear off and climbed up to the ledges we followed them, they werent that scary as i thought they would be. We then did some fun class 3 climbing for awile until we reached a section of 60 to 70 degree ice.
We suited up again. My dad did it slowly and then it was my turn, i got halfway up and looked down inbetween my legs and learned that there ws nothing to stop me but air if I fell. Falling a couple thousand feet to my death was not in my itenerary so I said screw it. I told my dad that I was done and he was actually proud of that decision. He told me that he regreted his decision to climb it. He had to downclimb some hairy terrain to get to me. He did it, but I don't know how he did.
Then we down climbed to ledges and descended our route. the way down had it's close calls, since the snow hade tunred to mush by the sun. Plunge stepping wasn't bad since my dad firmed the steps for me.
Suddenly he slipped but as he did he thrusted the spike into the snow, and his leash tightened, his axe held and his leash saved him.
Later down we reached the top of the gully that split the snow, my dad climbed the steep part above it backwards, it tried to do it forwards but sliped and fell about 10 feet before self arresting, luckily I was high above the gully when that happened.
I climbed in and the climbed onto the other side but my dad was unable. I could not even stand on the snow, it was all mushy and giving way. So I climbed into the gully where my dad was we downclimbed it because the ice melted. On section I did wron and had to downclimb a class 4 section with crampons on. That was tough.
The guy who glisaded this must have been crazy, but his marks didn't lie. Finally we were back onto the gentle section and plunge stepped back to the Garbage Chute where I glissaded, back to the trail that was FUN!
the last two miles back to the car went by fast and looking at the Bells from Maroon Lake made me proud, we only came within a couple hundred feet from victory! Even though we failed to reach the summit, we completed our route which was a complete success. I cant wait to try this puppy again!