Big G's job brought him to Denver so we decided to use the weekend to climb in the Maroon Bells area. I convinced him that I was really only able to climb one peak that weekend, so we chose Pyramid Peak.
First, it is worth noting that backpackers do not need to park at the shuttle bus area and ride the bus. We were permitted (for a nominal $10 fee) to drive up the road ourselves. We were told to park at one of the lower trailhead routes and pick up the shuttle (free) the rest of the way because the trailhead parking was full. Do not be fooled by this. Drive up and check it out before you take the first parking you see (like we did). There were a myriad of spots to park at the trailhead.
The walk past Maroon Lake is easy (except for all the tourists and their dogs). Photo opportunities abound here. After about 1.3 miles a well-cairned side trail exits the left side of the main trail, this is the Pyramid route. The Colorado Fourteener Initiative is working very hard on this trail and it shows. We talked with a few volunteers, one of whom spent the night on the summit. Surprisingly, he was greeted by a summiter at 11 pm!!!
The Pyramid trail starts out basically flat but very quickly turns steep. Again, the excellent work of CFI made it easy going until we reached the point where their work had yet to begin--here the trail narrowed and steepened and the going was slow--especially with my foolishly-large overnight gear.
Once we neared the basin below Pyramid's north face, we began to scout for a tent spot. The talus here is abundant and very few options presented themselves. We were not sure if good, flat snow awaited up above and since I was not in the greatest shape and thunder was rumbling, we searched the talus for a spot. We did find one flat solid rock area that was just big enough for my Omega CD. I would suggest heading up onto the snow if you choose to camp. The next morning we found many spots that would have sufficed.
During dinner we were greeted in camp by a mountain goat; otherwise, the evening and the night were uneventful.
The next morning our distance to the summit was short in mileage but steep. This steepness gives way to the saddle and affords great views of Snowmass, Capitol, and the Bells.
The true climbing begins after this saddle is reached. We did not find the climbing to be very difficult, however. The route was well-cairned and in most places an easy route and a "harder" route could be chosen that would end up in nearly the same place along the route. The Green Couloir definitely made the ascent easy and there were maybe a few 3rd class moves in the couloir, but that is up for debate. Our feeling was that the route was probably 2+. Watch for the cairns, wear a helmet, and be careful about sending projectiles down as you climb. Only two other climbers were behind us that day and we met up with them near the top. Otherwise, we had the summit to ourselves and most of the climb was undisturbed. It was nice to leave the dogs down on the Maroon Lake trail. This is a nice mountain and a nice introduction to the more challenging fourteeners.