Downclimb North Maroon
First of all, this route is dangerous. It should not be attempted without a realistic evaluation of your true experience level, the experience level of your climbing partners, the forecasted conditions, and the current conditions. Once you step off the summit of North Maroon in the direction of the ridge, you are committing yourself to a difficult, time-consuming climb, even in ideal conditions.
If the above warning does not give you pause, please read the Close to Death
Second, keep in mind there is no reasonable exit from the ridge if the weather craters. The Bell Cord couloir is a deceptively steep death trap. Many fatalities have occured there on attempted descents. Although the Bell Cord is climbable in good snow conditions, it becomes icy and presents technical ice climbing conditions by early July. By late summer the couloir is melted out and very unsafe. Once on the ridge, you are better off staying on the ridge.
Avoid this route in wet weather.
The route description begins at the summit of North Maroon. We started at the Maroon Lake Trailhead and climbed North Maroon Peak by the northeast ridge route.
View from the south
Many say that this route is better done in the opposite direction
, that is, from Maroon Peak to North Maroon Peak. In that direction, the most difficult climbing is up rather than down. Advantage: S to N. On the other hand, the more difficult route finding, so critical on this traverse, occurs on the northern half of the route. Route finding is easier from the higher, broader perspective, that is, from above. Advantage: N to S. Either way, good preparation is essential.
Allow three or four hours for the traverse, although some can do it much faster. You will not soon forget the hours you spend crossing from North to South Maroon. I never have.
Many of the photos attached to this route page are oriented toward the South to North traverse. However, they are equally spectacular and instructive for the North to South route.
Route finding is critical
This traverse is worthy of two of the most beautiful peaks in the world. The general route is impossible to miss, because you just follow the ridge until you reach the ledges on Maroon's north side. On the other hand, you must choose your exact route carefully and often retrace your steps to keep the difficulty and risk to a reasonable level. This is especially true on the descent from North Maroon.
Your route finding skills will be put to the test. For me, or anyone, to describe every major decision along the route would be impossible. In general, stay atop the ridge except where the terrain dictates otherwise. Below are two sections that demand extra attention.
About 300 yards south from North Maroon, there is an unavoidable, 50-foot drop. The best solution my party could find was a near-vertical downclimb on the east side, very similar to this area
. Do not attempt in wet weather! The use of a rope here is recommended. For us it was the crux of the route, although there were plenty more problems ahead.
From the 13,780 notch at the top of the Maroon Peak's northeast ("Bell Cord") couloir, climb a short, exposed face to regain the ridge. Continue up a series of loose ledges. As you near the South Maroon summit, the difficulty gradually eases. Ascend through a series of small cliff bands. There are several possible routes through these cliff bands, some of which may be cairned.
Helmet. Rope recommended. Ice ax and crampons recommended for emergency use.