My goal of the Colorado centennials was closing in – 5 more 14ers and 5 more 13ers. All were scheduled for the summer, and I was excited about the upcoming Thunder Pyramid climb. That is, until a friend sent me this link of a trip report with
. After a few minutes I couldn’t watch any more. I tried not to think about it but it’s like a song that gets stuck in your head, and the images just stayed there. Canceling the trip was not an option so we proceeded with our plans.
Trying to stay awake while awaiting my Thunder Pyramid climbing partners was a challenge since I had been up since 4:00 am to climb another peak. After rounds of swatting the flies and mosquitoes, I prepared and ate dinner, then crossed back over the stream and headed down the trail in my crocs. My partners had reached the bent tree, so from there I escorted them to the lovely campsite that I had secured the prior night.
The next morning we followed some directions and left the trail just after it crosses the river at 10,500’. This was our first mistake. We learned later that there is a large cairn on the left side of the trail higher up, but even though we had scouted the previous night, we did not travel far enough up (south) on the trail to see it.
Leave the trail at this cairn.
This is the view of the mountains to the east from this cairn. (these 2 photos compliments of nilaoire)
Then the directions said to hike .3 mile northeast to 10,800 feet. We did exactly that, but we should have been hiking almost directly east. It was obvious that we needed to backtrack south when we reached a rocky area. We then climbed up a fun little drainage, emerged in another rocky area, and saw our first cairn. After that, everything went smoothly. It helps to see where you’re going!
We arrived at the “flat” area around 10,700 and headed slightly north and east. The photo shows an approximate route to follow after this point.
Follow the approximate path of the red line, then ascend towards the white gully.
When we reached the white gully, we crossed over about 10 feet of snow remaining in another gully to get there. As we climbed up, it didn’t seem to matter which side of the gully we were on, but it was easiest to stay above the gully on one side or the other.
We headed southeast out of the gully a little lower than recommended (around 13,300’), seeking as much firm footing as we could find. As carefully as we tried to step, the large rocks gave way when smaller rocks underneath were dislodged by our feet, and we proceeded with torn pants and scraped shins.
As we ascended we occasionally spotted cairns. When we reached the ridge, we were amazed to find that we were exactly where we were supposed to be. Leaving a few items (trekking poles, etc) behind to mark this spot for the descent, we climbed on top of the ridge when possible, skirting it on the west side on ledges when necessary. The rock was more sold than it appeared in the helmet cam video, and despite the forecast for 60% chance of rain, only a few distant clouds were visible from the summit.
We traversed on ledges to the west of the main ridge.
Enjoying the breeze and view from the top.
There was no one to serve us tea, but we enjoyed a beverage and snack and the panoramic view from our teahouse windows.
Heading down, we stayed close to our GPS track until we came to the first cairn we had seen, then followed an easier route.
5 hours up, 3.5 down, and we’re back in camp celebrating with hugs. We quickly packed up and headed down the trail to our vehicles. As we exited the parking lot, the mountain thundered a sad farewell and rained its tears on the windshield. A perfect ending to our Thunder Pyramid day!
Maps and tracks
The accompanying GPX track was taken on the way down, so is very accurate until it nears the main West Maroon Creek trail. At that point I bushwacked towards the camp, then later altered the track to be close to where the cairn should be located. If you can locate the cairn on the way up, you will be able to follow the trail.
The Garmin map with track includes the coordinates of the nice campsite. It is very private and convenient for Maroon Peak, Thunder/Lightning Pyramid and other points nearby, and fairly close to the river for water. However we did see bear scat and had a threatening porcupine visit at night. There is another possible campsite to the north of the Thunder Pyramid trail, shorty after you turn onto it from the main West Maroon Creek trail.
Google Earth map of the track.
GPS track containing campsite coordinates.