"Len Shoemaker Peak"
Len Shoemaker Peak
UN13,631 B is an important peak reaching “Bicentennial” status which equates to #180 on the highest 200 peaks list in Colorado. UN13,631 B teams with Pyramid Peak to bookend the ridge of highpoints within the Pyramid Peak massif. This collection of peaks begins north with the beautiful 14er Pyramid Peak and continues south to “Thunder Pyramid,” “Lightning Pyramid,” and finally to UN13,631 B. The encompassing area is easily one of Colorado’s most scenic mountainous areas. The views are exquisite, thus the peak is worth climbing despite a few cautions that I will speak to later.
The peak is not officially named, however local residents occasionally refer to this peak as “Len Shoemaker Peak” which makes sense, considering its proximity to the officially named Len Shoemaker Ridge. The mentioned ridge is actually UN13,631 B north ridge and views prominent from the hike up Maroon Creek Valley.
The Maroon Bells
Len Shoemaker Peak is obviously built of exactly the same stuff that Pyramid, Thunder, and Lightning is built, loose tiles of sedimentary rotten rock. This stuff is really beautiful to look at however it makes for ugly hiking and climbing. I won’t sell Len Shoemaker Peak as another Thunder Pyramid, where I bitch and moan about dangerous slopes that “teeter above.” Instead, I’ll actually recommend this route because the short class 3+ ridge run to the summit consists surprisingly of solid blocks. At the same time, prepare for a cruxy, heinous “Dues Collector” slope from the valley to the ridge crest. Going up this slope is incredibly frustrating, while going down is not frustrating and sometimes fun. Get the picture?
The approach to Len Shoemaker Basin is likely the biggest crux of the day. From the Maroon Creek Trail, surveying the route up through the cliff bands is key. Locating the rock gully’s that escort you through the cliff bands will expedite your day substantially. Thus, I highly recommend approaching with some daylight. A headlamp approach in the dark would be extremely difficult and likely turn your day into an “epic” day before you actually do any climbing. See my submitted route for photos and details.
Who is Len Shoemaker?
From Colorado’s Mountaineering legend, Lou Dawson-
“Len was born on April 22, 1881, at Rosita, Colorado, and accompanied his parents to the Glenwood Springs area in 1886. The Shoemakers were married in Carbondale, December 2, 1906. He was a member of the Washington Park Community Church, the Masonic and Elks lodges, and the Eastern Star, all of Denver. Len was author of several books during and after his long career with the Forest Service. He retired in 1943, having served posts in Boulder, Carbondale, along the Frying Pan and in Denver, where he remained for twenty years. He returned to Glenwood Springs in 1968 — where he died at the age of 92, July 18, 1973.”
In the early day’s of Colorado, Shoemaker was a Forest Ranger for the White River NF during the 1930s. His job included quite a bit of rambling in the Elk Mountains, during which he became an expert on the history of the USFS along with this area of Colorado (Roaring Fork Valley). He ended up penning a number of history books, one of which is our local classic “Pioneers of the Roaring Fork Valley.” During my own historical studies, I’ve run across Shoemaker’s name numerous times, frequently associated with descriptions of primitive wilderness pack trips that I can only imagine were equally as adventurous and fun as any modern climb or ski descent. Most of the trails and roads we use to access central Colorado mountains were established early, frequently during the mining era around a century ago. But it was men such as Shoemaker who kept the access open, and established the stupendous transportation network that allows us to enjoy the backcountry as we do today. When you’re riding your snowmobile up Maroon Creek road, or skiing down the West Maroon trail after a climb, thank Len and his ilk.
Maroon Lake Trailhead, Red Tape & Camping
Approach UN13,631 from the Maroon Lake TH (9,590-ft.) From Aspen, locate a round-about a half mile north on Hwy 82 and drive west on Maroon Lake Road for 9.4 miles to the parking area.
Starting June 14, 2009 Maroon Creek Road restrictions will start and visitors will be directed to RFTA bus service. Buses from Aspen Highlands arrive at Maroon Lake every 20 to 30 minutes. All day users will be required to ride the bus between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. The bus fare is $6 per adult and $4 per senior and child. During these hours a shuttle can take you to the trailhead from Ruby Park in downtown Aspen. The shuttle ride is free. Call RFTA at 970-925-3445 or the White River National Forest at 970-925-3445 for schedules.
The road up to the trailhead is restricted to day trippers only. Backpackers and climbers are welcome to drive up (in case they need to exit due to emergency after the shuttle service has stopped).
No promises that you'll find a spot at the end of the road, but you should be able to find something at either the East or West Maroon Wilderness Portals. The bus can be flagged down anywhere to take you the rest of the way.
Maps: Maroon Bells, White River National Forest
Aspen Ranger District Office
USDA Forest Service
P.O. Box 948
Glenwood Springs CO 81602
Maroon Creek Road
I hear that the night attendants allow climbers to sleep in their vehicles only at the TH parking area.
There are marked campsites at Crater Lake for those that don’t mind packing in about 2 miles. First come first serve. Remember, these sites usually get snapped up quickly for those that are interested in climbing the Maroon Bells.
Forest service campgrounds in the Aspen area offer everything from primitive camping to RV hookups. Maroon Creek road has three campgrounds, all of which require reservations. Call the number above and expect to pay $15.00 a night. Call as far in advance as possible for a site in this popular area. Those wishing to make reservations should call 1-800-280-CAMP. There is an $8.25 reservation service charge.
Forecast for Maroon Lake area
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