Maroon Bells (attempt), Colorado
Gary and Lynn Clark
We went, we saw, we were amazed. Other than that, nothing much was accomplished except some photography. We drove from Los Alamos to Aspen and on up to the end of the Maroon Bells road on Saturday June 13. Aspirants should be aware that the road is now closed from 8:30-5:00 every day to uphill driving, so you need to schedule your arrival accordingly, or plan to park in Aspen and take the shuttle bus both ways.
We arrived at the highest camp above Crater Lake in time to cook dinner and get in the bags. Camping is at designated sites only, of which there are 12. Amazingly, we saw nobody else on the trail or in the basin for the entire weekend! That night it began raining/sleeting/hailing lightly, and we awoke at 4:00am to total fog and drizzle. Good thing we brought some books and backrests, because we spent most of the day in the tent. Finally at 4:00pm in frustration we started up the approach to the Bell Cord Couloir, our intended route, in a snow storm, just to get some exercise and put in some tracks for the next day, should we get the opportunity to climb. We got to 11,100' before the thunder crashes were almost simultaneous with the lightning - a quick glissade brought us back to the tent.
It snowed most of the night, and our 4:00a inspection revealed a "winter wonderland" outside. Turn off the alarm, and forget about it; this would create prime avalanche conditions in the couloir once the morning sun hit it. At 6:00a, the skies were clear, and the sunrise on the fresh snow was a scene to remember. We slowly packed and hiked out, burning a roll of film in about 2 hours. This is truly an incredible basin - the finest mountain scenery I have seen in Colorado yet on a spectacular day. There is still PLENTY of snow at this latitude and altitude, and I think the couloir routes will be doable for another 3 weeks to a month, depending on what happens next with the weather. We'll be back.