Maroon Bells 4 PassLoop, July 2010, Part 2
Day 1 – Flight toDenver, drive to trail head near Aspen, night hike to Camp 1 below Crater Lake.
Day 2 – Hike to Camp 2,Maroon Basin, above Crater Lake, elev 10,650, to acclimatize.
Day 3. Today is our first full day of hiking, and all the suspense ends today. We’ve got blue sky and sunshine as we head up the trail towards the first of two passes,West Maroon Pass(12,450′).
We make it over our first stream crossing, which needed big jumps, and we stay dry. The trail is well graded and we’re off at an easy pace. The first parts of the trail are through these bushes that are almost head height – and very wet. It doesn’t take very long before our pants are also wet. But after a short while we’re above the brush and start to dry off. We can see the pass once we go around a corner and at first it looks really really far. After a short while we spot people standing on the pass, take plenty of photos, and we’re in a
great mood. It’s funny that stopping for photos is a more manly way of saying let’s take a very short break in place to catch our breath!
We make it to West Maroon Pass around noon, take our packs off to rest and enjoy the views and take about a gazillion photos. Phase 2 over and completed without a hitch. So far we’re off to an excellent start!
Notes on the paths/trails, all very well marked, and very worn, many with huge ruts forcing you to walk on the sides, creating new ruts, you have no choice, and as far as we could tell this section didn’t have signs of horse travel, all foot. You can see where the trail is headed for miles.
Looking southwest from West Maroon Pass one gazes into the gigantic bowl that is formed by theCrystal River east and south forks.
After a very short rest and knowing we have one more pass for today, we’re off again. The path descends for a while and after about 1 mile we take a right fork and traverse on the side of a hill until we approach switch backs leading up to our second and final pass of the day, frigid Air Pass, (12,375).
Now I’m getting tired, so it’s slower going. Although not far to the top I need to pause every now and then for a “break in place” and to take some photos (of course!). Not sure how I got ahead of geardog, but if I recall correctly I reached the top of the pass first.
I think this is where we had the ‘bag of chips’ incident. Talk about trail magic. I noticed an unopened bag of potato chips sitting on a rock ledge and in a moment of magnanimity, because he’s hauling the booze, I give the bag to geardog, who in turn devours the entire bag. Now geardog is one of the most generous people I’ve ever met, he’s always giving me maps, t-shirts, coins, mementos of trips with his wife, but man, just one little chip….please! Actually, I’m very thankful he ate the entire bag by himself, or I wouldn’t have anything to write about for this trip – it went that well!
We’re only on Frigid Air Pass for a few minutes, packs aren’t even off, when we notice the dreaded thunder boomers – with lightening – starting to roll in, gee, we get a burst of energy and after not a few photos, we’re off again, dropping down into the magnificent Fravert Basin. Fraver Basin is a true OMG moment. Wildflowers in bloom for miles! Majestic peaks surrounding the entire valley! Photos just don’t do it justice.
So we head down. The trails are incredible. Broad, easy, gently sloping, perfect for checking out the jaw dropping scenery as you walk. The trails head towards the North Fork of the Crystal River, visible as a very thin line in the distance, then reaches scrub trees and drops down into the tree line, eventually heading into the forest. There we had some steep switch backs and only glimpses of the river. This is where there is a magnificent water fall but unfortunately you don’t see much of it heading down until you get past it.
When we get to the basin floor we started looking for a site for camp 3, it was around 3 pm. There were a couple of obvious sites, but they were taken. We didn’t spend a lot of time looking, (rainclouds) so we settled on a very small clearing in a clump of trees pretty close to the water.
Geardog, who carried the wine, also brought a 8×10 nylon tarp to set out to eat under in case it rained – it did, not much, but enough. In fact we used it several nights to cook and eat dinner under.
The water was ICE COLD so sitting and bathing or just ‘chilling’ (ha ha pun) was out of the question. By the way, hiking temps were probably in the mid 70’s.
One minor problem, with our little campsite in the trees – mosquitos. Little or no breeze to drive them away, that sucked, but we had OFF, so we were slimy but minimally bothered.
End part 2.