22 September 2009

South Maroon Peak

4 August 2003

Ferenc met me at my tent at 5 a.m., and we took off for South Maroon in the dark. Once we got out of the forest and onto the rocks, we turned off our flashlights and came across Porky once again, still rounding the lake. This time I did not pursue.

Within about an hour, I realized I was slowing Ferenc. It had rained during the night, and the clouds still had not cleared. Ferenc needed to get up the peak and get off the mountain while the weather held. We both are especially sensitive to lightning now, perhaps forever. When he asked if he could go on ahead, I cheerfully told him I’d manage alone and promised I would go as far as I could. He said he hoped I could make it to the top of the Class 2 section (where the real climbing, Class 3 and Class 4, begin), where he would have breakfast and wait for me.

I didn’t make it that far. I waved Ferenc on when I decided to turn back at maybe about 12,000 feet. I had done remarkably better than last week; I never got panicky or shaky. After scrambling up one of several loose moist dirt sections (short Class 3) and turning around to figure out if I’d be able to downclimb alone, I decided to head back because my bad knee did NOT hurt.

Last week I didn't turn back until my knee couldn't go any further. This time, I wanted to see if I could go back without using handholds. As a result, my knee never did bother me the entire trip, and I surprised myself by walking down the Class 2 trail without holding on, with the exception of short scrambles down three relatively easy Class 3 sections.

Ferenc made the summit in 5:50, followed by only five others. He was first on the summit and had it to himself for 20 minutes before the next two hikers appeared. Again, he hoped to attempt the traverse with other experienced climbers. Two younger guys expressed an interest in doing the traverse until Ferenc pointed them in the direction of the route. After looking at the steep slopes, they quickly changed their minds, so Ferenc did not get to do the traverse. This time. (He successfully completed all the classic traverses in 2007.)

He said the view of North Maroon from South Maroon is "ugly." He said route finding on the way up the top part of the Bell was a challenge because the cairns (rockpiles marking the trail) atop the cliffs were not visible from below, and several times he had to backtrack. He said North Maroon was technically more difficult, but South Maroon was longer and more frustrating due to multiple route choices.

He shocked me when he said he was tired but wanted to do La Plata anyway, which we estimated would put us home well after 1 a.m. I would have enjoyed actually summiting a peak this trip, especially since the short jaunt up a portion of South Maroon may well be the final hike we do together, but again I was concerned about weather, as well as descending in the dark. By the time we reached Independence Pass, I could have had my richly deserved shower by stepping out of the van with a bottle of shampoo in hand. Lightning on Elbert and Massive contributed to the somber decision to retire for the weekend.

Ferenc is going for two or three more peaks in the San Juans before returning home to his native Hungary with his family. It has been a great experience to hike with him and learn better climbing skills. I wish him and his family well in their pursuit to return to America again one day, next time hopefully on a permanent basis.


  1. hummm I didn't know that about the sugar. Thanks Funny thing while making that post I was wondering if Chocolate would be next. I thought I was a Chronic Chocoholic too! Now it's CoCao one or two squares and once in a while. Thanks for your insight. Also thanks for your Beautiful pictures and Snowflakes! =)

  2. Absolutely beautiful pictures. I love the Autumn Leaf.



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