Totally psyched and somewhat surprised to have actually pulled it off, Neal Beidleman and I sat on Pyramid’s narrow summit in the afternoon sun and processed it all.
It wasn’t that we thought it couldn’t be done. Through the years there have been scattered reports of groups completing different sections of this traverse. Our concern had to do with the time and weather. The horseshoe-like ridge is so long, with so much loose, semi-technical terrain to navigate, we didn’t know if there was enough time in the day to cover the ground. Plus, we were in a stormy pattern and it had been raining every afternoon, and we thought it was a good bet that weather would send us fleeing off the ridge before we could complete it.
To give credit where it’s due, Neal hatched the idea. On a ski trip here a few years back (story here), we got an up close look at the Len Shoemaker Ridge and wondered what it would be like to climb. Prominently labeled on most topo maps yet seemingly absent from the average peak bagger’s radar, it looked like an interesting route up to a seldom visited summit.
We decided to climb the ridge and the peak, and if weather and time permitted, we would see how far we could take it north. From Len Shoemaker’s summit, we figured we could make it to Lightning Peak, or maybe even to the more distant Thunder Peak, but thought Pyramid was probably out of reach. You never know though, so we agreed to just go and see, like we always do.
And off we went. Long-story-short, we left from Maroon Lake a little after 5:30 and made the summit of Len Shoemaker, via the ridge, about 5 hours later. After a brief break, we started north on the ridge at 11am, and made it to Pyramid Peak a little past 4 o’clock. With the summit all to ourselves, we took a well deserved break, eventually making it down the Northeast Ridge and back to the trailhead in a total time of about 13 1/2 hours. It was the first day in several that it didn’t rain.
Without going into all the details of the route, it was much like you’d imagine. Airy sections, chimneys, loose rock, route finding– in sum, it was like one really, really big Maroon Bells Traverse.
In other words, it was a super fun day.