Anyone who has been exploring the mountains around the Maroon Bells knows of Len Shoemaker Peak. From nearby highpoints it looks like a smaller sibling down the ridge from nearby Pyramid Peak and adjacent Thunder. And the USGS maps don’t have it named, but instead just mark it like any other highpoint, with and elevation: 13,631 ft.
The mountain is named for a well-known ranger from the first half of the 1900’s. Len Shoemaker actually penned a book on the area that you can still get your hands on. If you want to know more about the some of the history of the area from a ranger in this era, you should give it a look. I found a link to a copy here.
The common, easiest route of approach to Len Shoemaker is from the north. Simply follow the Maroon Lake Trail as if you were headed to West Maroon Pass, and leave the trail heading east as you near the start of Len Shoemaker Ridge. This is also the same way you approach the west side of Thunder Peak.
After some steep skinning up through a headwall (there’s a beautiful cascade flowing through in the summer), the terrain will flatten out considerably. Welcome to Len Shoemaker Basin. The north face of the mountain is in clear view at the head of the valley.
Pick your way up the next headwall and engineer a route to the summit. On earlier trips here we reached the ridge that runs northeast from the summit and then picked our way up the loose red rock to the top. You could also look for a more direct route to the summit up the snow. It will require a little maneuvering over the west ridge near the top, with the final steps below the summit being on the west face.
Either way, have fun with the mountain. It’s pretty similar to the others nearby, some crumbly red rock, with cliff bands that can usually be skirted to the right or left.
When you’re ready to ski, piece together whatever snow looks best back around to the main snow face on the north face. It may actually be the case that the most fun skiing on Len Shoemaker is the basin below, where you have wide open cruising and a stunning backdrop of North and South Maroon peaks.
Curious about Len Shoemaker in summer? I did a huge traverse of the ridge with Neal Beidleman some years back. Read about it here.