Maroon Bells Hike – Aspen, CO

Okay, okay… I’ll stop being lazy and write this post.  So I talked in general about my thoughts on backpacking/camping in a past post, but I promised I would write more about my first real backpacking trip in almost 20 years.  My sister-in-law got the idea for this hike from online blogs and talked the rest of us into joining her 😉  It was a really fun trip though and more physically demanding than anything I’ve done lately, which was a nice challenge!

We drove to Aspen, CO and headed out on Friday afternoon a few weeks ago.  Our goal was to hike two miles in to Crater Lake (not THE Crater Lake) and set up camp just to get ourselves started.  We made that easily and I took some time to re-learn how to set up tents and cook in the wild, which is kind of like re-learning how to ride a bike?

Maybe I should back up a minute, this was a loop hike that circled the base of the Maroon Bells peaks.  It was 27 miles and included four passes over 12,000 ft.  Going in, I felt okay about hiking that much but was a little nervous about the altitude and how that would affect my stamina and ability to breathe.  Especially since I came up from sea level the day before.

Day two was set to be our longest day, mainly because two of the passes (Maroon Pass and Frigid Air Pass) were close enough together to summit both in the same day.  We set off about 8:30am and started climbing immediately.  There were a lot of day-hikers on this part of the trail because we weren’t too far in.  Maroon Pass took us a while and we even stopped for lunch on the way up.  In between the two wasn’t bad and was fairly flat as we went across.  Fatigue was a little bit of an issue going up Frigid Air, but again it wasn’t terrible. Coming down though, I was hungry and tired and we looked for a campsite for what seemed like forever and totaled about 9 miles that day.  Then we were overcome by mosquitoes.

After a good night’s rest inside the safety of our tents, we headed off again.  The map had shown that the first two passes were “easy” and “medium”… day three was all “difficult”.  Think about how ski slopes are rated and that should help.  But keep in mind that those ratings are on a whole different level in Colorado as opposed to Virginia.

Our third pass, Trail Rider, was BY FAR the most difficult.  It didn’t help that there was a false summit on the way up.  And we were climbing later in the day so it was hotter, and in the direct sunlight.  The last half mile or so to the top we all went at our own pace (aka I took my time so I could breathe).  Luckily going down wasn’t so bad and we found a nice spot in the woods to camp and totaled about 8 miles day three.

The morning of day four we saw some firefighters who had been dropped off the night before to check on a small fire nearby.  Then we headed off for the last pass, Buckskin.  Technically, this was going to be the most difficult, but we also knew that from our direction it would be harder going down.  That is fine by me every day of the week.  The summit was easy and then we just kept plugging along down the switchbacks, thankful that we weren’t going up!  Instead of stopping to camp one last time, we decided to push though to the visitors center.  After 6 miles that day, we caught the bus back to town just as it started to rain for the first time on our hike.  Overall, it was a great adventure and I’m so glad my brother’s family invited me along!

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Fisherman’s Group Backpacking Mini-Venture | Rays of Funshine

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