Peak(s):  Pyramid Peak  -  14,018 feet
Date Posted:  01/01/2022
Date Climbed:   12/22/2021
Author:  Will_E
 Double Pyramid December   

Pyramid Peak December 2021, times 2

As winter was coming up this year, I wanted to get some experience backpacking and camping in the cold. Prior to this trip I had no experience camping on snow, melting snow, or lugging all the camping gear in winter. My initial plan was to camp at Lake Como, I know the area well, and if I ran into any type of issue, it would be an easy walk back to the car at the bottom of the road. As dry as this fall has been I was worried that there wouldn't be enough snow around Lake Como to melt. The week of Thanksgiving my hero ScreeSurfer climbed Capitol Peak, and there was a ton of snow in the Elks, so I decided that camping around the Bells would be a better option. Also, as much as I love S. Maroon, Pyramid was my last 14'er needed to complete lap 2 around the 14'ers, and because the snow was relatively light this year, I thought Pyramid's standard route might be doable.

I drove to the Maroon Creek road closure on Friday, December 3rd, started up the road a little after 2pm, plan was to find a campsite before dark. The road was mostly dry until about a mile before the end of the road.

Easy road walk.

Made good time up the road, weather was relatively warm. Once reaching the start of the Crater Lake trail, there was a pretty good trench.

Familiar sight that never gets old.
I learned a new term after posting this picture, "surface hoar". This wasn't taught in Arkansas public schools. We were taught a different type of whore.


From road closure to camp.

As soon as I passed the Pyramid turnoff, I started looking for a suitable campsite, ended up finding a perfect spot not far from Crater Lake.

This might be my favorite shot of the trip.

Got everything unpacked and set up and began my first attempt at melting snow. I knew it wasn't going to be a quick process, but it took longer than expected. I brought one of those meals that requires just boiling water, but I could not get water anywhere close to boiling and gave up. I had plenty of nuts and Reece's pieces so no big deal, I wasn't going to go hungry.

I was in bed by 7pm, but didn't sleep great. I wasn't cold, I think I was just a bit anxious. Woke up off and on throughout the night, then at 5am my alarm woke me up for a final time.

Temperature when I got up at 5am.

I started with snowshoes, and wouldn't remove them until maybe a third of the way through the amphitheater. Getting through treeline was tough, steep trailbreaking. The route finding wasn't easy either, it never is for me. I didn't take many pics below treeline.

Below treeline, taken on return.

I was relieved to reach the Amphitheater, thought I'd get out of snowshoes, but not quite yet.

Start of the amphitheater


End of the amphitheater

After reaching the end of the amphitheater I mostly just looked for the path of least resistance, trying to stay on dry rock as much as possible. I wasn't moving particularly quickly, but I was getting there.

Just before gaining Pyramid's ridge.

Once gaining Pyramid's NE ridge, things got a little bit easier.

NE ridge, taken on return.



Time to flip to the other side, and get some sun.

After crossing the leap of faith, which was mostly dry, I was able to mostly meander around snow until the notch.

Plenty of snow around the notch.

After crossing the notch there were some tough sections.


Finally nearing summit.
Made summit about 6 hours from start.
Bells, from summit. Never gets old.
Plenty of snow at the top.
Zoomed in on Castle from summit.

The return trip went well, nice and uneventful. I put crampons on at summit for the trip down, kept them on until I reached the amphitheater. Went back to camp, packed everything up and booked it on down the road. Made it back to the car right at 7pm, made it home in Aurora just before 11pm.

Apple stats for the day.
Garmin stats.

Fast forward a few weeks, and the start of winter was nearing. Forecast was looking great for most of the state until Christmas Eve, when things were going to get crazy for a while in the high country. I wanted to get something hard given the relatively primo conditions we had. Also, nearly all the winter 14'ers I have left are hard. I thought Pyramid would be similar conditions to what it was on 12/4, so decided to give it a shot, but this time as a day trip.

Drove to Glenwood Springs on 12/21 to stay the night, set my alarm for 3:30 am, goal was to be hiking by 5am, almost made it. When I started up the road, it was completely packed with snow, which surprised me, I didn't think there had been that much snow since 12/4. Also, when I parked, I parked next to a white 4 Runner. As I made my way up the road, there was a sled track going up the road. More on these 2 peculiarities later.

When I reached the end of the road, the sled track continued, but there wasn't nearly the trench I had 2 weeks prior, I put snowshoes on at Maroon Lake. Took my turnoff, broke trail up to the amphitheater as before (felt tougher, I think the snow was a bit deeper). Left my snowshoes at same spot as before and mostly retraced my path to gain the NE ridge from 2 weeks prior. Not much difference thus far, until I reached the leap of faith, which now had far more snow than before.

Narrow ledge after leap of faith, it was mostly dry 2 weeks prior.
From the other direction.

Things were much tougher from the LOF onward, all the dry rock I had prior to the notch on the 12/4 trip was covered, deep, and steep. I went basically straight up from the end of the ledge after the LOF to the top of the ridge, then straight across to the notch. Crampons went on just after the LOF.

So much snow, but it was very stable and secure
Near summit.
Finally made it. Felt like the longest day ever on the way up. From the pyramid turnoff, it took about an hour longer to reach summit than on 12/4, I think that entire extra hour was spent from LOF to summit.
Zoomed in on Capitol from summit.

When I reached the summit, there were lots of footprints in the snow. I assumed these were my tracks from 2 weeks prior, which didn't make sense, as none of my other tracks had still been there. I was a bit confused, but I was more thrilled that I got to the top, it was a tough climb.

Return trip went fine, other than lots of slipping, sliding, falling and cursing getting through treeline. I even found a bottle of Powerade I'd lost in the trees. Once back on the road, a couple of road groomers were doing their thing, I chatted with one of them for a bit, he offered me a ride down, but that seemed like cheating so I declined. Also I would have earned one fewer beer by saving 3-4 miles. Made it back to the car before 8pm, was at home going through pictures before midnight. Also, same white 4Runner was still parked next to me.

Long day.


The next morning, I was awakened by messages on my phone, it was Brad McQueen. Apparently he and ScreeSurfer had summitted an hour or so before me, via the west face. I had actually thought this as a possibility when I was walking the road in the morning, I knew Brad used a sled, and drove a 4Runner, but dismissed it when I turned at the Pyramid turnoff. Crazy, we had missed each other by something like an hour. I had really thought I was all alone up there, as is normal on rarely climbed winter peaks like Pyramid.

Thanks for reading.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions
haha, Arkansas PS comment
01/04/2022 05:59
As soon as we hit the summit ridge and John saw the red coat down below us, I thought, "that's gotta be Will". Sorry we missed you on the summit, but nice job with the double December. We really need to work on your gridding technique's not hard - 1x per month per peak :-)

Nice Report
01/06/2022 10:30
and great photos Will. Congrats on your winter summit!

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