August 5, 2018

Pyramid Peak – 14,018′

14er rank:

# of climbs:
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1,638' (Maroon Peak - 2.1 mi W)
Pitkin County
10.5 mi SW of Aspen
13.8 mi N of Crested Butte

Northeast Ridge (Class 4)

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This is the 37th 14er I've climbed, in July 2018 with my friends Mike, Tim, and Matt. Pyramid Peak is the 5th tallest mountain in the Elk Range and the 47th tallest in Colorado. It is steep, rising 4,000' above Crater Lake in just over a mile of distance. Unlike its more famous neighbors, the Maroon Bells, Pyramid Peak can in fact be briefly (and prominently) seen from highway 82 just north of the town of Aspen. However, the peak itself remains hidden from view from the popular Maroon Lake Trailhead.

The standard route up Pyramid Peak begins at the Maroon Lake Trailhead at 9,600'. The paved Maroon Creek Road goes all the way to the trailhead from Aspen and provides incredibly easy access to the area. However, during the summer this road is closed to most vehicles during the day and the only way to get to the trailhead is by taking a shuttle. If hiking this peak, you should probably be on the trail before sunrise, when you can still drive up the road. As of July 2018, there is a $10 parking fee for day hikers.

From the trailhead, a very good trail heads west around the northern end of Maroon Lake and then angles southwest up into the aspen forest. Follow the trail 1.3 miles to the Pyramid Peak Trail cutoff around 10,100'. The Pyramid Peak Trail heads south for 1/2 mile and then begins to switchback 900' up a steep slope to 11,200'. At the top, the trail enters the Ampitheater, an elevated rock-filled basin immediately north of the peak. Two very large cairns mark the entrance. From here, a cairned trail continues up through the Amphitheater for about 3/4 mile to the base of Pyramid Peak's northeast ridge at 12,000'.

The trail then winds its way 1,000' up through one of the gullies on the steep slope to the saddle along the northeast ridge at 13,000'. Much of the remaining route can be seen from the saddle. Following cairns, the trail heads southwest along the ridgeline for 0.1 mile to reach steeper terrain at 13,100'. It then ascends a number of ledges before reaching the "Leap of Faith", a 3'-wide gap along one of the ledges. Immediately after the "Leap of Faith", the route traverses across a narrow, exposed ledge (also known as the "Cliff Traverse") for about 100'.

Cairns then lead across a gully to the next major obstacle at 13,500', a steep section of light green/yellow rock known as the "Green Wall." Climb the class 3/4 rock to reach the ridge crest. Several cairns should be visible marking the way forward. From here, the route winds its way up across a series of class 3/4 ledges to about 13,800'. For the last 200' to the summit, stay below the ridge to its south and follow cairns through more loose, class 3 rock. The terrain eases a bit about 50' below the summit.

This route description is not meant to be comprehensive as is based mostly on memory. If climbing this Pyramid Peak, please refer to the more detailed route descriptions provided by Another great resource is Gerry Roach's guidebook Colorado's Fourteeners: From Hikes to Climbs*. Pyramid Peak is not for beginners! It should only be climbed by folks with experience at class 3/4 climbing at high altitude. The rotten, loose rock and exposure make this a dangerous peak, one that has claimed the lives of climbers in the past. Climb it in good weather and wear a helmet. Otherwise, enjoy this beautiful mountain!

*Click here to get this book on Amazon!

Trip Reports

Pyramid Peak (July 2018)