Yes, Sam the incredible rock and ice climbing Wolfdog made it to the top of Pyramid, a class 4 climb, forhis 42nd 14er. On the following day in a much easier endeavour he gloried in the summit of Snowmass for his 43rd. He had already ascended Yale in 1998. The road to Maroon Lake, with its famously photographed view of the Maroon Bells is now open--as is Independence Pass! Until June 15th you can drive the road to Maroon Lake in the hours between 8 A.M. and 5 P.M. If you do,based upon our observations when we returned to our vehicle, you will circle the parking lot for a long time waiting for a parking spot. After June 15th until September you will have to take the bus from downtown Aspen. The good news is that for climbers (who typically leave early for good snow) the overnight parking lot is open before and after 8 A.M. and 5 P.M.
Trip Report for Pyramid Peak (28 May) By Steve Bremner, Jonathan Cavner, and Sam the Wolfdog
Saturday evening, May 28th, we drove from Colorado Springs to Maroon Lake, a three and a half hour drive. Arriving some time after 10 P.M. we found a parking spot and also met up with two friends who were going to do the Northeast Ridge of Pyramid while we did the Northwest Ridge route. I blew up my newly purchased "Coleman Quick bed" and we slept out under the stars in the bed of my truck--Sam the Wolfdog slept inside the cab.
The next morning at 5 A.M. we awoke to a rolling sea as Dan, who aspired to the northeast ridge, bounced us out of dreamland. Dan and Pete set out in 15 minutes, while we followed 20 minutes later, around 5:35 A.M.
The monstrous cairn marking the climber's spur to the basin below Pyramid that Jonathan recalled from his ascents of the Maroon Bells last year had dwindled to a paltry six or seven stones. We walked right by it. When Crater Lake came into view we realized we had gone too far and backtracked, finding the diminished cairn and the trail of sorts. It didn't make a great difference that we had found the cairn, because we soon lost the trail in the snow. Persisting ever upward we fought our way through thickets and thorns eventually reaching the snowfilled basin.
Thanks to our early start the snow was firm and we proceeded to the Northwest Ridge. High above us and nearly to the ridge itself we spotted a group of four--looking like ants in the distance. Now we had a incentive to push. Steadily climbing we succeeded in catching them just as they reached the ridge--thereby securing for our party the first ascent of Pyramid by the NW ridge for 2000--one climber who we coincidentally met the next day on Snowmass' summit ascended Pyramid by the NE ridge the previous weekend. To reach the ridge we took advantage of the footsteps punched in by the party of four, obviating the need for crampons.
Once on the ridge we ascended mostly class three rock for about 300 feet elevation. Then we came on a snow field still hard in the early morning. This snow field later in the year becomes a class four wall. At this point we donned crampons as it was very steep. Even with crampons near the end of the ice field I slipped, catching myself with the ice ax immediately, instantly aware of my mortality--it would have been a bouncy ride down for at least 100 feet, probably further. Sam the Wolfdog proceeded nonchalantly with his built-in wolf claw crampons.
The next problem for Sam the Wolfdog was a ice covered rock chimney. For Jonathan and I with our crampons and opposing thumb/forefinger advantage it was not a problem. Sam the wolfdog balked and worried himself over "routefinding", i.e. looking for an easier way. I knew his capabilities and was confident that he would make it once he decided he could, so we climbed ever upward, summiting shortly.
Some time later the party of four also summited and reported that Sam the Wolfdog had solved the rock/ice chimney problem--"I was climbing up the chimney and the next thing I knew a ball of fur hurtled past me!", and was now a mere fifty vertical feet below, stymied by a chest high (my chest) block of stone. Jonathan and I downclimbed to Sam and working together with Jonathan above holding the leash and me below pushing up we got him over in his only "aid" of the climb. What an incredible beast! (He's getting snobby though--on the way down the trail I'm certain that he was singling out dogs obviously not capable of climbing 14ers for an attempted "nip".)
Our plans had been to descend the NE route for a "grand tour de Pyramid", but snow conditions were deteriorating in the morning sun--the NW route stays more firm--so we went more or less the way we went up. Too early we considered dropping to the basin--we started down a snow field, but when we couldn't see over and to where it led we kept along the ridge. Later looking up from the basin below we saw that the snow field ended abruptly in cliff bands!! Know where you are going before committing your life!
As we slid into the basin we noted two climbers returning from the NE ridge route--though we didn't know it at the time it turned out to be our friends. Unfortunately they didn't complete the route, though they did make it up to the ridge--one of the party (Pete) became skittish over the exposure on the ridge so they turned back.