Pyramid Peak Route Guide | A Dangerous & Deadly 14er
Three fourteeners tower over Maroon Lake, all difficult peaks that deserve your respect. Pyramid Peak has the deadly distinction of being the most dangerous of the three; a class 4 climb with loose rock and nasty exposure that requires expert route-finding skills. Take plenty of time to research this route well so you can find your way up the exposed northeast ridge. Get started on your preparation with my Pyramid Peak route guide below.
Pyramid Peak Route Guide Fast Facts
Pyramid Peak Route Guide - Northeast Ridge
Getting to this fourteener can be a logistical challenge, as you need a reservation to shuttle in. Click here for more info on reaching the Maroon Leak trailhead. This is where my Pyramid Peak route guide begins.
From the Maroon Lake trailhead, head west along the lake on the solid Crater lake trail. At the cairned junction with the Pyramid trail, take a left to head towards the peak. Head southeast to reach the base of a steep slope guarding entry into the higher amphitheater. Take the trail that switchbacks up the slope. Enter the amphitheater around 11,400 feet. Pyramid Peak towers ahead of you at the end of the basin.
With no defined trail, continue up the basin to the right of a large rock glacier. This often hold snow late into the summer. After a half mile of hiking, turn left and head across the basin to the ridge on your left. Locate a trail at the base of the slope and follow it 1,000 feet up to gain the northeast ridge. It is very loose and partially scree covered, so take your time and wear a helmet.
At the 13,000 foot saddle, turn right and follow a trail on the right side of a large outcropping, taking you to another small saddle at 13,100 feet. From here the route requires class 3 and 4 climbing and careful route-finding. If the weather is turning, this is a good time to turn around.
Look for cairns on the ridge’s right side. Follow these until the terrain becomes more difficult. Climb left to gain the ridge and over to the south side of the peak. Underneath the crest, follow the cairns over several small rock ribs and a gap. This leads to a narrow ledge crossing above some steep terrain and cliffs. Take care while crossing a narrow section towards the center.
After the ledge, follow more cairns along the slope, over a gully, and left to another rock rib. Climb around this rock to reach a steep face of greenish rock. Climb up a few hundred feet up the greenish rock and before reaching the crest of the ridge, identify cairns to the left.
The remaining 500 feet is complex, but usually well-cairned. Take your time, and study route pictures before you. Continue left of the ridge crest and zigzag up loose, red rock. You will likely encounter a couple of short, Class 4 pitches on the last few hundred feet below the summit. This route is loosely defined with several alternatives, take the line of least resistance. Near 13,900′, if you’ve followed the most direct route, the slope begins to ease as you near the summit.
From the top, enjoy your accomplishment and the views. Be sure you descend with plenty of time to reach tree line before afternoon thunderstorms become a hazard. I hope you found my Pyramid Peak route guide helpful and informative. For more info and pictures, visit the 14ers.com route guide here.
Let my topographical map of the Pyramid Peak Route guide you on your way. It’s perfect for your trip. Download it on your phone and print out a paper copy so that you have a spare just in case anything goes wrong. Click on the map below to view it larger.
Besides researching with my Pyramid Peak route guide, you should research the weather conditions for your climb so you can pack and prepare properly.
Hiking & climbing 14ers is an inherently high-risk activity – do so at your own risk, and use the following best practices to help keep yourself safe. Good Luck!
- Research your route using my Pyramid Peak route guide and bring a compass & topographic map.
- Check the weather forecast and stay home during inclement weather.
- Bring the Ten Essentials and the knowledge/skill to use them.
- Leave your plans with someone back home along with a detailed itinerary.
- Start early, and end early: Be back at tree line by noon to avoid lightning.
- Bring a buddy on your first ascent, preferably someone experienced.
About the Author: Alex Derr
Alex Derr is a mountaineer and blogger based in Denver Colorado. He is working to climb Colorado’s highest 100 peaks, and the 20 tallest peaks in California. He created The Next Summit to share advice, stories, history & reflections from the Colorado Rockies & Sierra Nevada. When not climbing, he is managing the Communications strategy at Visible Network Labs.