Elk Mountains

The Elk Mountain Range dominates the wilderness surrounding Aspen, and is a popular recreational destination for recreation seekers.  The range is not as easily accessed as some of the other ranges in Colorado, and is accessed by backroads, passes and trails.  The occupation of the area began in the late 1800’s during the Colorado Silver Boom, and to this day the area is rich in mining culture and current day coal mines.  Due to the unique geographical formation of the Elk Mountains they are typically known for their loose, rotten rocks and rugged nature.     

12. Castle Peak – 14,265’ – Castle Peak is the southernmost and highest 14’er in the Elk Mountain Range, and is considerably easier to climb than its more intimidating neighbors.  The easiest route is a class 1 to a class 2 climb making it a great peak for a first 14’er ascent.

24. Maroon Bells – 14,156’ – Technically South Maroon Peak is the only 14’er in the Maroon Bells, but its twin summit North Maroon Peak is also above 14,000’.  North Maroon Peak stands at 14,014’, but it does not have a topographical prominence of more that 300’.  However, despite this distinction it is only right to talk about the Maroon Bells as a whole because of their spectacular and unique nature.  From the northeaster slopes in the Maroon Creek Valley the Maroon Bells is the “most-photographed spot in Colorado”. 

The peaks are composed of mudstone that gives them their reddish hue, but it lends to their crumbling rock structure.  The dangerous nature of the sedimentary rock and the peaks long and arduous trails has earned them the name of the “Deadly Bells”.  Although the South Maroon Peaks most standard routes are both class 3, but one contains a long trek above tree line and the other takes about 9 to 11 hours to complete.  So be prepared and leave early!

29. Capitol Peak – 14,130’ – The opinion of many Colorado climbers is that Capitol Peak is the most difficult 14’er to climb.  It is an exceptional peak within the Elk Mountains due to its surprisingly stable rock quality.  The easiest route is a class 4 scramble with an abundance of exposure.  The more difficult climbs are classified all the way up to 5.7 and are all serious undertakings, with a very real danger of rock falls. 

31. Snowmass Mountain – 14,092’ – Snowmass Mountain and Snowmass Peak, its slightly lower neighbor, are named for one of Colorado’s largest snowfields located on the eastern slope.  Snowmass is one of the most remote 14’ers in Colorado and does not boast any easy or beginner climbs.  The shortest route to the summit is over 8 miles and all of the routes are at least class 3 climbs.  The summit itself is surrounded by knife like ridges that take patience and strength to conquer. 

47. Pyramid Peak – 14,018’ – From Maroon Lake the ominous Pyramid Peak seems sheer and unattainable as from this angle the summit resembles a ragged square pyramid.  The standard route to the summit is only 3 miles, but a very steep 3 miles with over 4,000’ of elevation gain and class 3 and 4 rated moves the entire way.  The loose rock that dominates the Elk Mountains is ever-present on Pyramid Peak and the danger of rock fall is very real.  


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