RT: 11.27 miles
Elevation Gain: 4639’
The moon was full, which makes hiking in the dark so much more enjoyable. The trailhead is located at the northeast end of the North Crestone Campground. I was surprised to find tent campers in some of the spots on this 20-degree morning. There were no other vehicles I the lot when I arrived. I was surprised to find the bathroom still open, and well stocked.
I was on the trail at 5am. The trail is obvious.
I signed the register (the first person to do so in about a week) and followed the North Crestone Trail northeast. This is a class 1, easy to follow trail
After hiking for 2.8 miles, I came to the junction for the North Crestone Trail, Comanche Trail, and North Fork Crestone Trail. I basically made 2 left turns, and began following the North Fork Crestone Trail
This trail was also easy to follow, as it switchbacked and headed north
There were some frozen stream crossings
There were also a lot of downed aspens from previous avalanches (but a clear trail) and willows
After hiking for a total of 4.25 miles and at 10750’ I looked left and saw a drainage. This is the east side of Pyramid Mountain.
The idea here is to follow the drainage northwest. This is harder than it sounds. I ascended via the right, only to encounter some class 3 climbing and avalanche debris from aspens. I descended via the left, in the snow with even denser aspens. If I had to do this again, I’d probably stick to the route on the left, because, while there were more aspens, they were easier to navigate and much shorter than the ones on the right. In any event, it’s choose-your-own adventure. Following the drainage directly isn’t an option for the first 100 yards or so, due to the dense willows (but after that I’d recommend following the drainage proper, rock hopping). Either way, you will come out of this part of the trek covered in aspen dust. I can’t imagine attempting this when the trees and willows have leaves.
Here are some closer pictures of my ascent route. First, I crossed the stream. It was covered in willows, so pictures don’t do much, but trust me, there is a stream here. Just float over it on the willow branches…
Next, I found an obvious game trail through the next set of willows
Directly after this game trail is another game trail to the left that crosses the drainage/a small stream (picture of this to come later). This is how I came down. But for now, I stayed to the right of the willows, trying to straddle the willows and the aspens (it didn’t work).
Staying to the right of the drainage brought me to a rocky area I needed to ascend. This could be considered easy class 3
Once over this rock outcropping, I was easily able to follow the drainage northwest, as I was now above treeline
I took the ramp to the left, which is steeper than it looks. Here I encountered a few stubborn willows, but was able to keep this class 2
Now I could see the rest of the route. There are a few ways to ascend to the summit. Once again, this is choose your own adventure. It looks more intimidating than it is. I was able to keep this all class 2, with one easy class 3 move (which would have been class 2 without snow).
Here’s my overall route to the summit
Let’s go step by step. I made my way towards the rock outcropping. Here there are two prominent, red ribs of rock. Both go. I chose a different one on the way up than I did on the way down. Follow them north and they will quickly lead to tundra
At the top of these ribs, resist the urge to head to the ridge (it doesn’t go, yet). Instead, aim for just below this prominent rock
Heading this way will take you to a game trail. I followed it west a few yards, and then took a gully towards the ridge, avoiding the large rock.
When I did this there was snow. Snow helps to make for a nice visual. Just before making it to the snow, I turned right. There was a faint trail here, heading northwest.
I was making my way northwest, towards the ridge, on tundra and Crestone conglomerate rock (side note, had I gone to the next gully further, this would all have been tundra).
I hit another large rock just before the ridge. There’s an access gully here that’s most likely class 2 in summer, but with snow felt easy class 3. I climbed this gully
From here, it was an easy scramble up the ridge to the summit. The pictures make this look tougher than it was.
I summited Pyramid Mountain at 9:15am
There was a summit register, which I actually signed because it was warm outside. Then I was on my way back down.
Here’s an overview of the exit, back to the drainage
I made it back to the game trail, followed it for a few yards, and then descended south
This time I took the opposite side of the drainage down. I’d recommend taking this route up (it won’t be ‘fun’, but it will be slightly better than the other side)
Yes, there are a lot of aspens, but they’re small-er than those on the other side. I made it to the willows and crossed the creek at what felt like a game trail, but had an access log across it, so maybe it’s intentional?
Now for the final creek crossing, willow wrestling, and back to the trail
I hiked over several (frozen) creek crossings, back to the junction with the North Crestone Trail, Comanche Trail, and North Fork Crestone Trail
I turned right twice this time, and hiked back to the trailhead, following North Crestone Trail
I made it back to my truck at 12:15pm, making this a 11.27 mile hike with 4639’ of elevation gain in 7 hours, 15 minutes.
On to the next trailhead!