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Pyramid Peak: Northeast Ridge

14,000-foot summit requiring huge elevation gain and steep scrambling with wild exposure.

Hiking Extreme

12 km
1.3 km
1.3 km
4-5 hrs
Low Point
2.9 km
High Point
4.3 km
Pyramid Peak: Northeast Ridge Map

Note: this route warrants a "Difficult" Mountaineering difficulty rating.


Pyramid Peak is the Colorado 14er that stands opposite the wildly-famous Maroon Bells near Aspen. Though its neighbors steal the limelight in most photos, Pyramid is actually the first major peak you see when entering the valley. As you drive along Maroon Creek from Aspen toward the Bells, Pyramid Peak is the hulking mountain that looms dead ahead. Its 14,018-foot summit is tantalizing, but fortified by buttress-like ridges and vertical walls with no easy way through. The Northeast Ridge is the typical route, and though the distance is relatively short, it requires huge elevation gain and lots of technical routefinding on rock that is steep but not always solid.

Beginning from the extremely popular Maroon Lake Trailhead, you’ll soon leave the throngs behind as you charge past the lake and beyond the scenic loop trails. Farther up the valley, but before reaching Crater Lake, locate a discrete climbers trail on the left. Take switchbacks up and up for more than 1,000 feet to get into the “Amphitheater.” This is the dramatically steep cirque beneath the north face of Pyramid.

Walk up snow or talus on the west side of the cirque, at the edge of a rock glacier—an agglomeration of ice and talus that moves like a glacier. Cross over near the top of the cirque to the east side, and locate a faint trail up a bouldery couloir. Take this for another 1,000 feet to a saddle at the base of Pyramid’s Northeast Ridge.

Once you top out, you can see most of the route yet to come, which is a rather daunting spectacle. The mountain’s east face is incredibly steep and fragile, but passage is more likely than it looks once you get into it. Careful route finding is key, of course. Weave your way along the crest, passing first to the right of a blocky gendarme then crossing to the left (east) side when the going gets steeper. Keep an eye out for cairns to aid in navigation. On this left side of the crest, you’ll encounter nearly vertical, blocky rock ribs and cliffs. Carefully step across some small vertigo-inducing gaps, then traverse a narrow ledge with wild exposure. Work briefly up a steep, dirty gully then move left onto a section of easier terrain.

Continuing up and left, trending toward the summit, the pitch steepens again to guard the final objective. You must fight through about 500 feet of tricky Class 3 and 4 terrain before standing on top. There is no single best way to get through it. Following cairns should aid your progress, but there will likely be more than one cairned route as well. Use discretion to find the path of least resistance, and always double check your holds because the rock is brittle. Soon enough, the gradient lessens and you’ll bound up an easy topout to a jaw-dropping summit.

Sources: https://www.14ers.com/route.php?route=pyra1&peak=Maroon+Bells+and+Pyramid+Peak https://www.summitpost.org/pyramid-peak/150475 https://www.summitpost.org/northeast-ridge/158512



Scrambling up mountains and along technical trails with moderate fall exposure. Handholds are necessary to navigate the trail in its entirety, although they are not necessary at all times. Some obstacles can be very large and difficult to navigate, and the grades can often be near-vertical. The challenge of the trail and the steepness of the grade results in very strenuous hiking. Hikes of this difficulty blur the lines between "hiking" and "climbing".

Extreme Exposure

4 out of 4

Some trail sections are extremely exposed where falling will almost certainly result in serious injury or death.


3 out of 4

Little chance of being seen or helped in case of an accident.

Best time to visit

between June and September


  • Alpine
  • Summit Hike

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Guidebooks in this area