Jared and I climbed the Bell Cord Couloir, ascended Maroon Peak, traversed to North Maroon Peak, and then descended the northeast ridge. The snow conditions in the Bell Cord were good for the entire route. The snow was firm and perfect for crampons. The traverse between the Bells and the descent off of North Maroon were completely dry.
From the trailhead to the top of the Bell Cord Couloir was 5 hours. From the top of the Bell Cord Couloir to South Maroon Peak was 30 minutes. The traverse from South Maroon Peak to North Maroon Peak took 2 hours. From North Maroon Peak back to the trailhead was 4 hours. Our total trail time was 11 hours and 30 minutes.
We initially made fair time on the approach. We left the trail at around 10,300' south of Crater Lake and worked our way up a talus slope/moraine to a large snowfield on the right. Once above the snowfield, we traversed left to the apron of the Bell Cord. After putting on our helmets and crampons, the fun began. With over 2,000' of snow climbing, we were fortunate to have such good conditions. We simple went slow and cranked out the vertical. I thought the grade of the couloir was very consistent with nothing too steep. Once in the Bell Cord itself, you are generally forced to climb in the runnel because the couloir is so narrow. Although there is always the possibility of rockfall, we were on the climb early and there aren't a lot of options to try and avoid it. In addition, the runnel provided the easiest climbing. Since your feet are lower, when using the low dagger position with your ice axe it basically felt like I was using hand rails to climb. It was a little odd to find a crampon about half way up the climb on top the snow. Whoever lost it might have had an interesting finish.
At the top of the Bell Cord Couloir, we switched over to approach shoes and scrambled over to South Maroon Peak. We both felt a little drained at this point, so we took a break to enjoy the day and refuel. Back at the notch we loaded up our packs and began our climb to North Maroon Peak. We stayed on the ridge for the most part and free climbed the three low class 5 cruxes rather than traverse lower. The weather was outstanding and all we had to do now was descend. The initial section of the down climb wasn't bad and even the ridge's class 4 crux chimney wasn't too difficult. However, after we left the ridge crest and dropped into the south gully things got sketchy.
I had climbed the northeast ridge route two years ago and didn't think it was that bad. Going down this route proved more difficult at least mentally for me than climbing it. The loose rock and exposure took it's toll on my nerves and the thought of pitching head over heals over cliffs was constantly on my mind. Jared and I simply took our time, remained focused on our footing, and slowly worked our way down. Once we got to the point where you cross over to the north gully things got much easier.
We finished the descent, crossed the large talus field on the north side of the peak, and Jared took an unintentional dip in Minnehaha Creek. We had both run out of water about half way down North Maroon Peak so we were parched. When we hit the main trail at Crater Lake I bummed a few ounces off of a day hiker for each of us. After drinking some water, we both had a beer to celebrate our climb and were on the road.