Crews return to Maroon Bells for trail work
Crews will return to a couple of Aspen’s most iconic peaks in the coming days to build more sustainable trails in fragile areas and rehabilitate damaged terrain.
The Colorado Fourteeners Initiative is working on the Maroon Bells as part of its 2013 projects. North Maroon Peak received the attention last year. A Rocky Mountain Youth Corps team supervised by Fourteeners Initiative officials cut in a new section of trail with a sweeping switchback where the old, user-made trail cut straight up a steep slope. The old trail was severely eroded.
This summer, the focus will shift to Maroon Peak. Once again, a section of trail will be relocated and the old trail reclaimed. But the project will be tougher, according to Colorado Fourteeners Initiative Executive Director Lloyd Athearn. The rock type, size and availability on Maroon Peak is substantially different from what the crew had to work with last year on North Maroon, he said.
Crews had relatively easy access to huge piles of rocks of all sizes that were used for stairs and retaining walls on the new trail. This year, the available rock on Maroon Peak is “softball sized, at best,” Athearn said. That will require more intricate and time-consuming trail construction.
“Such is the job of working on fourteeners — every project is different,” he said.
Two Colorado Fourteeners Initiative leaders and a crew of 10 young adults from Rocky Mountain Youth Corps will undertake the work. They will camp in West Maroon Valley.
Athearn is giving a slide presentation about the Maroon Bells work at 7 p.m. today at the Ute Mountaineer in Aspen. He will get into details about why the projects are needed and what they will accomplish. The presentation is free and open to the public, but seating is limited.
Work also will continue on North Maroon Peak this year, though the hard work of constructing the new section of trail was completed last summer. A Colorado Fourteeners Initiative leader will oversee roughly 250 volunteer workdays as groups of people of all ages come to revegetate the old trail.
“The restoration work is less physically demanding,” Athearn said. “It’s high-altitude gardening, if you will.”
Volunteers will come from groups such as the American Hiking Society and the Colorado Hiking Club. They will camp along the trail that leads to Buckskin Pass.
The Colorado Fourteeners Initiative has a budget of about $162,000 for the Maroon Bells projects. Local organizations such as Pitkin County Open Space and Trails contribute to the project. Athearn will update the open space board of directors on the project at a meeting Thursday.
The Colorado Fourteeners Initiative’s mission is to protect and preserve the natural integrity of the state’s 54 peaks 14,000 feet and higher. It has multiple programs that range from trail reconstruction to regular maintenance and educational effort. More about the organization can be found at http://www.14ers.org.
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