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 Peak(s):  Meeker, Mt  -  13,911 feet
Meeker Ridge  -  13,860 feet
 Post Date:  12/23/2011
 Date Climbed:   12/21/2011
 Posted By:  AndYouSeeMe
 Additional Members:   I Man

 Mt. Meeker via the Iron Gates   

First trip report here, so bear with me please.

With only one day left before our Christmas trip to Phoenix, I really wanted to get out one more time. There were three options: Northstar with ChrisFol(Chris) and d_baker(Darin), Twin Sisters with dswink(Dave) and Silverlynx(Jenny), or Meeker with Iman86(Matt) and his buddy Corbin. Having been up Twin Sisters earlier this summer, and wanting to climb Northstar as a winter climb after seeing it in Cooper's Snow Climbs book, Meeker was the obvious choice.

Ever since moving to the Front Range in 2005, I have wanted to climb the peaks visible from Denver. After driving on 72 to RMNP on many occasions and seeing the sign stating the height, 13,911ft, it somehow stuck in my head, definitely the only 13er height I have memorized. When Matt told me they were planning on heading up through the Iron Gates, I began researching the route and got pretty excited after seeing some trip reports and the route description from Roach.

Final plans were made for Corbin to pick Matt up in Denver on his way from CO Springs, and then they would pick me up on the way to the trailhead around 1:40am, putting us on the trail at roughly 3:00am, plenty of time to make it back before dark, even with these short days. At 1:10am I got a text saying Corbin had slept in but was leaving right away, and then at 2:00am another text saying his car had broke down and that Matt was jumping in his car ASAP to come get me. Now there were two of us, starting later than we hoped, but still going nonetheless!

After the quick drive to the trailhead we pulled in and happened upon something very, very rare, the elusive empty Longs Trailhead parking lot! We had assumed there would be at least one or two cars, but instead we had our pick of spots, and started to gear up for the climb. We left snowshoes and some technical gear in the car, but each brought our axe, crampons(which we didn't end up using), helmet and microspikes as we hit the trail at 4:30am under clear, starry skies. While Matt filled out the register, I got my music situated (Radiohead is the perfect music to walk through the dark woods listening to) and we started heading up the trail.

No one had signed in since the weekend, but the trail was still extremely well tracked and easy to follow, a luxury after the trailbreaking on Massive from a few days ago. Once past Jim's Grove we lost the trail, but easily made it up to the Chasm Lake junction in just under two hours. Having climbed Longs I had been to the junction before but never took the left hand turn down to Chasm Meadows. We took a break just down the trail by some large boulders and watched the beautiful sunrise. In my opinion, few things in this world are as great as an above-treeline sunrise.
Image
Sunrise

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Sunrise with Matt coming around the corner


We stashed some water for the return, put on our helmets, stowed the poles, got out our axes, and pushed on. It had been chilly all morning, with wind picking up above treeline, but nothing too bad. The brightening sky had revealed blue sky to the east, but clouds and snow just sitting on top of the peaks in the cirque. The snow and clouds turned the sky a very neat pinkish hue. To be honest, at this point I thought a summit was a longshot, but it was only 7:00am, so we pushed on.
Image
Matt crossing the snowfield

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Ship's Prow


The snowfield you cross to get down to Chasm Meadows was still pretty firm that early, but some steps by the weekend hikers made it pretty simple. That was the most snow we dealt with all day. Stowing the axes we looked up and could barely see Longs or Meeker, they were going in and out of sight as the clouds and snow swirled all around. To the south we could see the impressive north face of Meeker with its huge cliffs and rock formations. Our goal was to gain the northeast ridge at around 13,000ft by way of the Iron Gates. On the eastern end of the ridge, there are two huge rock towers guarding the entrance to the hall beyond, and a notch at the top, our access point. Some steep Class 2 got us through the Gates, but not without taking a ton of pictures; this is a really awesome area.
Image
Starting up through the Gate's

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Western Gate

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Looking back down through where we came

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Cliff at the notch to gain the NE ridge

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View of Longs from high in the Gully

Towards the top of the gully there was a little bit of fun Class 3 before popping out on the other side of the ridge and seeing most of the remaining route. At this point the sun popped out, but only for a few minutes before we were once again in a cloud with snow flurries. The south side of the ridge did offer a little respite from the wind, which sure helps morale. Matt was still in the gully, and after waiting for a bit and getting cold, I started moving upward to warm up. This part of the hike was straightforward and pretty easy scrambling on nice big rock.
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Looking west toward summit

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Crazy cliffs above the Iron Gates


At about 13,500ft the wind and snow began to pick up and the rocks all began to get covered in a nice layer of rime ice. By nice I mean extremely slippery and annoying. Walking along the ridge is quite the experience; on your right side you are literally five feet from huge cliffs that drop who knows how far. That said, if you aren't into the exposure, there is a ton of room on the ridge where you could avoid almost all of those moments. At about 9:45am I finally saw what I assumed to be the summit of Meeker Ridge, an unranked peak.
Image
These got slippery!

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Rime covered summit of Meeker Ridge


As I scrambled up to the boulder strewn summit I could see why it is unranked, it looks to be the same height as the true summit, was extremely close, and only drops down about 50 feet between the two. What came next was the knife edge. I had read that this would be, by far, the crux of the climb. The only thing different from all the pictures I had seen was the layer of ice coating the entire thing, and the wind. Matt was still coming up behind me, but with the weather deteriorating I decided to start the traverse, not knowing if it was passable, or even if I wanted to see if it was passable. As is usually the case in the mountains, once I got up closer and saw what I was dealing with, it looked doable. With the wind and added layer of ice I had to move very deliberately, and a few of the moves did cause me to pause a bit, but nothing put me out of my comfort zone. There were two sections, maybe 15ft each, where I had to do the straddle technique, but usually there was another ledge just below the knife edge that I could walk on while holding onto the edge itself. When not directly on the knife edge, I was usually on the north side.
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Knife edge

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Me with Knife edge

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Attempting to show the knife edge exposure

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Knife edge

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Knife edge

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Exposure to the south on knife edge


After about 10 minutes and tons of pictures I had made it to the end and only had the final summit pitch to go before being able to check another centennial peak off my list. Assuming this part was going to be simple was a mistake though, with the ice I had to crawl in a few places and the exposure never let up. At 10:20am I was on the summit of Mt. Meeker!
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True summit of Mt. Meeker

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Summit!

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Me with NE ridge cliffs


Of course the visibility was horrible and I didn't get the views of Longs I was hoping for, but no big deal. I spent all of a minute on top for a picture and then headed back to reverse the knife edge and get back to the relative safety of Meeker Ridge.

Coming back across was uneventful, thankfully, and as I was almost across I spotted Matt up on Meeker Ridge. When we met up I gave him all the beta I could on the crux section and he started in that direction while I waited for him. By this time the weather had begun to get worse, and I could tell that concerned both of us. He got about a third of the way across but was stopped by a move that just didn't feel right to him. Me being 6'5” it didn't concern me, but under the conditions I can see how he felt that way. After turning around and trying it again, he made the decision that today was not his day to summit Meeker. I applaud Matt for making that tough decision so close to the summit, it shows he has a lot of common sense and that he listens to his brain when it says 'this isn't cool with me'. The mountain will always be there, and hopefully in better conditions next time.
Image
Matt attempting the knife edge

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Matt starting knife edge

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Summit of Meeker Ridge


With that we started our descent and made amazing time back to Chasm Meadows. In prior trip reports people had complained about how loose the gully through the Iron Gates was, but with everything semi-frozen in place, it made for very enjoyable boulder hopping and scree surfing.
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Cliffs and Iron Gates from above

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The Loft

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Amazing rock formations


The rest of the hike back to the car was a breeze compared to the dark routefinding of the morning, and we got back to the trailhead at 2:30pm, a 10 hour, 12 mile day. Once back home and looking at the pictures and remembering the day, I might say that this is my favorite route to date on any mountain. The added difficulty of the adverse weather really made it a tough climb, physically and emotionally. Sitting on the plane typing this, all I can think about is what adventure waits when I get back to Colorado. Can anyone say calendar winter summits????
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Longs and part of Meeker from the Jim's Grove

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Beautiful afternoon stroll in the trees


Thanks for reading!



Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
 


  • Comments or Questions
12ersRule


Great 1st report!     2013-07-29 12:29:11
Some sweet pics, love the photos of the knife edge ridge.


MtnHub


Super!     2011-12-23 14:50:05
I did this route in July and it's a fantastic way to hit Meeker. But don't know that I'd want to attempt it in the weather you had. Great shots! Thanks for sharing it!


SenadR


....     2011-12-23 14:19:57
This time of the year.....remarkable acompllishmentt!


d_baker


Nice route     2011-12-23 15:44:19
And nice report.
That's one of my favorite routes as well. The view of Longs is pretty sweet!
As is the views of Meeker's steep side. ;)

BTW...you didn't miss much on N Star. (We didn't do it.)


Marmot72


Nice!     2011-12-23 18:07:08
You both did well. Great report and thanks for posting


globreal



Good job on...     2011-12-24 00:07:49
both your first TR & another Centennial! I did that route back on Aug. 19th and it's awesome. And what an incredible job to get it in the conditions you had!
Congrats to both of you for a great climb, and doing it all safely.


matthewbe


Awesome     2011-12-24 13:45:20
Really enjoyed reading it and the photos of the ridge are amazing! Thanks and Congrats on the summit!


FireOnTheMountain



Killer job to both of you     2011-12-24 15:57:22
Nice write up and pics Aaron!

Conditions looked a lot more spicy than ours on Lenawee-Griz last weekend so way to stick it Matt!


Bean


No ”bearing with you”     2011-12-25 07:57:40
Because this is a great TR, thanks for posting it. That rime looks very unpleasant, good job making it up and back safely.


unclegar


nice report     2011-12-26 11:00:17
I enjoyed the read. Having been up to the summit of Meeker several times, I can say it is pretty tricky to gain the summit proper even in good conditions. Congrats!


tmathews

Fun route     2011-12-27 12:52:46
I went up through the Iron Gates and hit Meeker Ridge and Meeker back in August before continuing on to Longs. The knife edge was a lot of fun!


I Man


Great day     2012-06-20 07:38:00
Thanks guys, It was a fun route but the weather had other plans for me. It was a ton of fun though. I am thinking of going back after Meeker in mid January by doing the Cables route on Longs and traversing from the summit of Longs to the Iron Gates. I love that area!


DoubelDD


Crazy Rocks     2012-01-04 14:19:03
Love all the pics of the rock formations, that looks pretty wicked. nice job



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