| A Long Day Through the Iron Gates
This is my first TR so please enjoy it, and if you want to flame me, go ahead! I have thick skin!
Mt. Meeker was my first solo of any mountain that I have climbed so far. I personally wouldn't recommend it to myself again, but I found some definite pros and cons to soloing.
My day began at 0145 the alarm went off with my wife muttering something in her sleep, something about me being a nut job...I thought the same thing and rolled out of bed. I made it to the Longs Peak trail head at about 0300, signed into the register and began my hike up the well-maintained trail. I met and even passed a few hikers, while some were passing me. It was a great morning for it.
I made pretty good time, (for me anyway) up to the Chasm Lake Junction and proceeded towards Chasm Lake, soon crossing a stream and headed straight above the privy.
It was here I began to realize that this was going to take a little longer than I had thought, and I began my ascent towards the Iron Gates.
I know there are many other people with much more experience than myself, but I found that the slope was steep and very loose, and I was mentally on edge, especially since this was the first time I was soloing a trip in RMNP. I didn't find it so intimidating though, that I wanted to turn back, so I carefully picked my way up the slope and pretty soon, I found that the higher I got, the more stable it became, and thus began to feel pretty good about the Iron Gates. The route through there is really cool, and I would highly recommend it. A short while later I came up to the short, but fun mild class three section to gain Meekers Ridge.
I slowly made my way up the ridge, taking many breaks along the way. I hadn't seen a soul all morning since Chasm Lake and it was pretty sparce without any fellow hikers around. I was taking several breathers as this had been the first time this year I had been this high, and honestly, I'm not in the greatest shape, but was determined to get up there. Meeker Ridge is comprised of very large boulders and slabs and requires some mild scrambling. You can stay high and close to the edge if you're an exposure freak, or if you want to keep it at class 2+, you can stay below the ridge and ascend it that way. On the ridge, I met one person who passed me like a man on a mission. Obviously he was enjoying himself, we exchanged pleasantries, and he disapperared. I soon found myself at the top of Meeker Ridge and was immediately perplexed at the amount of air I was going to have to overcome. I realized that I probably should not have made this my first solo, but the Marine in me told me I could do it, just taking my time and choosing very carefully the route that I would need to take. I was sitting on the Ridge summit boulder trying to figure the way down and realized that the longer I sat there the more likely it was I wasn't going to do it. I so took off my pack and allowed myself to drop it into a crevice just below me. Now, I know that many of you reading this are thinking why would that moron do that, and I know I broke several rules by doing it. First, I did it because I knew it would force me to overcome my fear of heights and exposure. Second, it forced me to find a way down. Soon after performing stunt number one, I saw that the route led to the right of the boulder I was sitting on. You have to hug it, and pray as you step across, but I found it was well within my ability. Next, I grabbed my pack, and vowed never to do it again, then I faced the knife edge.
My good friend Randy Mayer (rmayer) told me of the knife ridge and I told him that if I made up there, I would have to try it, and now, here I am, ready to eat those words. I spent enough time taking one picture, said a prayer, cleared my mind and just went for it. The rock was solid and half way across I stopped to take a picture:
After making it across the knife edge, I stayed to the right of the edge, although I think you go either way and ascended towards the summit block. I intended to descend down the Loft so after taking a picture on top of the summit block with the register (I didn't sign it) I made my way down the west side of Meeker and I kept going west into a massive gully with huge boulders that made downclimbing challenging. I knew I was off route, but I kept going, angling to the right where I eventually came out, face to face with the south face of Longs.
I headed back towards the Loft, and preceded to get myself lost coming down the Loft. To make a very long story short, I'm pretty sure I cut back towards the left (north) too soon and I found myself in some upper class 3 lower class 4 stuff, inching my way down. Again, I my first solo, and I was regretting it.
I just kept going down to the left, paralleling the waterfall and ice until I made it to the Ship's Prow, and back to Chasm Lake. The last part of that trip, coming down the Loft was for me, extremely stressful, being that I had never been on that route before, and not really sure of the proper way down. I may have been on the correct route or I may not have been. I honestly don't know. I posted a picture of the route I was on, versus what I believe to be the proper route and if you know, then please tell me! All in all, it was a good trip that brought be closer to the good Lord and the elements. I learned a lot that day about myself, namely that I still lack a lot of experience and that I have much to learn. I don't intend to totally shrug off soloing, but having someone else with you is always beneficial, but being alone allows you to push yourself to your limits without the stigma of pride and showmanship getting in the way.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):