Where did the dream of Dream Weaver begin? I think it was a year or so ago when I received a catalog from Patagonia. Inside was a picture of someone climbing a seriously cool looking ice/snow pitch. The caption indicated that the photo was taken at Dream Weaver on Mount Meeker. I didn't know exactly where Dream Weaver was on Meeker but I knew that I wanted to climb it someday. From then on every time I heard the song "Dream Weaver" on the radio I would think of that photo.
Kiefer and I had been trying to get together on a climb for about 5 months and one thing after another got in the way. Finally it appeared as though something was going to work out. He mentioned the week before about going to Mount Meeker via the Loft route. I was unable to go and he ended up not going either and so I thought that that would be the plan for this week. I got a voice mail on Saturday saying that Meeker was on but that he and his girlfriend were thinking of doing it via Dream Weaver. I had just been up to Storm Peak a couple of weeks ago and saw Dream Weaver and thought, "No way…. That is crazy... will I ever be able to do that?" Nevertheless, I left him a message stating that I would like to go but was concerned that I would be "out-classed" but if he was willing to "baby sit" I would consider it. When I didn't hear back from him on Sunday I began Monday morning gearing up to go to Shav/Tab. I was in the midst of preparation when he called and asked if we were on. I expressed my hesitation. Over the weekend I had time to look up more information on the route online and thought more and more that it would be beyond my abilities. Additionally I was now mentally prepared to head to Shavano and camp. He said he had confidence that I could do it and said he would be more than willing to lead and accommodate my lack of experience as needed. I continued to waver between doing something I was comfortable and confident in (Tab/Shav) and something that seemed like a serious challenge and something that doesn't come up frequently. I could do Tab/Shav all summer but Dream Weaver was here…. Now. I contacted "Andy" from 14ers to see what he thought about the route and he promptly got back to me with encouraging words but I was still undecided.
I went out to stock up on supplies for a trip to Shav and ponder the possibilities. As I drove home "Dream Weaver" came on the radio. Kiefer called halfway through the song. This was my "sign" that Dream Weaver was my destiny! Actually, it took one more call to Kiefer to discuss the trip before I was willing to commit. It was 2:30 Monday afternoon.
My alarm went off 11 ½ hours later. Downing some coffee and Pop Tarts I was out the door to meet up with Kiefer, slynn4_13run, and Nate. The drive to the trailhead was enjoyable as we chatted about climbing and one liners from movies. That would prove to be the theme of the climb.
We arrived at the Longs Peak TH around 4 and began our hike around 4:30. At Chasm Junction a climber named Will from Maine caught up to us. He would stick with us for the rest of the trip and proved to be a capable climber as well as a good instructor and encourager to me. The trip to the Couloir was filled with good conversation and anticipation. As we neared the slope under Chasm Lake we noticed some other climbers making their way towards Dream Weaver. This was a popular route on this Tuesday.
Our first real good view of Dream Weaver.
First time to seriously take in Dream Weaver
Taking our time, we arrived at the base of the couloir around 8:30 (these times are approximate). We took a rest to enjoy the views and take in some food.
The group :photo by slynn4
Break time. Kiefer timed breaks well.
About 8:45 we started up the slope.
Heading to the start of Dream Weaver
We ended up waiting about 1 to almost 1 ½ hours for the leading team to get set up the first and second step before we were able to get serious about moving up the couloir. While I didn't like standing around and waiting, I think we all appreciated them kicking in the steps for us (we owe you guys a beer!). Next time, slynn4 would appreciate it if you could kick them a little closer.... she's only 5'4" or so.
Kiefer led the first step and ended up putting in protection to give us a little confidence. Here is what Kiefer had to say about the conditions: "Used 3 chocks (4-6-8 ) and a #2 and a #3 cam to protect. Ice was too soft for screws and TONS of veriglass."
Slynn4 shows the conditions
In retrospect, I don't think protection was "needed" but for me I am glad Kiefer indulged me to give me more conficence. We simul climbed in pairs to try to keep the time down.
Kiefer leading up the first step
Nate behind me simul climbing first step
There was a little free climbing to be had between the first and second step. As we got to the second step it was evident that protection would be good. Again the ice was inconsistent and the conditions varied greatly between ice, veriglass, wet snow, and wet rocks. It seemed to me that a fall would not be too beneficial to ones physical condition. As it turned out, we all climbed all the steps without too much difficulty and the rope was a precaution. I am glad we had it. This was my first experience doing technical climbing with crampons. I found this to be most enjoyable.
photo by slynn4: Me and Kiefer
photo by slynn4: Kiefer looking down
Kiefer Gettin' 'er done!
Looking down on second step. Kiefer belays. (Photo by Nate)
slynn4 finishing the second step
Throughout the climb we found our greatest hazard to be falling ice and tumbling "snow balls." Both would come tumbling and sliding down the couloir either dislodged from the team in front of us or for the natural melting taking place on the mountain. I ended up taking a shot on my left shoulder which led to a nice bruise, one on my arm, two on the same knuckle of my left hand and 2 in the head. Slynn4_13run was hit in the head violently enough for us to be concerned for her wellbeing.
We were able to free climb from the second step up to the notch above The Flying Butress. As I neared the top and could see the north face of Meeker and the cirque around to Longs I began yelling to Kiefer that he was in for a treat. The view we had was for me overwhelming. I had a lump in my throat and could barely contain myself. Altitude? Nerves? Lack of sleep? I don't know but at that time the shear mass of the mountain and the beauty of the rock put me in my place. I have heard it said that we don't go to the Grand Canyon to make much of ourselves but to appreciate something bigger than ourselves. I guess that is was I felt at that moment. My insignificance.
From there, we turned the corner and started up a fun snow slope.
Photo by Will just after my "Hallmark" moment.
We free climbed the third and fourth steps. I got to try my hands using my axe and another semi-technical axe (sorry in advance to my wife… I need another ice tool now).
Me with multiple pointy things...
Upon reaching the fifth step it appeared, to me at least, that protection would be nice. Kiefer once again took the lead and set up a belay. While Kiefer made good time up the step, I was growing antsy. I didn't like standing on the steep slope and really was not into looking down. I was not on good footing and my feet began to hurt. It was agreed that I would climb up the step first. Again, the rope was just a confidence booster for me. Not that a fall would have been ok at this point but we all climbed it without incident. Crampons ROCK.
Getting after it on the fourth step
Will looking cool below the fifth step
Kiefer belays Slynn4
From the fifth step the rest of the route was easy snow to the summit block. As this was the first time up Meeker for me and Will, we were uncertain as to the best way to get up the block… for that matter, we were not sure which block was the summit! We decided to wait for Kiefer to belay the others up and to come up and join us. We ended up taking several paths to the true summit and the scramble to the top was quite enjoyable.
Kiefer celebrates on the summit.
Someone earlier had tempted the wind to not blow…. It got windy. It was 1:00. We took a couple of summit shots with my camera set on 10 second timer and it was a bit of a challenge to get into place without tearing my pants or sticking one of my calves with a point of my crampon.
Nice to be on the summit with a fun group.
Meeker ridge towards Longs with upper loft showing.
As the day was wearing on we decided we needed to hustle down. The hike down to the loft was enjoyable and we were able to do a bit of glissading down to the bottom of the cirque.
There was a sense of great satisfaction as we changed out our gear, hydrated, and took a parting shot of the team and the awesome mountain and route behind us. I think we are all looking forward Dream Weaver again.
Ready for a cheeseburger.
The climb took a total of 14 hours and 50 minutes. We all expected it to take around 10 or 12 hours. None of us were in a rush, we had sweet weather, and we enjoyed our time together. This was a climb to bond on and to support and trust one another. This truly was a dream come true for me. Kiefer, slynn4_13run, Nate, and Will have a special place in my soul because of our time together. I had a "Rocky Mountain high" that I didn't want to come down from. Thanks to you four.
I got home that night and checked on to 14ers.com. My high quickly crashed as I saw the turn of events on Little Bear. I wept as I considered the possibilities and wondered about the risks and the "what ifs". My heart ached for Kevin and his family and Travis and his having to "grow up" too early in this fashion. I prayed for Kevin's family and for Travis. Was the sport worth the risk? Is it fair to place my family in the position of loosing their father/husband? I went to bed sad, restless, and tired. Morning came too early. I was depressed. How do I process this? I am a pilot. People ask me all the time if I think flying planes is safe. My standard answer is that driving to the airport is the most dangerous part of the trip. Such is the case with climbing. Our time is not our own. Proverbs 19:21 says, "Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand." We do what we do because it helps to make us feel alive. We experience what few understand. While there is risk, we are not reckless. We take precautions. I for one do not want to die "doing what I love." I want to be around to love those for who I am willing to die for. I am looking forward to my next climb. Thanks for letting me express my joy and pain.