Meeker Ridge via the Iron Gates/ Mt. Meeker/Longs Peak
Mt. Meeker – 13,911’
Longs Peak – 14,256’
July 28, 2011
Climbers: MtnHub and unclegar (Gary)
Starting Time: 0330
Return Time: 1530
Ever since my failed attempt up Capitol Peak in 2010, I have been planning to try it again hoping for more conducive weather. As a result, that trip has always been my priority, and one that other climbs would have to work around.
But as I planned and worked out various climbs with other partners to fill in the rest of the days of my 2011 CO vacation, it soon became apparent that the “theme” of my climbs this year evolved to be one "on saws and knives.”
In addition to a climb up La Plata as a warm-up to Capitol plus two more Longs Peak summits, I would trek over the Tour d’Abyss crossing the Sawtooth to reach Mt. Evans, the Knife Edge of Kelso Ridge up Torreys Peak, the Knife Edge up Capitol Peak, as well as the Knife Edge of Meeker Ridge. It was probably my most aggressive climbing vacation ever, but I was blessed with good or perfect weather for all of them.
IV. Meeker Ridge via the Iron Gates/ Mt. Meeker/Longs Peak
In the past several years, my wife and I have spent the last five days of our two-week vacation in Estes Park. We really enjoy the community and it has become a tradition for me to climb Longs with each visit. Last year I did two summits, going up the standard Keyhole route as well as the Loft route. I was hoping to do the same this year if possible.
But lingering snow in some of the crucial areas was a concern this season. I don’t own an axe and didn’t want to try it if they were needed. The Trough melted out quickly and allowed me to summit via the Keyhole on the 26th. But the rangers were warning me I would most likely encounter snow in the Loft Couloir and an axe would be strongly recommended.
My partner, unclegar, and I had wanted to climb together since last year and as yet had never connected. Gary was not working on the 28th, so we planned to do something this year. I suggested we try Meeker via the Iron Gates, which the rangers said should be dry. We’d simply go as far as we could, turning back if we came across any snow obstacle.
We arrived at the Longs Peak Ranger Station sometime after 0300 and the parking lot was already pretty full. It was much busier than it had been two days earlier. We signed in, and started up the trail around 0330. We reached the Chasm Junction in good time, stopping only briefly, and then continued down the trail towards the Lake. We did encounter a couple of snowfields to cross but they were still pretty soft and easily managed with a little bit of caution.
Looking back towards the snowfields and trail.
The sun rose just as we were making our way across the marshy area near the emergency cabin providing some striking views.
The sun rising behind the Twin Sisters.
A look at the Loft and Dreamweaver Couloirs.
Our first good look at the Iron Gates of Meeker.
The initial climb up towards the Gates is on somewhat loose talus, but nothing terribly difficult. It does become a little worse the closer you get to the Gates themselves, but once you pass between them, the rock becomes more solid and manageable.
Gary making his way up the slope.
A good look at the residual snow in the Loft Couloir from this vantage point.
MtnHub coming up the loose scree above Chasm. (Photo by Gary)
This area has been described by some as the Gates of Mordor. The setting really does give you a sense that you might meet up with Frodo on the last part of his journey, or even run into Sauron himself.
The looser stuff right before the Gates.
Gary passing through the Iron Gates.
MtnHub at the Gates with Longs in the background. (Photo by Gary)
Looking over the left Gate towards the Mummy Range; Mt. Lady Washington on the left.
A look down at Chasm Lake through the Gates.
Passing on the left side of the Black Wall will grant you access to Meeker Ridge. It is just a short distance away.
Gary at the Black Wall.
Coming up to the ridge.
Looking over the other side towards Wild Basin.
The climb on the Ridge is really quite fun. The rock is beautiful and solid and provides stunning views on either side.
Gary walking along the ridge.
Looking up the ridge to the Meeker summit; still a long way to go.
Gary along one of the more dramatic sections.
Just short of the actual summit, we approach another Knife Edge. Gary takes it like a tightrope walker. It’s not unlike the other ones I’ve already been on this trip. Good solid rock with sufficient cracks and holds to secure yourself on.
MtnHub coming down to the Knife. (Photo by Gary)
Contemplation. (Photo by Gary)
Me starting the Knife Edge - (photo by Gary)
The exit has some rather large boulders to cross however. It takes a moment to find the best way through them as there is some exposure on either side.
A look at the Loft and Longs summit; there are many revelers at the top over there and hopefully we’ll join them in an hour or so.
Climbing the loose stuff down to the Loft doesn’t present any major problems. We aim for the SW corner with the aid of some white quartz cairns marking the way.
From the perspective of the Loft, we look back up at Mt. Meeker and the ridge we were climbing.
Gary finds the gully down to Clark’s Arrow.
The “diving board” cairn is a unique marker.
Climbing out of Keplinger’s we can finally see the stream of people turning the corner from the Narrows to the Homestretch. There are tons of people today.
Coming up to the Homestretch. (Photo by Gary)
The queue of climbers going up the Homestretch.
Coming up to the summit, I'm in the middle (blue pack/white helmet) dodging climbers instead of rocks. (photo by Gary)
When my wife saw this shot, she thought it looked like we were all searching for our contacts!
We don’t tarry too long at the Longs summit. It’s getting late in the day and clouds are forming all around us. We come across a couple of other 14ers.com members (Nice to meet ya!!), eat a quick snack, and then head down.
Congestion on the Narrows. (Photo by Gary)
Once again (seems like this has become routine during many of my last descents) a little rain and graupel fall on us before we reach tree line. But then during the last few miles back to the Station the sun comes out and it gets warm.
It’s been a fantastic vacation culminating with a long-haul climb to finish it off. Thanks for the companionship, Gary!
Parting shot at the Longs Peak Ranger Station.