| Mt. Meeker via Loft Route
Mt. Meeker, 13911'
Trip Report 3 of 7
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Pete had opted to join me for a trip up Mt. Meeker. As in our previous hikes, we pondered many routes, in fact, we labored over it. In hindsight, I am relieved we took the Loft Route, as Meeker is a very demanding summit and the standard route probably made us sea level creatures a bit safer for the experience.
We had a day with a modest chance of thunder, clearly we wanted to get out early and get finished as early as possible as well, to reduce the thunderstorm risk. Pete met me at my hotel in Estes at 2:30 am and we arrived at the trailhead at 2:40 am.
A Saturday, the trailhead parking area was already almost full of folks heading up Longs Peak. We joined half of Denver in this pursuit. Eventually, after hiking 3 miles, we would leave the masses with our turnoff toward Chasm Lake.
Unfortunately, the signage at this crux junction left something to be desired. As we left the junction, still on the Longs Peak Trail, something seemed fishy. The ridge for Mt. Lady Washington was coming into view in the dim light, so it looked like we were headed the wrong way. We were. The good news is that we only wasted about 300-500' of effort before we realized our mistake.
Back to the Chasm Lake junction...only marked "PRIVY (arrow)"...then on toward Chasm Lake, and Meeker's Loft Route.
Along the trail toward Chasm Lake the dim sunlight grew. As we moved closer to this deep, dark magical place, I felt a sense of awe as the landscape unfolded around me.
Our first photos were of the sunrise over North Twin Sister.
We reached Chasm Lake, almost by mistake by going off-route, and used the nearby restroom facilities before heading up the loose, broken talus on this long uphill.
It seemed to take forever in routefinding and effort to bust up this alleyway. Finally, with the headwall above us, I was relieved to find the weakness in the cliffs to the south. We pressed on.
Along this crux section, I made a small routefinding error and nearly got into big trouble. My mistake was looking down. I made sure not to make the same mistake on the return trip.
We switched-back into the edge of the Loft, then looked toward the summit ridge, with its field of talus and tried to find the easiest passage. I had really worked hard up the gully and into this high ground, and on the fifth day of the tour, started to feel the weakness that comes with AMS. We eventually made the ridge, with its fantastic views over the Continental Divide, then a view south, of the exposed south face and Meeker Ridge. After a false summit, the true summit came into view.
I walked around the summit boulder, so did Pete, but we opted to hug it from its side instead of a risky hop on top of the summit. We had made it to 13909' and that was good enough for us. It was just after 9 am.
In this limited space, we managed to take summit photos, as well as photos of Meeker Ridge, Longs and everywhere else around. This was a fantastic accomplishment and, subjectively, one of my finest moments in mountaineering. The Meeker Loft Route is about as exposed a route as I can recall, although I probably have rosy glasses about the Longs Keyhole route, which I crossed 14 years earlier.
We could see the folks on top of Longs as well.
Feeling woozy, it was time for me to descend...the sooner the better. With some clouds building, Pete felt the need for some urgency as well. We returned the way we came, but I was more careful on the crux section with routefinding.
The slog down to Chasm Lake wore on me and I was clearly both exhausted and enveloped by some AMS. I tried to keep quiet and restful as much as I could while stumbling down the loose talus.
We met up with a family who seemed to really struggle with routefinding. Pete was still feeling relatively strong, so he helped them down as well as us, for awhile.
When we made it down to Chasm Lake, I was truly toast. Pete took a photo of me laying completely prone, which was my attempt to settle my stomach and also rest and relax. We still had 4 miles of descent to go, but at least it was all Class 1 trail hiking. Once I got back up, we both gently ascended past Chasm Lake, met up with the Longs Peak Trail and rolled down the long hill.
At high altitude, the more strenuous Class 2-3 moves really tax me and this is probably why I had AMS worse than usual.
We made it down the rest of the way with little fanfare, beating out any afternoon storms. We arrived back at the trailhead at 2:40 pm, 12 hours after we had started. It was a doozie of a day, and a remarkable accomplishment for both Pete and me.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):