| Through The Iron Gates
August 14, 2010
Climbers: Me, Myself, and I
Mount Meeker (13,911')
Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP)
Trailhead: Longs Peak TH (trailhead)
Route: Iron Gates to NE (northeast) ridge
Distance: ~10mi RT (round trip)
Elevation Gain: ~4600'
Time to Complete: ~10hrs (moderate to slow pace)
Gear: daypack w/Essentials, helmet
Resources Used for Trip Planning: Gerry & Jennifer Roachs' Colorado's Thirteeners guidebook, TOPO! software, NOAA forecast accessed from 14ers.com
The last time I climbed a new peak on the Top 100 list was in May. I was itching to add a new "tick" to that list, so I thought Meeker would be a good peak to go for; not to mention that I've only been in "The Park" once before (which probably to many, that's lame).
The one and only other time I've climbed in RMNP, was in June when a group of us climbed one of the north couloirs on Sundance Mountain. That day was overcast and foggy, so I really didn't see anything of The Park.
It was time for that to change.
Plus, I plan to climb Longs as my Top 100 finisher, most likely via the Kieners route, therefore this trip would make for a nice introduction to the area.
There must be something wrong with me….
By 2am Saturday morning, my alarm had blared its horrible sounds several times (thank you snooze button) in attempts to drive me out of bed, to my awaiting coffee (thank you pre-set coffee maker).
Ugh. I suppose I'll get up now.
Without viable car-camping/TH bivying options that I'm aware of at Longs Peak TH, I chose to make the early morning drive from Manitou.
Yes, there's something wrong (with all of us), that we choose to partake in these insane early morning drives to distant trailheads!
But I think the rewards are worth it. ;)
On the approach to Chasm Lake; Mount Meeker is on the left and Longs is on the right; and a lot of routes throughout!
I had to park about a 1/8 mile or so down the road from the actual TH, which was new to me this season! I forgot what it's like to go to a popular 14er TH in the summer!
I was heading up the road sometime around 5:20am or so, no need for a headlamp at this hour.
The first few miles went quick, passing a few small groups, on their own way up the trail, as well as a few coming down the trail. For those coming down, I can only assume they did an early morning hike to watch the sunrise, which I think would be quite spectacular from treeline.
Once I hit the turnoff for Chasm Lake, the foot traffic diminished significantly, as most were heading for the Keyhole route on Longs.
I went down the trail and crossed the stream that feeds Columbine Falls, and then I turned south to ascend the steep but stable talus slope that is above the privy.
The slopes above the privy; Meeker's Flying Buttress can be seen on climber's right (SW)…
As I ascended the talus slope, I was stopping frequently to take in the views of the Diamond on Longs east face. So…very…impressive.
In Roachs' guidebook, they describe the Iron Gates route as one with "outstanding' views of Longs. They weren't joking.
Higher up this initial slope I could see the entrance to the Iron Gates route that will gain the NE ridge. I also found the talus, or in most cases very large boulders, to be fun to scamper over as I went up. I also put my helmet on at this point.
The thin line of snow is the start of the Dreamweaver route on Meeker….
The Loft route (is somewhere over there)….
The Iron Gates appear to be open….
Looking through the gates and into the "hall" beyond….
That's one big wall….
As I entered the "hall" beyond the Gates, the route continues straight ahead or at least the one I chose. It looked like a route could go to climber's left (angling to the east) for a slightly different exit, which would ascend what looked like class 3 ledges.
I continued toward the narrow section of black rock band in the center of this photo...
To my left on the ridge above the left Gate, there appeared to be cairns….
Mother Nature is the Queen of cairn building!
Looking to where the black rock band narrows, and allows for the easiest (short & easy class 3) passage to the NE ridge…
But I took a line to the right because it looked like more fun….
Steeper than the easier route to the left, but this line has good ledges and exits well….
At 9:40, I was out of the "hall" that leads away from the Iron Gates, and on the NE ridge. I took a short break for snacks and sunscreen before heading toward the summit.
That mountain over there keeps grabbing my attention….
The NE ridge on Meeker….
This was a fun line going up the ridge, with views over the edge to Meeker's N face….
Looking back down on the Iron Gates….
The ridge continued to be fun scampering on stable talus and large boulders.
I was on the top of Meeker Ridge (unranked highpoint, 13,860') at about 10:35am, but I still had the connecting ridge to scramble before getting to the summit block.
The ridge is similar to the knife edge on Capitol, but shorter. Although I think the knife edge here is more exposed than what I remember Capitol's edge to be. The climbing is just as good though, on solid rock.
There were a few tricky/awkward moves here and there, but all went well.
Looking along the connecting ridge to Meeker's summit block….
Just before the short knife edge, while a climber is standing on one of the summit blocks…
Climber's left in the above picture is the side I went on, with my feet smearing on the slab while I had my hands on the edge. This is where I think the slab is steeper than the slabs on Capitol's edgier sections. This slab/edge traverse is only about 10' long though, and then I went to climber's right (N side) on ledges to get around the slightly overhanging tower.
On the N side of the ridge, looking E back at Meeker Ridge and the short knife edge….
Now on the S side of the ridge, with another look back to the knife edge….
The knife edge is the center point of the photo, along the ridge with the slabs beneath it, which is the side I was on coming and going back across the ridge.
On top of the eastern summit block, but deciding that I should go to the western one as well…
The eastern block is on the left, and I think that is Chiefs Head in the center of the photo, with Pagoda blending in with the foreground.
Looking E to the other and first summit block I came to….
Longs Peak to the NW….
The eastern summit block has a somewhat tricky and exposed move to gain the top; whereas the western summit block, which is where the register is located, was easier to get on and off, but it is also exposed.
Both summit blocks appear to be of the same height to me, so I did both.
After spending a few minutes on each block, I went back across the ridge to descend my route.
Once past the difficulties of the ridge and back on the highpoint of Meeker Ridge, I stopped again for some more photos, and to take it all in a bit longer before making my way back down the NE ridge.
Mount Meeker, Longs Peak, and Mount Lady Washington in the shadows of a cloud (l. to r.)
Longs Peak on my descent through the Iron Gates
My descent back down through the Iron Gates went well, but once beyond the Gates I traversed NW to the climber's trail that is used for the approach to The Loft route, instead of descending the steeper talus/boulder slope above the privy.
I then got onto the trail and was back to my truck by 3:20pm.
Good route, I would do it again.
Or, maybe go up the Loft route and descend this for a tour.
Or, climb Dreamweaver. Yeah, that's more like it. Climb Dreamweaver! (Next spring?)
Thanks for reading,
The map with the blue line is my approximate route. The red dashed line was on my descent.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):