Peak(s):  Meeker, Mt  -  13,911 feet
Meeker Ridge  -  13,860 feet
Date Posted:  06/24/2018
Date Climbed:   06/23/2018
Author:  nguytravis
 Meeker via Iron Gate  

I had plans to tick off a few Sangre 14ers with a friend and strong hiking partner. He needed to cancel last minute (with good reason).

So I struggled to make a decision. Going to Crestone alone sounded daunting. Most of my experience has been with the 'easy' 14ers, meaning little to no route finding necessary. I'm sure I (probably) would have lived, but I'll just reschedule that climbing with a friend. Redoing a 14er sounded sad, as did driving X hours to hit something new. I have been interested in checking out the neighbors of Longs (Mount Meeker and Mount Lady Washington) for some time, so I decided to choose one of those.

Easy decision after I read a few great trip reports on the Iron Gates ascent path! You mean I can get some light class 3, hike something new AND keep the drive under 1.5 hours? SOLD

I arrived at the Long's Peak ranger station at 3:15. It had just filled to capacity (ahhh, the Summertime), but luckily I was still able to park right there. I have hiked Longs and chasm several times, so the beginning of the trail through the forest and out to the chasm junction went by quickly. I was getting excited for a new route to try, and I was feeling good (passed 15 people on the way to the junction).

The traverse over Peacock Pool was the most mellow I have ever seen it. Only a few sections of hard packed snow, didn't even consider putting on traction or using an axe. After skirting the edge of chasm I was to be on my own for the rest of the day (until re-meeting with Chasm). Would I be able to recognize the correct gate, given my lack of confidence in route-finding?

18652_05
Yep. That's a clear gate.
The widest gates mark the ascent path. There is a narrower gate to the left which is the recommended descent path
Please note the approach scree. The next few miles will be all scree, with an occasional non-moving rock thrown in the mix.

The scree on the approach to the gate quickly became annoying, but the climbing was not difficult at all. As you ascend the gates, there are fantastic views of Longs and chasm, so don't forget to look behind you.

18652_03
View of Long's Peak from near top of the gate. Note two climbers are on 'The Loft' route.
18652_06
Looking back through the gates near top of the gate

There is a dark cliff band at the center of the gate that you will climb toward. The route finding is easy and the rocks are a convenient block size. Even shorter climbers should have no issues pulling any 'moves' to top out of the gate.

18652_07
Top-out of the gate; very easy climbing (This is just above the darker band of rocks I mentioned above)

The route follows the ridge line across all size of scree. Follow on for a false summit or two.

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Easy ridgeline to follow, picking through scree. False summit pictured

After getting to what I would consider the second false summit, you'll reach the knife edge traverse for the true summit of Mount Meeker.

I would estimate 95% of the traverse had a nice ledge either left or right of the point, so you could walk on one side, using the ridge as a rail. Maybe there was one short section where straddling and scooting felt necessary, but even this was not panic-inducing (Note: I am a rock climber, exposure can scare the heck out of me. I was ok with all of this).

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A good portion of the knife edge

I highly recommend the traverse. Don't let it psyche you out. I mean, if you turn back early there is only scree to look forward to.


18652_01
On the knife edge. Snow far below my arm highlights the most extreme exposure of the route. Please note the ample real estate for my knee on the other side though.

This climb took me longer to summit than Longs. (4:50 vs 4:20). I think I could do both faster next time around. Besides the tiny specks climbing the loft and distant folks on the summit of Longs, I did not see a single climber on my route. Nice to have solitude but it can be sobering if you're feeling uncomfortable with anything.

I made a boo-boo on the descent. In an effort to battle less scree, or to prevent unnecessary altitude gain/loss I picked a point on the horizon of the ridge and walked to that, sticking further right of the ridge. I overshot the iron gates descent because I did not stay close enough to the ridge. This is an easily avoidable error. I began downclimbing a non-gully wall of never ending scree when I had to make a decision to true up or not.

I know I am on an incorrect route, but I also have a clear view of where I need to go (WAY left). Do I go fix my mistake by climbing up the scree to the ridge, so that I can descend the correct scree? Or do I just continue down my scree slope to the floor and then traverse never ending scree to return to route proper? I decided to do it the right way. So I climbed up the scree to the ridge, then I climbed down the CORRECT scree slope and traversed never ending scree at the bottom. I can't say I am really happy with the decision, since it still gave me lots of scree and forced more climbing. I was pretty frustrated with myself for either one. Rookie mistakes are fine on a bluebird day, I suppose. Just a reminder to pay attention and don't try to shortcut. Do as I say, not as I do.

I'm not a particularly dramatic person, but I was so excited to be off of scree when I arrived back at the Chasm junction that I kissed a flower (made sure nobody was looking first). It was a great day to be out solo and I would love to hike it again with an old friend or a new one.

Cheers!




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