Following our climb of Meeker Ridge last Saturday (Oct 2, 2004), I just submitted a route description for Meeker Ridge. Thus there is not much need to desribe that part of our trip.
However, the ridge traverse from Meeker Ridge Summit to Meeker Summit is worth mentioning. My friend, Shane, and I climbed Mount Meeker only a few days after several inches of snow where dumped onto the Front Range mountains. On the previous day, I attemped Mount Shoshoni in the Indian Peaks but turned around short of the summit due to snow that was up to waist deep. However, hiking up Meeker ridge, we only experienced a few inches of snow and were able to "jump" from rock to rock on the way up.
Looking accross Meeker Ridge from the "false" Meeker summit, we couid see the snowy, icy conditions on Meeker ridge. It was obvious to me that under these conditions the difficulty of Meeker Ridge was above Class 3 (possibly Class 5), but it looked doable. My friend however decided to wait from me on the summit of Meeker Ridge. Pictures of Meeker Ridge under these conditions are shown on the "Meeker Ridge" route page for Mount Meeker.
Climbing the Ridge:
I left the summit of Meeker Ridge to the north-west and followed the ridge on its north-west side till reaching the first Gendarme. Ryan Schilling writes that this Gendarme can be passed on its north-west side. However, this did not seem save. Thus I opted to cross over the gendarme and downclimb it on the other side. This downclimb was at least a class 5.5 downclimb that was extremely slippery in the snowy conditions. In addition, clouds had moved in and it started to snow/sleet on the ridge. It became icy cold, freezing conditions. In order to feel save during the downclimb, I took of my gloves to have a better hold during the 4-6 downclimb moves. When I reached the bottom of the gendarme my hands were frozen stiff and I could not put my gloves back on. The wind picked up, and I had to lean against the gendarme, protecting my face and hands against the elements. Finally, after keeping my hands under my fleece for several minutes, I could feel my fingers again and was able to put on my gloves again.
From here on the ridge became somewhat easier. I moved over the top of the ridge for a short time (one foot on each side of the ridge), and then continued on some ledges that were located about 2 feet below an overhanging part of the ridge. Thus my rear was hanging over the "cliff" which goes down several 100 feet from the ridge, while my feet were on the small ledge and I was hanging on to the top of the icy ridge with my hands.
After passing this portion, the ledges became slighly larger and I started the upclimb towards the Mount Meeker summit. However, the fact that the ridges were larger, also ment that they accumulated more snow. Thus I still had to keep looking for good handholds in order to proceed safely. -- However, I finally reached the summit of Meeker -- I made it halfway!
On the way towards Meeker, I also saw 3 climbers that took a technical route up Meeker's north-west face. Two of these climbers can be seen on one of the pictures on the "Meeker Ridge" route page.
After reaching the summit of Mount Meeker, I turned around to re-join Shane on the summit of Meeker Ridge. I backtracked my steps accross Meeker Ridge, still difficult, but doable. I felt safe, but I am glad that I did not take anyone else along this ridge.
When I reached the Gendarme on the climb back, I encountered the riskiest part of this ridge traverse. Initially I planned to climb over the gendarme again. However, it hat snowed/sleeted enough to make this route almost impossible. Not wanting to take any unnecessary risks, I decided to try Ryan's traverse around the gendarme. -- However, I am still not certain which way would have been safer. The overhanging/slanted ledge around the gendarme, was extremely icy and snow covered. It definitely involved one move that was very risky and exposed. Once I made it past this move (described by Ryan Schilling on the "Iron Gates" route page I made it back to the summit of Meeker Ridge.
Needless to say, Shane was freezing, and since it was still snowing, we started our immediate descent. Once the snow stopped, we took a break to eat. When I took off my gloves I noticed a small black blister on the front of my ring finger. -- My first experience with mild frost-bite. However, my finger is back to perfect now.
Note: This crossing of Meeker Ridge sounds like a stupid and risky endeavor. However, I felt safe during the whole trip and enjoyed pushing my limit during this climb at every moment. I found good handholds before every move and would not have risked my life by doing stuff over my head. Regarding the small amount of frost-bite. --> I need to buy better gloves for climbing purposes. I have BD gloves rated to -15 F, however, they are too bulky and I did not feel safe climbing in those. Thus I assume that my fingers got hurt during the glove-less downclimb of the gendarme. Besides, I kept my fingers warm during all other times of the climb, and I see this as being a great, learning experience.
My piece of advice: Do not attempt Meeker Ridge during adverse conditions unless you feel absolutely confident in your ability to safely cross. A fall would most likely be deadly!
Gear: In my case, I did not think that any gear would have helped. There was not enough solid ice/snow for crampons. Climbing gear would not have helped. A partner on a rope would probably be more of a risk than help.
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