Route Stats Mountains: Mt. Meeker (13,911’)
Route: Started at the Longs Peak TH (~9400’). Traversed below chasm lake to the base of Dreamweaver (Grade III, 5.4, AI3, M2+ - Summitpost rating). Climbed the couloir to summit direct. Descended the loft.
Distance / Elevation Gain ~12 miles and ~4500’ vert gained (approx):
Dreamweaver has been on the climbing route bucket list since we missed the conditions window last year. I’m finding that a climbing list is actually pretty fun when there is no deadline or summit-fever attached to it. Consequently I was anxious to get cracking at this route. At 2:10AM on Saturday I rolled out of bed… hitting the floor is good insurance against going back to sleep. Joe and Debbie were at my door at 2:30. They intended for this to be a training run for their volcano climbing trip in Ecuador. It would be an exercise in alpine ice climbing / rope work including but not limited to simu-climbing, swinging leads, dry-tooling, marmot punting, calf combustion, the works. Joe planned to bring a light alpine rock rack with two 6" screws and a 70m rope. I would bring a 30m rando rope as a backup. We all brought alpine crampons that would work for the snow as well as be acceptable on ice. We also brought one each of alpine axe and ridiculously cheap blunt-ish ice-tool. These were in addition to the usual harness, helmet, slings, biners, etc. I also bring an XL Sam splint and some triangle bandages on trips like these. The jetboil and ramen are of course indispensable. It is unacceptable for a trip to go by without the inhalation of hot noodle soup somewhere near the summit of the mountain in question.
We geared up and left the Longs Peak TH at 4:15AM. We passed another group that was on the way up Flying Dutchman. The trail was pretty clear and we made decent time getting up to timberline in time for sunup. Apparently inversions like these are possible outside the cascades too.
Sunrise and Inversion
We stopped at the Chasm Lake ranger cabin a little after 6AM. We geared up there and ate some food. We met and chatted with a couple other skiers who were looking to ski Longs. We looked up and considered our opponent…
Dreamweaver and Mt. Meeker (c) Joe Brannan
The weather looked great for this sort of activity…
Looking down at the approach
We roped up at the very bottom of the couloir. I would take first lead to the base of the technical part where Joe and I would swing leads. Debbie stayed in the middle throughout.
First easy stretch
Near the base of the first crux I found a rock patch and veered off towards it. There I piled the rope and waited for Joe and Debbie to pass…
A faint boot print showed up very rarely at the bottom of the couloir but never higher up. The prints had been mostly filled with snow that had fallen since they were created. The couloir held a lot more snow than I imagined it would. In my opinion barring the two icy cruxes it seemed like a moderate snow climb.
I followed and cleaned what was mostly rock pro.
The climbing was fun but the snow was a little sloppy and wet in the areas with sunhit. Just prior to the first crux we fished out the second tool. Climbing the first crux was a lot of fun. The ice was a little watery; furthermore, Joe mentioned having to clear a layer of snow off the top of it to plant his pick.
Approaching the First Crux (?) (c) Joe Brannan
Looking down from the top of the First Crux (?) (c) Joe Brannan
Much of the snow that Joe cleared along with a bunch of ice whizzed down the couloir and smacked our helmets and other parts including what the %^#&^%* marmots chose to send us. Joe used two cams to protect the first crux.
Protection for the first crux
Debbie tops out at the first crux (c) Joe Brannan
While Joe was protecting the pitch, I was "protecting the protection" from the advances of this ridiculous beast by slinging snowballs, ice pellets and blasphemies at him. Throughout the climb he and his evil companions followed our rope and attempted to nibble at the rope, draws and slings. The outcome of these activities is seldom good. If anyone raves about the "cute fuzzy marmot" again I will likely rupture a crucial artery in my brain.
Past the first crux we broke for a bite to eat. The weather still looked good but it was getting late and the snow was getting soft and uncomfortable. There was a short dry scramble near where the route makes a dog leg.
Dog Leg (c) Joe Brannan
Past the dog leg we were back on snow which got progressively steeper after a mellow start.
Route Past the Dog Leg
A second short section of ice was narrow and again brilliant fun… Following Joe and Debbie I was able to just use their pick plants without having to swing into the watery ice for myself. Joe used a screw to protect this portion…
Crux 2 (c) Joe Brannan
Protection for the second Crux (c) Joe Brannan
The technical challenges ended with this last section…
Last Technicality (c) Joe Brannan
Joe set up a belay above this portion and brought up Debbie who was looking good on her first ice climb of any kind…
Debbie Completes the Last Technicality (c) Joe Brannan
and the cleaning crew…
Prakash Cleans the Last Technical Pitch (c) Joe Brannan
Once I was on top of this section Joe and I swung leads again for the last couple hundred feet and I headed up for the summit. The snow was now soft and deep and made for tiring progress.
The Last Pitch (c) Joe Brannan
Topping out and descending
Just below the top of this last snowfield I sat and pulled the rope up and began piling it while Debbie and Joe hustled. It was 1:30, a little later than we would have liked but pretty good considering we’d protected the entire couloir, plus we’ve less than 10 ice climbs of any kind between the three of us. However, the thunderheads had started building fast and we needed to make haste.
Looking down the Last Pitch
Looking up the last Pitch (c) Joe Brannan
Storm clouds began looming over Longs as well…
Longs Peak from Mt. Meeker (c) Joe Brannan
Joe had to pack the rope which would give me time to brew some delicious Ramen... salty magic potion for what would certainly be a hasty descent. We ate quickly. After Debbie and Joe were done eating they hiked down a few feet around a bend while I was packing the stove away. This was when I heard the first roll of thunder disturbingly close. I gathered my stuff and leaped around the bend like a soaked Saint Bernard to find Joe and Debbie removing their crampons hastily. I did the same and brainlessly left my OR Ascent mitten shell there in the snow. We began hauling ass down the sketchy unconsolidated snow that blanketed the route above Meeker’s imposing cliffs (see red descent line on route pic below).
Ascent and Descent Routes - Dreamweaver up, Loft Down - DESCENT ROUTE NOT EXACT... EXERCISE CAUTION HERE
Up close... Significant time along the route marked by the red line was spent doing this…
Steep Downclimb 2
The summit was now covered and thunder was rolling a little more freely…
Clouds Obscure Meeker
The route ahead of us looked like this and it was lying over cliffs… We switch backed, plunge-stepped or had to simply run across this terrain. With the gift of hindsight one would’ve liked a little more time to get down this stuff.
Steep Downclimb 3
Soon we were past the tricky terrain and the slope eased out.
Steep downclimb eases out slightly
Steep downclimb eases out slightly 2
Past this section we were below the loft. Safety was one, long, effin fantastic glissade away…
The glissade was fast and fun… it took what seemed like 15 minutes to get from the top of the glissade back to the ranger cabin.
The hike back down was uneventful. The clouds cleared up and the $1 gas station poncho was not called to use. We were thankful that we weren’t soaking wet on the way out. I thought this was a cool alpine route and particularly enjoyed the mixed climbing sections. There were some narrow sections where stemming off the rock was possible with one or both crampons planted in ice. Thinking back, we would’ve been a little more comfortable if we were on the route an hour earlier but that can be filed under "Future Work"... we had a blast nevertheless. Thunderstorm activity is always so unpredictable up there anyway and wet unconsolidated snow with terrible post-holing is something we’ve learned to enjoy. What will remain with me is the memory of another mind-blowing day out in my superb backyard with great friends. On this trip... as always... I continued to be amazed by (1) how much mountaineering skill Joe has acquired in next to no time... (2) how calm and collected Debbie can be in the midst of adversity... (3) how quickly storms abate when you get below timberline... (4) how much I whine about my shoulder injury without doing anything about it. All Joe’s pictures used for this report are credited in the caption. The rest are mine.