Mt Meeker Trip Report

Trail: The Dream Weaver Couloir, Class 5.4/5.5, WI3, 11 miles, 4500 ft elevation gain

NOTE:  All the pictures of me are by Dave.  I  didn't get many shots of him as I carry a rather bulky Canon 20D which was away for most of the couloir.  I also may have mislabeled some of  the crux pictures but the descriptions in the text are correct.  While I generally don't post self-congratulatory pictures this climb was just to cool to skip some of the shots Dave took.

Dream Weaver is one of Colorado's great moderate alpine mixed routes and has been on my to-do list ever since I first became aware of it.  Like many other routes is has waited until the time, conditions, and partner was right before I managed to climb it.  I had originally planned to climb it with a co-worker of mine but he has become somewhat reluctant to attempt technical routes as of late.  I figured I would put out a call for a partner on 14erworld and see what happened.  I would never have guessed that I would be fortunate enough to have Dave Cooper, a very experienced climber and author of the fantastic book, Colorado Scrambles, email me and say he was interested.  We emailed back and forth and decided to aim for the week after Memorial Day to meet up and try the route.  Spurred by recent beta from a CMC trip and a report on summitpost we decided that the conditions were ripe for the ascent. It turned out the conditions had become even better than reported and new quantities of ice were to be found in all the constrictions.

Dave and I met at the Longs Peak trailhead at 3:00 AM on Thursday morning.  We brought along the obligatory ice tools, small rack of cams and nuts, and a 75 foot rope.  We set out on the trail somewhere around 3:30 or so and headed up towards Chasm Junction.   We took a brief food break at Chasm Junction before heading towards the Loft/Chasm Lake trail.  Right away we came to what I considered to be the mental crux of the day.  The snow fields on the approach to the Loft area were icy and steep.  At one point the trail angled down and I strongly considered crampons but managed, with Dave's coaxing, to head on.

Scariest Part Of The Day

After the snow traverse we angled to the left towards the base of our route.  Dream Weaver is the couloir on the left of the prominent rock formation (The Flying Buttress) in the picture below and starts as a broad snow field before quickly becoming constricted.  The snow was mostly in decent shape but we postholed in some areas near the rocks.  Along the way we passed by the Iron Gates on our left, I think this is one of the cooler rock formations in Colorado so take every opportunity to photograph it.  The Iron Gates also mark the end of Mt. Meeker's NE Ridge route which is class 3 and supposedly a decent winter route.

Dream Weaver ( The Narrow Couloir Left of the Flying Buttress)

The Iron Gates

We arrived at the base of the snowfield somewhere around 7:00 in the morning and donned our crampons before heading up.  I have to thank whatever kind souls installed the beautiful set of steps up the snow as it greatly reduced the general pounding my legs take on snow.  We followed a great set of steps up the snow which seemed to average around 40 or so degrees in angle with a slightly steeper stretch before the couloir narrows.

Starting Up Dream Weaver (At The Broad Part)

I may be getting this wrong in which case Dave or someone else can send me a correction but here is how I recall the route: At the top of the first snowfield you come to a chimney leading into the first constriction which Roach rates as 5.4, you climb through some more snow, maybe 45 or so degree until coming to a second chimney  (supposedly 5.6, felt 5.4/5.5) which pops you out on a bunch of talus where you are almost parallel to the top of the Flying Buttress.  When we climbed Dream Weaver all three chimneys have had enough snow melt that they require climbing on rock and ice to surmount, you could not walk up and over them on snow. Be prepared for this as Dreamweaver is sometimes completely a snow climb. After this a scramble returns you to snow which gradually steepens to maybe 50 degrees before you reach at he third crux which is a chimney like-rock step (generally the crux of the route).

After passing the broad snowfield we came to the first chimney.  There was a bit of ice on the walls and above this point but it felt easy enough so I decided to give it a go ropeless.  I stemmed up and used my tools to find purchase in ice and rock above this point.  I initially found myself  awkwardly stemming until Dave told me to use the right wall.  Once I was able to get a good purchase with one of my tools I managed to get my right leg over on the right wall and then it was a simple matter of stemming up the wall while inching my tools up and out of this step.  When I realized how well the tools bite into ice and that I could literally hang off them it became quite fun.  I had never realized how enjoyable climbing in crampons and with a set of tools was.  I scrambled up past some icy stuff which required a couple thoughtful tool and crampon placements but was generally easy before stopping and waiting for Dave.  We made a point not to move while the other was climbing through technical parts as rock and ice fall was a real issue.  I looked back and watched Dave come up so smoothly that it made my ascent look barbaric.  It is quite interesting to watch someone who actually knows what they are doing.  He made the whole thing look easy.

1st Crux

Over the First Crux

Dave, Past the First Constriction

After the first chimney we headed up more snow to the second one. There was more ice here and in fact we probably have had the best ice of the spring season up here.  Since I realized how well the tools actually worked I decided to solo this portion as well.  This time I had no doubts and just tooled and stemmed my way up and out of this steeper and harder chimney.  Since I had a good bit of confidence in the tools I was quite happy weighting them and dry tooling them. Having Dave below explain the proper usage was also an immense confidence booster.   One thing I noticed was that I was actually happy to have allot more ice around and above me as it provided great purchase for the tools and crampons.  Once again Dave came smoothly through this section. Watching him and talking with him about his adventures has me hooked on the idea that I need to become an ice climber.   

Heading Towards The Second Constriction

2nd Crux

Past 2nd Crux

After the second chimney we popped out on talus and sat down for another food break.  The views here were incredible and we were staring out at the whole beautiful cirque from a vantage roughly parallel to the Flying Buttress.  I've said it before but this area is hands down my favorite in Colorado.  Since we were having a beautiful, bluebird day neither of us were in any great rush (and it was still before 9:00 AM).

After a food and photo break we headed up some 3rd class slabs before-entering snow.  I've climbed rocky stuff in crampons before but once you get a bit more comfortable in them it is amazing how well they bite, it almost seemed natural to be climbing rock in crampons.

Parallel To The Flying Buttress

A Talus scramble at the top of The Flying Buttress

Once back on the snow we headed up to an increasingly steeper, narrower, and icier section.  At the top of this was a rather large ice step,  which was much larger than recent photos (within 4 or 5 days) had shown.  I decided, given my minimal experience on ice, that a rope might be prudent at this point.  Dave was still quite comfortable so we decided I'd throw an anchor in the wall and hang out while he soloed it.  Dave made quick work of this section (and rated it WI3) and I did my best to watch his form knowing I would have to emulate it as best I could in a few minutes. 

Back On Snow, Heading To The Crux

Crux up Ahead

After he cleared the section he set up and anchor and threw a rope down to me.  I tied in, broke my anchor down, and started ascending the ice.  The ice was very bulgy and huge portions popped off as I climbed.  I scouted around at the walls near me and decided I could have lead the pitch using the wall to set rock pro in but would never have been happy soloing it.  With some advice from Dave I came up and over the step, scrambled up behind him, and sat down.  We hung out for another photo shoot and food break before heading up the final easy snow to the ridge. If mixed climbing is always this much fun then I think I have found my new favorite type of alpine climbing.

Climbing Past the Crux

 I'd have to say this route is allot of fun but not really all that tough (assuming a reasonable background in climbing).  I was actually quite surprised by how much easier it was than I had expected.  I am not detracting from its enjoyability, it is certainly one of the most fun routes I have done and I'm sure weather and conditions could shift my assesment a good deal.

Past The Crux, Easy Snow To The Ridge

At the ridge we pulled off our crampons and headed right for a couple hundred yards to the summit of Meeker.  I think we got up somewhere around 9:30 or 10:00.  For people doing this route: The true summit is the on the right. 

A Bit Of Ridge Scrambling To The Top

The views from the summit were fantastic and we spent some time watching clouds forming and swirling at Meeker's edge before heading off.  We scrambled back down around the summit block and headed for the saddle between Longs and Meeker.

Cool Clouds Being Formed By Mt. Meeker

From the saddle we followed the easy ledge traverse over to the Loft and hopped on the snow.  The snow was actually a bit to soft but we were still able to glissade it (albeit at the expense of wet pants)

Looking Over At Longs

The Ledges Leading To The Loft

Descending The Loft

Once at the base of the Loft we made our way back over to the snowfield traverse to Chasm View and stopped there to have a bite and take a few more pictures.  I snapped one last shot of our day before we headed back down the dreaded Long's Peak Trail to the ranger station.  We arrived back at the parking lot around 1:15, chatted a bit and headed off. I'd say a sub 10 hour day which included a good deal of very pleasant and relaxed breaks is not to bad. I was home by 2:30.  Not to bad for a days work in Colorado.  

I immensely enjoyed climbing with Dave.  It was a pleasure to get a chance to spend a day in the peaks with someone of his experience level.  He is a decent, patient, and knowledgeable partner and I hope to get out with him again in the future.  My only regrets were not getting an obligatory marmot shot.  I am however gratified to have now finished the first two technical routes (Dream Weaver and Keiners) that I set my eyes on when I first began technical climbing.  

Looking Back At Our Route

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