Peak(s):  Mt. Meeker  -  13,911 feet
Meeker Ridge  -  13,860 feet
Date Posted:  08/08/2022
Date Climbed:   08/02/2022
Author:  123tqb
 The Meek Shall Inherit the Park   

The Meek Shall Inherit the Park

  • Date: 2 August, 2022
  • Peaks: Mt. Meeker, Meeker Ridge
  • Route: Iron Gates, Loft Couloir
  • Mileage: 10mi
  • Vertical: 4700ft
  • Time: 11hrs
  • Partners: Jaimie

Of all of the cool climbing objectives out there, my favorites will always be the ones where I get to introduce the sport to new people. For Jaimie's first Class 3 route, and second time ever being above 13k, I settled on the Iron Gates route. Not only was my apartment conveniently located right on the drive from Littleton, but I would get to show her the enticing scenery of the Longs-Meeker cirque to try to hook her on alpine! (Not to mention I've needed to bag Mt. Meeker for a while now...)

Route overview, with our faults exposed in full-color.

We started from the Longs Peak Trailhead at 5:00, so not too early a start. It was still every bit as difficult to wake up as if we had gotten up hours earlier, which means it must have been a Monday! It being late summer, we didn't even have to turn on our headlamps for the approach. We made pretty quick work of the first few miles up to Chasm Junction, stopping a time or two to get photos of the always-gorgeous sunrise over the Twin Sisters, and additionally a few wildflower/wildlife shots.

Brilliant sunrise for a brilliant day!
The chipmunk here just stopped and hung out with us. Used to visitors I guess!
The fashion model of the natural world. Makes for easy-peasy photography.
This sight never gets old.

With our route now fully within view we began to scope out our next moves. We'd first make our way to the Chasm Lake pit toilet, starting up the talus field from there to avoid trampling any tundra. Then we'd follow the talus up and left, setting sights for the Iron Gates and eventually the East Ridge. Arriving promptly, we donned helmets and started the Class 2 part of our day. Aiming right in-between two huge stone pillars, we made our way upwards steadily. By following the fall line into the gully we could see a few people starting their ascent of the Loft Route, our planned descent for the day.

Always a good photo to be had on the way to Chasm Lake.
Pretty Columbines!
Peering through the Gates. We took the left option, but more on that below.

Erring on the cautious side, I opted to take the bypass to the left of the true Iron Gates (on the left of the image above). I was unsure whether the center option could go at Class 3, whereas I could see all the way up the left option from the trail and could tell it went clean. This decision may have detracted from the full value of a "proper" Iron Gates ascent, but I feel satisfied with how the day went regardless, especially considering what was to come. It was a continual slog up Class 2 terrain, on surprisingly solid rock (in stark contrast to what I've heard about this route online). Not too long later we topped out on the East Ridge and took a second to appreciate the sharp imagery of the route that lie ahead.

Almost to the "East Iron Gates".
Glad to be off steep Class 2, and onto less-steep Class 2!
Despite the ridge ahead being fairly easy, the pictures make it look stunning!

Our timing was a little bit longer than expected, partially due to taking the wrong Gates and partially due to my bad planning, and so we finished the endless hike up to Meeker Ridge a tad behind schedule. The East Ridge was pretty uneventful if I'm being honest. Seeing the crux ahead, I could tell it the connecting ridge was going to be an absolute blast, if we could get it done in time.

Easy slopes to climber's left (right in this photo) over awesome exposure.
Finally on Meeker Ridge. 10mi and 4500ft is a lot for a first-time scramble!

The Class 3 traverse over to Mt. Meeker was fantastic! Fun initial moves led into a real knife's edge, which I hung off the side of while Jaimie went right up on top. Her first true scramble complete, we made our way climber's right (north) at the end of the knife edge to summit Meeker. In the nick of time, too! It was about 1:30PM and there was very clearly an active rainstorm happening in Estes, and the views west didn't look encouraging either.

The knife edge. At the shadowed feature we took a right, following ledges.
The crux of the climb was getting around this, to climber's left (south).
All smiles on the knife edge!
Longs looks strange from this angle. Oh right, and a ton of rain on Estes.

We needed to be off the summit, that's for sure. We scrambled down to the Loft lickety-split. I was at least hoping to make it down the crux ledge of Loft Couloir before it rained on us, not wanting to deal with wet rock in trail runners. I hadn't seen any lighting activity in the clouds to the north or to the west, but I didn't doubt that that could quickly change for the worse. We dropped down onto a ledge about equal elevation to the top of the waterfall only to find out that it wasn't in fact the correct ledge. Lucky for us, there was a pretty straightforward traverse to skier's right that brought us back on-route. We made quick work of the ledge, making it down into the main couloir as it started to sprinkle on us. Fearing the worst, we kept mostly silent and just kept walking. After a few minutes, nearing the end of the couloir, it had barely rained on us, save for a few drops. We lucked out.

Jaimie following me on the downclimb from false ledge to correct ledge.
A slip here means awkward photos, that's all. No rain to be seen!

From top to bottom of Loft Couloir, the weather flipped from imminent thunderstorm to gorgeous bluebird skies! We couldn't have had more luck, and I'm thankful for that. Now to plan better in the future...

Other than a great few rounds of the Alphabet Game (PM for details, probably the most useful outdoors skill I ever learned haha), there isn't a ton to say about the hike out, other than that it sucks! We made it back to the car at 16:00, a pleasant day and great scramble had. Is the route worth it? For me personally, I'd rather less Class 2 and more Class 3, but the scenery truly is unbeatable, and so I'd answer, "Yes."

Looking down into the true Iron Gates. Definitely only Class 3. Probably even Class 2.
Portrait time!
Time-tested classic: the Summit Selfie.

My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions
Nicely Done
08/09/2022 13:30
Nicely done! You do get more class 3 if you combine it with Longs Peak and descend via the Keyhole.

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