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Ice Climbing on the Summer Solstice – Right Chimney on Mount Meeker

June 25th, 2009 · 1 Comment

It has been quite some time since I updated this blog, but figure I finally have enough time to get back in to it.  In april Sam and I moved from Seattle to Boulder, CO.  So far we have been having a great time skiing, climbing and fishing.  Last weekend I finally got out for an alpine climb, and was pleasently surprised by the quality that we found, especially on the first day of summer, with temps in the 80s in town.

Early in the week, Joe emailed about joining him and Chris for a climb of the ephemeral Dark Star on Mount Meeker in Rocky Mountain National Park.  I was excited to finally get on a CO alpine mixed route. however, the forecast for sunday initially looked much worse than sunday.  Luckily, as the weekend, grew closer, Sunday shaped up with the better forecast.  Even though the approach is short by WA standards, warm temps necessitated an early departure, thus a pick-up time of 3:00 AM was decided on.  Amazingly we were leaving my house at 2:59, right on time.  The drive to Long’s Peak trailhead is pretty quick and painless.  Only about 45 min from my door.

We left the car a bit after 4, and made steady time up the trail.  Near treeline, we were treated to a beautiful sunrise:

From Right Chimney Mount Meeker

The approach follows a perfect gradual trail right up to the Long’s – Meeker cirque. The early morning alpine glow was a nice touch.

From Right Chimney Mount Meeker

A short moderate snow traverse separates the dry trail from the meadows above peacock lake and the numerous alpine and rock routes above. From the meadows, the medium quickly changed to snow, which was disconcertingly soft off the bat. Fears from a lack of freeze entered my head, and stayed most of the way up the approach slopes.

From Right Chimney Mount Meeker

Upon reaching the entrance to the Dark Star, we were discouraged by the heavy dose of sun the route was receiving. The snow had firmed up, but with the forecasted temps and solar radiation, the prospects of steep unbonded ice on dark star seemed a bit dangerous.

From Right Chimney Mount Meeker

Luckily, just left of darkstar, in the shady recess of Meeker’s flying buttress, the right chimney was still looking very cold and wintry.

From Right Chimney Mount Meeker

Although located a stones throw from the very popular Dreamweaver couloir on the other side of the Flying Buttress, apparently the right chimney gets much less traffic. Above the entrance to Dark Star, we encountered a number of very enjoyable short ice steps that we all felt secure soloing.

From Right Chimney Mount Meeker
From Right Chimney Mount Meeker

After a short traverse, one more step led to the base of the crux dihedral. After a false start up the step, I decided I would rather have a belay, and suggested we set an anchor. Luckily a textbook red camalot and knifeblade provided a good belay for the short snice step. After the step, the difficulty of the route quickly increased as the route entered an awkward, thinly iced chimney/offwidth.The feature proved to be quite intimidating, with spotty protection and some poorly bonded ice. Sticks in the back of the corner were very solid, but the overall experience still seemed pretty serious. 30′ or so up the corner I managed to get a bomber purple mastercam, but much to my disappointment I rotated free one pair of lobes as I climbed past. After gingerly topping out the corner, a number of bomber protection opportunities appeared to allow a less stressful passage up the pitch’s final short step. Joe and Chris followed the pitch quickly, although Joe had to suffer the brunt of the ice fall simul-seconding behind Chris.

Chris in the crux corner:

From Right Chimney Mount Meeker

Joe pulling out of the corner to meet Chris:

From Right Chimney Mount Meeker

Chris almost up to the belay.

From Right Chimney Mount Meeker

At the belay, Joe and Chris roshamboed for the next lead which looked like it might pull a difficult chockstone. A beam of light in the back from behind the chockstone suggested a less strenuous path might be possible. Chris won the lead and set off. After clearing off a fair number of icicles, Chris managed to squeeze behind the chock stone and verify that an exit existed. While trailing his pack, Chris commented that his feet kept blowing, but he managed to wiggle his way up and emerge on top of the chockstone and in to the sunlight. Some more easy mixed climbing led to a belay on the ridge a few hundred feet below the summit.

Me wiggling up the iced chockstone chimney (puts classic cascade chockstone pitches like Prusik peak to shame)

From Right Chimney Mount Meeker
From Right Chimney Mount Meeker

After reaching the belay, we all took some time to warm up and have a bite to eat.

From Right Chimney Mount Meeker
From Right Chimney Mount Meeker

It was getting pretty warm, so we opted to head down rather than touch the summit. The descent starts pretty easy, but traverses some tenuous ledges over sizeable drops. Luckily the sketchiness ends quickly and the rest of the descent is accomplished in under 5 minutes by a fast glissade.

From Right Chimney Mount Meeker

As so often is the case, the hike out felt longer than the hike in, but before too long we were at the car enjoying ice cold beer and contemplating the naps we would take when we got home.

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1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Evan // Jun 25, 2009 at 1:49 am

    Very cool looking climb, and quite amazing to a Seattleite that you can find good ice this time of year. That chockstone bit looks rather claustrophobia inducing.

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