Rock Road Trip: Part 3

Rocky Mountain National Park

Unfortunately Colorado has had a pretty bad snow year. After talking to a few CMS guides in the Boulder area I was told that Dreamweaver (Grade III, WI2 or 5.6) on Mt. Meeker was still in shape. Given the string of high temps in Boulder and Estes Park we knew our time frame was narrowing. We decided to give it a shot anyway.

The hike up to Mt. Meeker cirque was pretty relaxed, mainly due to the wide trail all the way up to Chasm Lake. This area receives a ton of traffic from both hikers and climbers going to Longs Peak. For once my pack didn't weigh half my body weight. Starting at 9,405 ft we ascended to our bivy location at 12,100 ft in under a few hours. From our bivy we could see that most of the snow on Mt. Meekers shoulder and into the Loft descent area had very little snow left, not a good sign. We met a group coming down from the Loft who reiterated our concerns. Regardless we were going to have a look at it the next day.

Besides waking up a few times to scare off some marmots we slept in until 4 a.m. , ate breakfast, and then headed over to the snow slope. The temperature that night did not dip as low as we were expecting and upon approaching the base of the snow slope we saw some melting ice. The snow had frozen slightly with around 3-4 inches of crust with very rounded snow below. Previous parties steps were still visible but pretty melted out. We ascended without rope or crampons to the base of the couloir on hard-ish snow, reaching 12, 600 ft around 5:30 a.m. All it took was looking at the large amount of exposed rock and rotten ice above for us to decided to retreat. Though the bottom looked doable it was the top section that concerned us most. The high temps the previous few days had melted the route out considerably.

On our way out we ran into a party of 3 who were going to attempt Dreamweaver that day. They had quite a bit more rock protection than we had brought, and looked more comfortable doing mixed climbing if needed. We sat and watched the group ascend the snow slope until they got into the couloir proper. Given their speed, it took them over an hour to reach the route proper and it was already 8 a.m.,  I assume they ran into some very unstable snow higher up and on the descent.

Pride can be a dangerous thing sometimes, but luckily Linus and I are pretty much on the same page when it comes to pushing a climb when all the factors are stacked against us. We had hoped for a snow climb not a mixed climb on rotten rock, we just didn't have the gear to do it. Such is life. We headed back down to the truck, which was not faring well to begin with,  and back over to the Front Range.

Meeker to the left, the Diamond on the right

Ships prow



Ideal conditions

The rounds

Red Rock Canyon

After cruising through Castle Rock again, with a short pit stop, we headed south to Colorado Springs. The idea was to stay in the lower areas to save wear on the truck, as it was belching white smoke everywhere. Two climbing destinations are immediately adjacent to Colorado Springs: Garden of the Gods and Red Rock Canyon. The former is a tourist trap, so we decided to check out the latter. The area is unique in the sense that the sandstone substrate is exposed rather than the granitic formations just miles west. Red Rock Canyon is actually owned by Colorado Springs and is designated as a open space. Earlier in the trip we had run into lots of elitist local climbers who were very unwelcoming, however at Red Rock Canyon we experienced quite the opposite. Due to is close location and relatively new development the canyon is filled with tons of families out for a few climbs, hikers, cyclists, and just people walking around. Our goal on this trip was to see and climb in as many destinations as possible. The sandstone was very very soft and most of the climbs were slabby sport climbs, however there are a few great trad routes as well.

Because the stone is so soft, the use of top roping is actually incising the rock face. Some of these rope troughs are over 2 inches deep. Now considering this area is only about 8 years old that is staggering. Our first day there we saw a few climbing schools running top ropes all day with no regard for the environmental impact, sad.

Unfortunately due to the unusually high temps we were only really able to climb from early morning until around noon. Overall the area was nice, though something needs to be done to save the rock for future climbers.


Storm rolling in

Rope cut

The vertical lines on the rock are actually rope cuts

Well, the trip was a success, more or less anyway. We ended up climbing in a lot of different areas and on a lot of different stone types. However, my told truck didn't fair too well. I limped home with the old girl, but I don't think she will be doing any long road trips again. Now its time to get prepared for the post-vacation madness of work.