Mount meeker - 13,911' - Dreamweaver couloir class 5.4
In early May I had some time off work so I went back down to Colorado to visit with friends in Golden and try for some climbing. I had just got back from Chile and was excited to be home. I met with Sam in Boulder where we agreed to climb the Dreamweaver Couloir. It was a great season for ice however the large amount of fresh spring snow made the ascent tiring and free of ice.
We drove to Estes Park, where we were unable to find any place open before 6am, leaving us to wait to find breakfast since neither of us had any food. We ended up eating at McDonald's and were quickly on our way to the Longs Peak Trailhead. Shortly after sunrise we arrived to see a plethora of other cars, many of which were ice climbers. The approach hike went smoothly as we made our way up the trail, cutting switchbacks on the snow where possible. I was wearing tennis shoes while carrying my plastic boots. Just before treeline we hit continuous snow but it was real firm so travel was swift. We made it to the signed trail junction and continued on the Chasm Lake Route at which point, the wind took one of my nice gloves, leaving me with one glove liner. Luckily I still had my thick gloves.
Just before reaching the lake, where we could clearly see the route up to the Loft, I switches my boots and stashed my approach shoes. By this point the sun was out in full force and with the fresh snow covering everything, it was very bright and hot. The post holing also got brutal for the 500 foot ascent up the slope to the start of the Couloir. After an hour of post-holing, we reached the couloir where we both felt comfortable enough just continuing solo. The very narrow couloir was very cool but funneled the wind. It was however still warm enough out to stay in shorts as we slowly ascended loose snow until the first "ice" step, which was bone dry! Sam soloed up the 10 foot step which consisted of complete dry-tooling with crampons on. I actually had not done much dry tooling by that point so I was a little uncomfortable on it but I made it easy enough. A fall there would have probably caused injury but was no where near exposed enough to die from.
Continuing up the still narrow couloir, we got to a viewpoint where Longs Peak was visible and the couloir veered left a little. A couple hundred feet more and we reached the second "ice" step. Here we caught up with another party as they climbed the crux of the route. This step, which was also dry, had a nice chockstone making it a little overhanging. Sam led the 15 foot crux placing just one piece and I quickly followed. From here, it was an easy slog to the final step. A 5 foot scramble section brought us to the upper slopes. This was the most tiring part for me since it had been so long since I had been at altitude. I summited 5 minutes after Sam and I decided I would try the knife edge traverse to Meeker Ridge. I only got a few minutes away before I realized it wasn't really doable in my plastic boots. So I returned to the summit where Sam and I started descending.
This was one of the worst descents of my life. The upper part of the descent to the Loft was not snow covered and the exposed talus was unbearable with my plastic boots on. Then once we got to the Loft, the descent down the very steep snow, with a 1000 foot cliff directly below us was the most scared I had ever been in the mountains. That was the first time I put myself in a place where I had no control of my fate. Had that snow slope slid (which was certainly possible on this day) we would have died. I carefully kicked my way on the downward traverse down the steep snow using my ice tool as an axe. There were steps already kicked from previous parties but it was still very scary.
I reached the infamous ledge where the terrain eased and soon enough, we were post-holing down the moderate, broad snowfield back to the base of the route where I had stashed my shoes. By this point I had a very bad gas pain in my stomach (as I typically do on long days) but this was was particularly bad. Sam was getting cold so he went off ahead and said he would wait for me at the car.
I was happy for the clouds at this point which blocked the sun. I very slowly hiked back to the signed Chasm Lake Trail junction where a long bathroom break was taken lol. After that I felt better and was able to quickly hike down and made it to the car roughly 45 minutes after Sam.