This is the wonderful cirque that sits below the summits of Mt. Meeker and Long's Peak. A ton of ice forms up here during 9 months of the year, but most agree that the best time to climb is in the fall, when the days are warm enough to form the drips, yet they freeze at night. These drips are ephemeral: what is in one day, may be gone by the time you hear about it. Best condition reports are word of mouth (or right here), or visually from the Front Range. Best conditions are found for a few days after Fall snow storms, when it's in the 70's down low. Look for fresh snow up high and sunny skies. Often the ice dries up in the middle of winter. It's just too cold up there to keep ice forming. It tends to come back in in early April. In a good year, the ice routes back in the chimneys on the North Face of Meeker (Dark Star, etc.) stay in until early July.
Hint: This is a huge area and the climbs are farther away than you think. From the observation points at the shelter cabin or Chasm Lake, climbs may not look like they're in. To really tell, though, you've got to make the whole approach.
Approach from the Long's Peak ranger station. Follow the signs to Chasm Lake: for most people it takes about 2 hours. After you go over Chasm Cut-off and the trails heads downhill, look for Peacock Pool below you on the left along with Columbine Falls dropping into the pool. There are some great practice thin smears there as well as the low-angle slabs of Columbine. Above the trail, on the right flank of Mt. Lady Washington, several good 3-pitch falls form up in good years. These are nice because they catch the sun all day. For Long's and Meeker, keep going to the shelter cabin. If you're heading to Mt. Meeker, head left here, for the Long's Peak climbs, hike up the slabs directly behind the cabin. Once at the lake, you'll be able to see just about everything that's in, so make your choice there.
Mountain Project's determination of some of the classic, most popular, highest rated routes for Long's Peak/Mt. Meeker Cirque:
BASIC:Crazy Train climbs the rightmost smear spilling from an overlap in the prominent roof-alcove area between the Smear of Fear and Fieldís Chimney. To those with an eye for these things, itís pretty obvious, and often teases but rarely forms to the ground. The smooth rock slabs at bottom arenít encouraging if the ice isnít down. Iím biased, but we thought this was an incredible pitch Ė about 180' of steep, thin ice. Several parties climbed it soon after us, but I don...[more]Browse More Classics in CO
Hiked into base of Dreamweaver on 11/26. Approach was long and hard due to unconsolidated snow much of the way and increasing from Chasm Lake to the final approach. Expect lots of postholing in 7-10" of snow with a 1-2" crust with loose snow underneath which facets when you stomp. Avalanche conditions were moderate with the Loft being leeward facing. On the other hand, Columbine Falls ice looks fat!
Climbed Kiener's on 5/5. Route is in good shape... still winter conditions. Snow was fairly well consolidated in Lamb's Slide and across Broadway. Snow is still unconsolidated in shaded areas and where there are wind deposits - a small spindrift avalanche swept the Notch Couloir after we crossed. The upper slopes above the first two pitches of Kiener's were also in good condition. Snow is still not in the best shape to accept pickets or other snow anchors. Protected the route using a set of nuts and smaller cams.
Conditions are such that those approaching the eastern side on Longs may skin from the RS to treeline, and if owning a pair of rock skis and some nerves, ski from treeline back to the RS. Could save a hour or so.
The rock band at the top of the Loft is no longer climbable without a rope. I tried going up to the far right and couldn't make it with crampons and a mountaineering axe. Ice tools would have been very helpful... It's pretty mixed right now.
I made it about 15' up the rock band before turning back, and downclimbing was harder than going up....
In response to the Loft report below. The Loft down climb just to the (climbers) left when looking up was easily climbable sans rope. We did Darkstar and came down this. Darkstar was great- not much ice but firm snow and fun rock climbing
The Smear of Fear and Alexander's are getting traffic. Lower part of the Smear is dry (That's a good thing.) and very climbable. Alexander's is fat and easy. This from various reports during the week of 9/28 to 10/4.Malcolm
Actually climbed some decent ice up in the Loft on Sunday the 19th. About 100 ft of 3ish ice in great condition to a cool right leaning mixed finish hooking frozen moss. It was weird to be climbing ice in the Park in such dry conditions. Took good screws and rock pro. Don't know how long it will last but it was worth the 3+ hour approach. (I think?)
As a sidebar to Tim's posting, we spoke with a ranger when we got back to our car that evening and he told us that the day before, one of the wranglers was walking a few of his horses back from the hut on the narrow trail that skirts Mt Lady Wash, near Columbine Falls, when some "statue-sized" pieces of ice came down without warning, hitting him in the head and knocking several animals off the trail. A couple hours later he made it back to the ranger station and began acting "inappropriate" and then couldn't remember what had happened. Then ranger drove him to the hospital where he was diagnosed with a concussion, and apparently required steroids to reduce the swelling around his brain. Apparently he's OK now and so are the horses. Ranger is thinking about submitting this to Accidents in NA Mount. He also said that this guy wasn't a climber, thought it was too dangerous...
Ranger also said that Hidden Falls was coming in real nice for this time of the year. Thought it would take a couple more weeks though.
Did Notch Couloir today (8/21/05) and highly recommend it to anyone looking to get the ice jones back in their system! Good solid water ice in the upper couloir. Lamb Slide hard snow, Broadway totally clear and upper gully FAT 60 ish degree easy ice. Scramble up and right (5.2 ish rock) to the Notch. I descended by way of the Loft.
For what it's worth: ratings being a relative and somewhat meaningless concept, but having done them both (the routes that is): I'd give the link-up of either of those two routes, grade IV WI4, 5.7(M2) (Alexander's) then 50 degree snow and easy rock above (when in ideal shape and on route). That said, I've seen more than a few climbers "bonk" due to the altitude, approach, etc...which could make it feel like WI7 5.12 80 degree snow!? HIGH SATISFACTION rating hopefully.
I would like to thank the NPS, all the volunteers, and the Colorado Mountain School for your search and rescue efforts this season, especially March 11. The next time you get together for some sort gathering I want to buy the beverages. Thanks, I/we do appreciate it. T. Nydam
Alexander's is likely thin, sublimated ice at the cruxes and some moderate but exposed rock climbing on the last pitch, overall grade in current conditions probably WI5, M5 (5.8). The thin and fragile ice might be the crux- exciting enough with a belayer.
Snow on upper Kiener's could still be a bit sensitive after last week's storms and will be steep (60 degrees) in spots while traversing Broadway, but after Alex this would be mellow. Hopefully the snow up high is bonding ok- could be less bonded slabs up to a couple of ft. thick on the surface. Rock anchors and some pro would be nice to stay attached to the face should part of a slope release- or pack a parachute as the Diamond is a steep ride.
Things should be consolidating considerably in the next week, but the ice is not very good up high currently except on All Mixed Up, Martha, West Gully, and a few other regulars. Otherwise, south faces are dry and the snow up high on north and east faces is still cold and dry (unstable).
Did you ski Notch Couloir on 5/30/08? If so, I have some distant but cool photos of you guys skiing the upper Notch Couloir. We were on Martha and I was holding my breath watching you drop in. Hope it was safe & fun. I would be happy to share the photos with you - email me at firstname.lastname@example.org