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Well, another attempt at the Iron Gates on Mt. Meeker was in the cards. This time I would have some much needed company on this slog up the second highest mountain in the National Park. Andy Leach (check out his great site at www.LeachFam.com) drove up from Ft. Collins in the wee hours of this cold Saturday morning and met me at the Longs Peak trail head. We were on the trail by 6:00 and making decent time through the fresh snow.

Before too long we passed a guy that was coming down the trail. He said that he and his partner were going to attempt Alexander's Chimney on the East Face of Longs Peak, but his hands were getting to cold so he turned back as his friend was going to check out the route and they would meet back at the trail head. We followed his friends tracks up the trail all the way to the shelter below Chasm Lake.

At this point the day had turned into a wonderful morning with plenty of sun and very little wind. It was perfect and our hopes were high for the weathers full cooperation. I'm glad Andy was feeling so strong, because I was definitely having an off day to begin our climb. The entire way up Andy set a great pace that I was struggling to keep up with. But by the time we hit the base of the Iron Gates, my legs were feeling better and I was getting into a great rhythm. It took us a little longer than we hoped to make it up the length of the Iron Gates gully, but every step had to be placed carefully as the loose rocks were slick with freshly fallen snow, and the weather was getting worse as we ascended. Taking a break a little way up the gully, we noticed footprints crossing Chasm Lake below. We then noticed a climber in the lower sections of Martha's Couloir. We figured it was the guy going to check out Alexander's Chimney, we just didn't know how climbing Martha's Couloir was going to help him do that. But he was making good progress so we just snapped some shots and got back to business. You can see the best shot of him HERE.

We made our way to the top of the gully and gingerly climbed to the ridge-top over some slick third class terrain. We assessed the weather and both a greed that at 1:00 (it was 11:15) we would *strongly* consider turning around no matter where we were. So off we went. Up the snow covered boulders along Meeker Ridge.

A short way up the ridge, the views back down to the north are amazing. Don't get too close, as the drop is over 1000 feet straight down! Pretty impressive. We stayed as close to the ridge top as we dared and continued up the mountain. The weather was taking a turn for the worse and visibility was diminishing rapidly. But the wind stayed at home. We really lucked out as far as that is concerned. It was a very cold day, it didn't get above 15 and stayed in the single digits for a vast majority of the time. If there was a strong wind it could have been pretty miserable.

We were both pretty beat at this point. Both of us mentioned getting dizzy spells and we had a rough time catching out breath. But the East summit was now in view and only about 20 minutes away. This would put us at about 1:05 on the East summit, so we said we would asses our progress at that point. I pushed up to the east summit a minute or two before Andy and right as I saw the knife ridge leading to the true summit I knew I was done for the day. No way did I want to cross that thing. As Andy topped out I told him to give me his opinion and then I'd tell him what I thought. Just as quickly as I had made my decision he said "no way, I'm done." Thank God. On the east summit the wind picked up quite a bit as we sat there and drank a little slushy water. Visibility was getting worse and it was getting colder. I just wanted to see how close we actually were so I kicked in the GPS and it showed us at an elevation of 13,885 feet! Only 26 vertical feet to the top! But that ridge was fairly long, very exposed, covered in snow and ice and looked to lose about 100 vertical feet before rising to the true summit.

Maybe if we had had time to rest for 20 minutes, refuel and the weather was cooperating we would have had the desire to finish the climb. But it was a great day and we had done well to get this far in these winter conditions. Plus, we still had a very long walk out and daylight wouldn't be around for long.

A few hours later, after making an absolutely brutal descent (slipping every few feet, post holing and not knowing what was under the inch or so of fresh snow, a rock or a hole) we were at the base of the Iron Gates. Back the trail. It had taken us a lot longer than we had anticipated and we were quickly losing daylight. The wind was really picking up and the snow was falling harder with every passing minute. Visibility was decreasing due to snow, wind and the lack of light. We felt a little uneasy about finding our way back and so we turned on the jets. Before long we were back above Jim's grove and I had gotten the GPS back out and we were making a b-line for the bottom of Jim's Grove.

Just as were were beginning to get near the small trees at the edge of timberline, we came upon a father and son coming up to camp. They informed us of a missing hiker and we both remembered the climber in Martha's Couloir The stories matched up and we became very concerned about him. Andy and I planned on notifying the rangers as soon as we got back down to the trail head.

It was an uneventful walk back down, except for the glittering of the falling snow in our headlamps, and we were soon knocking on the door to the rangers office. They recognized us as the snowshoers who saw Trevor (the guy in the couloir) and thanked us for the info. Apparently the father and son ran into some rangers out looking for Trevor and they told them where we had seen him climbing. So they shot up Lady Washington and found a very tired and dehydrated Trevor. When we arrived at the ranger station, Trevor was walking down the east slopes of Lady Washington under his own power with the rangers. So It was kind of nice to be a part of 'saving the day!'

All in all another great day in the hills!

until next time...
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Push the "play" button to begin the movie. You will need Windows Media Player to view it. If that doesn't work, you can try downloading it HERE.
To see Andy's fantastic video of our hike, go HERE.

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