No Walk in the Park: Meeker’s South Ridge from Wild Basin

Sunrise along the Sandbeach Trail in Rocky Mountain National Park.

“There is nothing so American as our national parks. The scenery and the wildlife are native. The fundamental idea behind the parks is native. It is, in brief, that the country belongs to the people, that it is in process of making for the enrichment of the lives of all of us. The parks stand as the outward symbol of the great human principle.” ― Franklin D. Roosevelt

Peaks: Mount Meeker (13,911′), Meeker Ridge (13,860′) – Rocky Mountain National Park
Date Climbed: May 18, 2013
Trailhead: Copeland Lake (Sandbeach Lake Trail)
Route: South Ridge (ascent) / Meeker Ridge (descent)
Distance: ~ 13 miles
Elevation Gain: ~ 5,600 ft.
Participants: Andrew Knox, Dillon Sarnelli
Time: ~ 13 hours

Gerry Roach describes the South Ridge route on Meeker as “one of Colorado’s finest tours” that is seldom done due to its length. He goes on to say that after decades of mountaineering, this mountain remains one of his favorite places.

With that paragraph and a willing climbing partner in Andrew, I already had both feet out the door. We set out from the Copeland Lake TH in Wild Basin at about 4 AM. This would be Andrew’s first trek into Rocky Mountain National Park and I was eager to show him around. The plan: Hike west along the Sandbeach Lake trail to Sandbeach Lake, bushwhack north from the lake to Meeker Meadow, ascend Meeker via its south ridge to the true summit, traverse the knife edge to the lower summit, partially descend Meeker Ridge to treeline, follow Hunter’s Creek back to the trail, and then head back to the Copeland Lake TH.

Approaching the 1st river crossing at Campers Creek along the Sandbeach Lake Trail

For the most part, we stuck to the plan. The snowshoes went on at the Hole in the Wall campsite, about a mile and half from the TH. We, however, never made it to the lake. We had been following one set of tracks (tracks that only went in one direction) which abruptly ended about 4 miles from the TH at a rock cropping. Nestled in a tent under a large rock formation we found the human who had created our path. He too was on his way to the lake, but had lost the trail, and decided to call this spot camp. We wished him well and went on our way. From here, we decided to bypass the lake and head northwest in search of Meeker Meadow and treeline. For the rest of the journey, the only tracks to be seen would be our own.

Andrew gets a good look at the task at hand as we near Meeker Meadow.
I’ll be back for Pagoda someday soon.

I’m still not very good at walking in my snowshoes, but I’m getting better :).

Nearing treeline and Meeker Meadow about 4.5 miles from the TH. Dragon Egg Rock is pictured upper right.
And we go up. A look back as we climb out of the trees. Sandbeach Lake can be seen behind me.
Andrew on his way up.
Still going.

The talus along the south ridge at about 12K as we near the ridgeline.
A look back at some of the south ridge. Below this point we stayed low, to the west side of ridge proper. Keplinger Lake can be seen upper right.
This gen”dong” made for a good laugh or 2.

Andrew is that a large gendarme in your way or are you just happy to see me?

Looking back at the lower portion of the south ridge. The large gen”dong” can be seen front and center.
The hidden east face on Pagoda! I’m certainly coming back for this one.
Making our way up the final steep section of the south ridge.
One last look at the south ridge in it’s entirety.
The elusive Meeker summit.
Summit of Mount Meeker – Elevation 13,911 ft – May 18, 2013
The Meeker knife edge.
The beasts of Rocky Mountain National Park as seen from the knife edge.
The road home – Meeker Ridge.

We descended Meeker Ridge to a point where the angle relented enough to allow us to head for the trees. Once in the trees, we proceeded southeast back to Hunters Creek, followed the creek back to the main trail, and from the main trail proceeded back to the Copeland Lake TH.

This was a long day with a few lessons learned: 1) Don’t underestimate Meeker. This mountain will give Longs a run for it’s money anyday, 2) going downhill in snowshoes is really hard, and 3) Wild Basin is still one of the best kept secrets in all of Colorado.

Andrew thanks for playing and thanks for reading all!

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