Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Meeker Ridge via Horse Creek Trailhead.

A few weeks ago I set out early one morning with Dan.  Our goal was to do Meeker and Longs in one day.  Unfortunately, that did not happen, and we didn't even end up summiting Meeker.
We met up in Lyons pretty early, and started from the Horse Creek trailhead.  Though there has not been much snow as of yet this year, I could see snow up there from my house, and we felt like this route had the best chance of being snow free or nearly so.
We were hiking for several hours and just making our way to tree line when the sun started to rise. 
Pretty neat to see the lights of the cities laid out beneath us.
A large cairn above treeline on Meeker ridge. 
I am not sure why, but I was feeling horrible.  My stomach hurt, legs hurt, lungs felt like they just couldn't get enough air.  I felt very nauseous as well, which doesn't help when you are doing a fairly strenuous exercise and need to eat throughout the day.  Every time I did eat something I felt like I was going to throw up.
But we pushed on, here gaining sight of Meeker from the ridge.
Looking south to Wild Basin.  Snow capped peaks.
The weather prediction called for wind, and it did not disappoint.  We eventually moved to the north side of the ridge even though the going was harder just to be out of it.
The day looks so beautiful, but with 40+ mph sustained winds and higher gusts, it got alot less fun.
The peaks of Wild Basin from the summit of Meeker Ridge, which at 13871 feet, is some 40 feet lower than the true western summit at 13911.
The ridge between the east and west summits is about 300 yards of highly exposed third class.  A place you definitely don't want to fall.  Note Longs Peak in the background.  With the wind ripping, we wisely decided to head back without gaining the true summit.
A feature called Ships Prow extends northeast from the Longs area.
On the way back down it was so damn windy.  I was following Dan and we looked like two drunk people struggling to stay upright.  There were times the wind was so fierce, all I could do was crouch down as quickly as possible to avoid getting blown over.   Still looks pretty though...
Again we crossed back to the north side of the ridge to get out of the wind.  It didn't always work, like when I stopped to pee and yeah.  It was like the scene in The Big Lebowski where they spread Donnies ashes, except instead of ashes in my face it was my own pee.  What fun.
We decided to go back over into the wind when it looked like we were getting to a tower we'd have to descend.  Dan went first while I gave myself a golden shower.  When I topped the ridge and stood up, a gust of wind hit me so hard it actually blew me back off my feet, causing me to fall and hit my left knee quite hard on a rock.  And in exactly the same place I had hit it descending a snow field during the Eagles Beak hike.
Immediate and intense pain flooded through me, and I thought I had broken my leg at first.  I hobbled and caught up to Dan and took a seat to assess the damage.  Didn't think it was broken, but it sure hurt alot.  Took some Advil, got out my ice axe and used that as a cane for most of the rest of the day. 
Once we got back to tree line, we lost the cairned unofficial trail back down and ended up somewhere north of it.  We eventually just decided to head for the south side of Horsetooth and know that we'd run into the trail eventually.  It was a great feeling when we did.  By now the pain meds had kicked in and I made the rest of the hike down feeling fine.  I was quite sore the next day however, and it has taken several weeks for it to go back to feeling almost normal.
Here is a look back as the trail crosses Horse Creek and starts to gain elevation.  It is only a few minutes back to the car from here. 
I am not sure why I felt so bad.  Everyone has off days I guess, and it was pretty good when I started feeling as though I could eat, but I think the hours of not eating anything certainly didn't help at all.  And we learned that this would be a good hike to avoid when the forecast calls for wind!
I guess the Meeker/Longs combo will have to wait for another day- probably next year.  We did discuss difficulty, since I had heard from someone else that he felt Meeker was more difficult than Longs.  When done this way, you do more elevation gain over a shorter distance, the class three is more exposed, and definite trail finding skills are needed.  Meeker is often overlooked being so close to Longs, but if you have done Longs already, try Meeker next year.  It is a rewarding peak to climb.
Meeker Ridge via Horse Creek trail head:
5 miles one way, 5171 foot gain. Some second class. Strenuous+.

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