Skiing the Dragon Egg on Mt. Meeker

      11 Comments on Skiing the Dragon Egg on Mt. Meeker

The “Twin Peaks” of Rocky Mountain National Park, Longs Peak and Mt. Meeker, seen from the southeast with the Dragon Egg Couloir visible on Meeker’s southern aspect. Photo courtesy of Charles Pfeil at www.arrowphotos.com.

Because snow can be a tough commodity to come by in Rocky Mountain National Park, it pays to be patient and take advantage when conditions are right. A week ago the Longs massif was as stacked as we’d ever seen it, so Rick, Marc, Brian and I decided to go for the Dragon Egg Couloir on Mt. Meeker.

Meeker sits three quarters of a mile southeast of Longs. Together they are referred to as the “Twin Peaks” of RMNP, and indeed the two are so intertwined that if Meeker were 130 ft shorter, it wouldn’t be considered a ranked peak at all. At 13,911 ft in elevation, Meeker makes the cutoff as one of Colorado’s “Centennial” 13ers, and its the farthest north of all of them. The peak is named after Nathan Meeker, a journalist who was killed by Ute Indians in 1879 in what became known as the “Meeker Massacre.”

Steep skinning in the Dragon Egg Couloir after a long approach through Wild Basin.

Meeker is home to numerous scrambling and mountaineering routes. The Dragon Egg Couloir, a snow route on the south side of the peak, offers up what is undoubtedly the longest and most continuous ski descent off its summit. Providing 3,200 ft of continuous skiing down into Wild Basin, the Dragon Egg is a route as substantial and iconic as Mt. Meeker itself.

Copeland and Wild Basin seen from around 12,500 ft in the couloir.

Higher in the couloir with Sandbeach Lake in the background.

We started the long approach along Hunter’s Creek from the Copeland/Sandbeach Lake Trailhead around 5am. Dry trail for the first 2 miles allowed us to make good time in trail shoes. At the Hunter’s Creek bridge crossing we broke away from the trail and took a contouring approach through the woods towards the base of the route. Ultimately we wound up trying to contour too high and would have been better served just sticking to flatter terrain down in the valley. Regardless, we eventually worked it out and found ourselves skinning up the heart of the couloir within 3.5 hours of leaving the car.

Rick nearing the summit block. It was a pick your poison type of day with regards to skinning vs. booting. Some of us chose the former and some of us chose the latter.

The Dragon Egg itself, named after a big rock feature near the toe of the couloir that loosely resembles a giant egg, is a long climb that doesn’t really relent until the summit is reached. Looking up at the summit from Meeker Meadows, it’s tough to tell just how big the route is and so naturally the summit looks closer than it really is. We were all surprised by how long it took us to climb it, and we were all exhausted by the time we hit the summit ridge, but fresh views of Longs Peak and beyond renewed our spirits somewhat.

Longs Peak, The Loft, and a very much filled in Homestrech seen from just below Meeker’s summit. I’d venture to guess Keplinger’s is in as good of condition as it ever is.

Marc gearing up just below the summit block.

We dropped in later than we had liked to, but a breeze and decent freeze the night before prolonged the snow pack stability and allowed us to just barely pull off the ski. We skied off the east side of the ridge down a short, steep series of pitches winding through the summit rock slabs. From there we split up into two groups and skied both branches of the Dragon Egg to speed things up a little bit – Brian and Marc took skier’s left and Rick and I took skier’s right. A few shots of the ski:

Rick laying em down just below the steeps of the summit block.

Brian off the top with the eastern plains in the background.

POV shots are always cool when they actually come out.

Marc riding the upper-couloir.

Rick lower down with Sandbeach Lake visible in the background.

Finishing off the final portion of the 3,200 ft ski descent.

A last one of Rick that I caught completely by accident.

After a somewhat unsettling lesson in wet slough management near the bottom of the couloir, we coasted into Meeker Meadows and took a long break to admire the lines we just skied.

The lines from below with the egg rock feature visible.

After a solid dose of poling, bushwhacking, cursing, transitioning, postholing, defecating, wallowing, and slogging, we arrived back at the trailhead safe and sound. Those who have negotiated Wild Basin on skis can attest, there’s really no point in trying to describe it any other way.

The celebratory Gordon’s at Oskar Blues capped things off nicely. For those interested our total stats on the day were 11.5 miles, 5,800 ft.

Some Wild Basin trees.

Cheers and stay safe out there everyone. It’s supposed to be a hot week up there.

11 thoughts on “Skiing the Dragon Egg on Mt. Meeker

  1. Dave

    What day did you ski this? We tired to get up high in RMNP on Sunday, but the snow didn’t seem to refreeze at all so sadly we had to bail.

    Reply
    1. Ben Post author

      Hey Dave, we skied it on Saturday. Friday night definitely had a more substantial freeze than Saturday night. As we were skiing out, I remember thinking Sunday probably wouldn’t be ideal with the amount of heat left in the snow from Saturday and the lack of freeze that night. That sucks you had to bail, but from what we saw up there it sounds like it was a wise call. I hope we get a few more clear nights and freezes here soon or this thing is gonna be over quick.

      Reply
  2. Brandon Chalk

    Man, that looks like fun, Ben! Little better weather than our little jaunt up Jacque, eh buddy? Way to get that line in primo conditions, guys! This warm weather has be bummed as I don’t see any freeze-thaws on the horizon. Hopefully, soon enough! BTW, that first picture of the Flatirons and the Meeker/Longs massif is just plain awesome.

    Reply
    1. Ben Post author

      Hey Brandon, thanks man! Yes definitely better weather than our last day out, but like you said, almost too warm. I hope she freezes up a few more times as well.
       
      Yeah sweet shot eh? That came from a local Boulder photographer who was kind enough to let me use it. His info is in the photo caption above.

      Reply
  3. Jason

    Looks like an awesome day, guys! That shot of Rick at the end is incredible….it could be a magazine cover.

    Reply
  4. FAJA

    Poling, cussing, transitioning, defecating, climbing, bushwhacking – wow all sounds like fun LOL – seriously that looked like a real long day but good fun and satisfying to finish. FAJA

    Reply
    1. Ben Post author

      Thanks Dad! Glad to have gotten it in good condition, makes it worth all the “fun” of getting in and out of there 🙂

      Reply

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