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