| Sawatch 14er Winter Trio.
January 3, 2012
~14.3 Miles, 8,400 Gain
Trailhead: Missouri Gulch.
With an outstanding weather forecast, booted trail, and minimal avy danger, a long day was in order. Matt and I camped out at the trailhead. Although camping at the trailhead is not allowed, who's going to stop us in the middle of winter? We started our journey up the Missouri Gulch trail around 5:20 AM and I was amazed at how well the trail was packed down as we made excellent time into Missouri Gulch. Thanks to all of those who packed down the trail.
We arrived in the upper portions of Missouri Gulch just as the sun started to rise and worked our way towards the eastern slopes of the north ridge of Missouri Mountain. Since the trail was so packed down, we didn't even use our snowshoes the entire day. Working our way higher, most of climbing on the eastern slopes of the north ridge was snow free on steep grassy slopes. I could see these slopes being heavily wind loaded if there was more snow in the future. A good alternative with more snow might be to angle up a rock rib to the northeast ridge from point 13,695.
Sunrise in Missouri Gulch.
Gaining ground on Missouri's east slopes.
Harvard during sunrise.
Despite the little snow, we had to climb on some thin wind packed snow slabs as we angled to the 13,695-13,778 saddle on the north ridge. Since we didn't need our snowshoes, we stashed them at ~12,800. That's right, I said, “stashed them.” Continuing our climb up, it appeared the standard route up to the north ridge would be unsafe regarding slide potential.
Looking back down the slopes we climbed (later in the day)
Looking up the slopes we climbed. (later in the day)
Route to gain the north ridge on Missouri.
Once we reached the ridge, it was a long stroll up and down false points as we made our way towards the summit. Finally, the last few hundred feet to the summit with the infamous towers. Luckily, with such low snow, the towers were not too much trouble as we climbed up and over the first short tower and bypassed the big tower/notch on the southwest side of the ridge. We arrived on the summit of Missouri at 10:00 AM.
Nearing the north ridge on Missouri.
The Apostles from the north ridge.
The crux on the north ridge.
Matt nearing the crux.
Matt negotiating the first tower.
Matt descending the first tower.
Bypassing the second tower/notch.
Matt on the final push up Missouri.
Our stay on the summit was short and we returned back to the 13,695-13,778 saddle. It was a time consuming ridge. Around 11:45 AM we returned, successfully, to our snowshoe stash at ~12,800. Wow, that ridge took more time than I had anticipated. From our snowshoe stash, we were able to descend a rock rib back into Missouri Gulch and from the bottom of Missouri Gulch, we aimed for the dry snow free west ridge of Belford. The climb was steep, dry, and never ending as we made excellent time arriving on the summit of Belford at 1:15 PM. A long break was much needed. With clear skies and a light wind, we decided we both had the energy to climb Oxford.
Huron from the summit of Missouri.
Snow free Belford and Oxford.
Coming back from Missouri's summit.
Snow free Oxford from Belford.
Travel to Oxford went fairly quick but the wind had picked up near the saddle of Oxford and Belford. We arrived on the summit of Oxford around ~2:30 PM and our stay was short since the wind was picking up. The hardest part of the day was re-climbing Belford since we were both getting exhausted. I arrived back on the summit of Belford around 3:30 PM and waited for Matt to make his way back.
As I waited for Matt, I thoroughly enjoyed the views as the high clouds and light made things surreal. We left the summit of Belford around 4:30 PM and hiked down the standard route arriving at the car around 6:30 PM. Good thing we took the snowshoes for a hike since we didn't use them.
Almost a summit sunset on our second summit of Belford.
Evening light on Harvard.
Matt looking chipper on Belford for the second time.
Sunset on La Plata and Elbert.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):