| Missouri - 2nd time a charm
This is a 2-part report. As was the case last year for Mt. Lindsey and Mt. Bierstadt, two trips were required for me to reach the summit of Missouri Mountain. Both attempts were solo efforts, using the standard route. The first attempt was on July 31, and I achieved the summit on August 4.
I hadn’t reached any peaks in July, and since I was off from work on the 31st (last Tuesday), I decided to head down to Missouri Gulch. I left Aurora at 4:15, and therein lies a huge problem. I did not reach the trailhead until after 7:30. At 10,000 feet, when there is this much moisture in the air at 8 AM that is too late of a start. The forest was damp, I was drenched in sweat, and clouds began building over the gulch at 9:30. I gave it my best effort, and reached the saddle at 11:30, but this sight indicated to me that I would need to turn around immediately and come back another time. I was still up on the rocks above the Elkhead Pass junction when I began hearing thunder. It was very close, and was coming from up on the ridge near the summit. Needless to say, I set a personal record for the fastest descent off of a mountain.
I was very disappointed in myself for the late start. My last hiking partner called me out in a trip report for being “late, and slow to get started”. While I generally feel that this is a somewhat childish way to address an issue, I do understand the aggravation. You just cannot roll into a 14er trailhead at nearly 8:00 in the morning, during monsoon season, and have any expectation of reaching the summit. I’ve done enough of these to know better – this experience really drove that point home for me.
Four days later, I had another day off, and I felt great. The weather forecast for Saturday looked spectacular, so I decided to give Missouri another try. I packed everything the night before, and somehow managed four hours of sleep. This time, I was able to leave at 3:10, and was all set to begin the hike at 6:45. Much better. I made the clearing, near the shack, at 7:45, and the Elkhead Pass junction at 9:15. This is what the sky looked like. So far, so good. As in the first attempt, my pace slowed considerably as I approached the saddle – it is very steep. However, I reached that saddle at 10:15 – and the view looked so much more appealing than it did just four days earlier.
On this day, I pushed ahead, and knew that I would soon be on the summit. The crux, while brief, was a little more demanding than I expected, but not too bad. On this busy Saturday, it seemed like some folks were concerned that a slip-up in this section could result in a tumble much further down the mountain. I didn’t really get that sense, but I tried not to dwell on it. In no time at all, I was down, and on my way to the summit, which I reached at 10:40.
Harvard / Columbia
Yale / Princeton
Belford / Oxford
Perfect weather - 55 degrees, clear and breezy
It was fun to finally experience a 14er on a weekend. There were so many people around; a lot of interesting conversations on the summit. I enjoyed it. My pace varied wildly throughout the various sections, but clearing 4,450 feet in 3:55 - after ascending 4,100 feet just 4 days earlier - I was very happy with that. I took a leisurely pace on the descent, and unlike my first trip down the mountain, I actually had time to turn around and take a “goodbye” picture.
Turning back from a summit is never fun, but there are times when that is the only decision that can be made. While I always find added satisfaction in reaching a summit after working extra hard for it, my strong preference is to achieve it in one try. The weather on my second attempt was immaculate for the entire day, but that can’t be counted on during the summer in Colorado’s mountains. Missouri Mountain, my 11th summit, has given me a new appreciation of the term “alpine start”, and how its importance cannot be overstated.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):