| Belford-Oxford-Missouri via Missouri East ridge
My friend Alex and I have been climbing fourteeners annually since 2007. We have about half done by now. My daughter has joined us since 2011. She is 12 years old now and wants to catch up on her fourteener count, so we decided to bag Belford, Oxford, and Missouri in one day. Roach recommends going up Missouri first and then descend back into the basin. That sounded boring and we set our sights on the approach described by Monster5 and leggaj5 here.
We started right about 6 am from the Missouri gulch trailhead and took standard route up to Belford. It was steep but uneventful, we summited around 9.35 am.
Christina at the top of Belford
It took us about an hour to get to Oxford where what must be an inspiring arts major left a toaster.
Toaster at the top of Oxford
We took our time on the way back to Elkhead pass and started descending towards Missouri East ridge around noon.
Missouri East Ridge
A close-up of the East ridge difficult portion per Roach is shown here.
East ridge close-up Several class 4 pitches are from the center of the photo going towards the upper right.
At the Elkhead pass Alex said that he had enough for the day and went back to the car. Christina and I continued on to Missouri just before 1 pm. The weather was nice and the forecast was favorable. At the beginning, the ridge is no problem. Once we reached two stones forming small "rabbit ears"
Just before dropping left below the ridge, we decided to drop left (south) below the ridge. We could have gone over the hump seen on the left of photo 5 (easy class 3 according to leggaj5, I concur), but looking from the Elkhead pass, dropping prior would make the descent more gradual, and I hate going down on scree.
As described by leggaj5 for his June 2012 trip, the traverse has to be done between the bottom of the solid rock and the top of the scree. It was typical of the Rockies, nothing too steep, exposed, or dangerous.
Traversing above the scree
After going like that for a solid half-hour and passing several similar-looking gullies, we started to think that we should go up to the ridge at some point. It turns out, we had not gone far enough. Photo
Looking west at the south slopes was taken from the point where we turned right (up to the ridge). Now I know that to be safe one should get to the level of the yellow rock outcropping on the scree slope (center of the photo 7) before turning right. Leggaj5 left several images where he turned but the gullies all looked the same to me. That snow field on photo 7 was not something we wanted to cross that late in the day.
Anyway, we turned right and started climbing on a loose rock, mostly class 3. Somehow, better lines were taking us right (back towards Elkhead pass) instead of left, closer to the summit. Eventually, the gully steepened, and we were greeted by the band of yellow-white rock.
Band of white rock on top of the ridge From reading Roach, I should have add two and two together and realize where we were, but i did not. We pressed on up on the now very loose, class 4 rock. We mad a poor decision to leave the helmets in the car and now I had to follow my daughter very closely so the stones she dislodged would not hit me too hard. Once we got to the top of this yellow-white rock band, my mistake got obvious. We did not take it far enough and did not bypass the trouble spots on the ridge. In fact, we got right into the middle of them! The top of this rock band is a narrow (50 cm or whereabouts) catwalk with precipitous drops on both sides, especially the north, followed by a very exposed small tower (looked like 2 m high), and then the last headwall, loose class 4 per Roach. I know I should have taken some pictures up there but my mind went into survival mode. We needed to get out of there ASAP as the ridge did not look good. The whole mountain can be taken apart stone by stone if time were unlimited. So we downclimbed about 10 m on a steep, very loose rock to the side of the gully. From there we started climbing on west in a traversing fashion on some less loose rock, with plenty of steepness and all class 4-5. It took us about another half-hour to finally get to the ridge past the headwall.
Right before topping out on the ridge again
This section was the hardest I've done in my life. For reference, Kelso ridge on Torreys is simply a child's play compare to what we had to endure here. Creston Peak-to-Needle traverse is longer, similarly exposed, but is much easier because of the excellent rock there.
Anyway, once on the ridge, the rock was actually totally solid. It reminded of the Shavano summit ridge going west towards Tabegauche that we did a couple of days prior. It is class 3 if you stock to the top, which we did. There were four ups and downs (false summit followed by a notch). In another 30 min we were at the summit, just past 3 pm.
Me at the top of Missouri
We were happy that the descent from Missouri down the standard route went without any complications and got to the car a little past 6 pm. Long day but three fourteeners for us.
In summary, I totally agree with leggaj5 that this is the best way to do these three peaks in one day. It is shorter and involves some scrambling/climbing. The key is to bypass all difficulties on the East ridge, and for that one must traverse enough to the west before picking up north to back to the ridge. Unless you are going solo, helmet highly recommended.
Thanks to Monster5 and leggaj5 for pointing out this possibility!
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):