| Missouri/ Belford /Oxford Winter Ascents
I attempted Missouri from Vicksburg via the long north ridge on 12/24.
I was able to park about 2 miles below the summer trailhead. No one else has signed in at the trailhead for a little over two weeks and the trailbreaking for the first 1700' was pretty tough. After making timberline, I took the first opportunity to scramble to the north ridge, deciding that this route was best to avoid avalanche. I had broken four ribs (on an icy sidewalk in Pueblo) on Dec. 4 and had been in bed for a week and sedentary two more. This was my first outing since. Unfortunately, rough weather,extreme fatigue and a number of false summitts turned me back about 1/4 mile and 200' from the summitt. The body on Mt. Hood 300' off the summit was fresh on my mind.
Fast forward to January 20. With a few more weeks of rib recovery, Mt Yale on 12/26 and Sherman on 1/5 behind me , I was ready to try Missouri again. This time the road was closed 4 miles below Vicksburg, two miles further out than before. I traveled 7 miles up the road toward Winfield to the site of Rockdale. 2.5 miles of tough snow breaking (most about mid-calf to knee deep) up toward Cloyses Lake brought me to the base of the west-north-west ridge of Missouri.
I decided this route would afford avalanche safety without having to tackle all those sub-peaks. 3000' up I caught the north ridge right where I had given up three weeks before. A half hour and a little fun scrambling later (I had to stick to the ridge where the summer route traverses on the west side of the ridge about 150' below the summit) I made the summit 6 beautiful, clear and calm hours after leaving the Rockdale trailhead. A Couple has signed in 12/25, the day after I gave up on the north ridge. They did not indicate their route, but I hope they got to take advantage of the trail I broke the day before! Anyone game to go this week can cut at least an hour off using the broken trail from Rockdale. Without a snowmobile, you may want to ski up the 7 miles the afternoon before and camp at Rockdale. It is 10 miles and 4200- rountrip from Rockdale. For me, that day, 9 hours. Views of Oxford and Belford to the east gave me the idea to return while their west slopes are still devoid of snow.
Sooooooo, I begged off work Tues 1/23 (the weather was predicted to be, and was, beautiful) and headed up the 4 miles of the Winfield road to reach Vicksburg. The last person to sign in at the trailhead was two weeks earlier and that climber said he turned back due to wind and weather. Again, lots of tough trail breaking to pop above timberline 1700' later. Then, very easy conditions.
I snowshoed to the base of Belford's WNW ridge and climbed mostly on frozen but uncovered trail to the summit 3 hours 45 min from Vicksburg. 15 mph winds followed me the full 2 hours over to Oxford and back; my sunscreen froze, but not my water (perfect temperature!). Back at Belford, I cut over the south shoulder and dropped into Missori basin where even the wind died; it felt like May for the hour or so back to timberline. 8.5 hours after leaving Vicksburg, I was back. (miles, 6000'. Add 3.5 hours for the ski trip 4 miles up to Vickburg and back. Subtact 2.5 if you skip the trip to Oxford.
Again, get up there soon and you won't have to re-break the trail to timberline. There is good camping at 11, 600' near timberline in the vicinity of the cabin remnant that appears on the 7.5' map. If you tackle Missouri from this side in the winter, either cut to the north ridge right at timberline (beware the false summits) or, in times of stable snow go up valley high on the east side of the drainage (as if you were climbing Belford) and cut up to the north ridge approximately where the summer route ascends to the ridge. Use conservative snow condition appraisal if this is your route of choice.
There are appealing looking ski descents from Missouri back into Missouri basin (though I simply snowshoed on all these routes). Nothing on Oxford or Belford is in skiing shape (unless you exit to the East between the two, leaving Missouri Basin completely).
I had climbed all these peaks several times in the summer and fall, but these were my first ascents of them in Caledar winter. Once you get to the trailhead and break the trail to timberline, they are nor any harder on the upper slopes in the winter than in other seasons.