| Missouri Mountain it is then...
7/7/7 Climb- a long but enjoyable twofer
Mountains (in order): Missouri Mountain, Mt. Belford
Trailhead: Missouri Gulch Trail
Round Trip (approximate): 14 Miles
Elevation Gain: (approximate): 6,300 feet
Once again the Friday afternoon climbing bug bit us and we decided at the last minute to hit Missouri Mountain and then some.
With the suggestions of a few 14er members we camped along Chaffee County 390 just beyond the Missouri Gulch Trail. To our luck, we snagged a site along Clear Creak, with no other campers nearby. Sat. we left camp around 3:30 a.m. (phew it keeps getting' earlier and earlier) and were on the trail by 3:50. The first mile or so is long switchbacks through the dense pines.
Our dogs in tow helped motivate us so early. Crisp a.m. actually seems good for dogs that are typically like mini Tasmanian Devils, whirl-winding around in people's way.
There are a few creek crossings (one over some fallen logs).
Once past the switchbacks, the terrain levels out and it's an easy mile or so to the Elkhead/Missouri Gulch junction near 11,600'. We had our plans set to hit Missouri
With the sun now peaking its head around the hills we could see the vast wildflowers abundant.
There are a few more creek crossings through low bushes; eventually we reached the second junction. We headed toward Missouri to the right but noted that the Elkhead pass may be the route we'd take to Ox/Bel if we felt up to it. We zig-zagged our way up the mountain's base through more switchbacks.
About 3/4 the way up the mountain, with some patches of looser rock and steeper steps we unleashed our dogs (as they could very well yank us down the slope). Rick got ahead with the two dogs and I (Jen) took the straight up, class 3, route, scrambling on all fours.
I kept wondering- where are they? Why don't they wait for me? Geez this seems tougher than a class 2. About a few minutes later I hear my husband yelping "Jen, over hear." Looking down and to my right I see Rick. Oops I guess I took the "Road Less Traveled" I thought. Urgently he hollered at our yellow lab, Anna. "Get over here!" Then, "Everyone get to one place!" I had to chuckle a little inside, not knowing what was eating at him. Apparently Anna had chased after a squirrel, marmot, or some other fine furry creature and did 2-3 full flips down the slope. She is a real dare devil and usually out hikes us any day. Even still, she looked injured and was whimpering. Rick flung his arms in the air (not again! We really want to finish this hike). Meanwhile, Anna got a sudden burst of energy and hopped on all fours once again, seeming unfazed. Rick thought she broke/sprained an arm but it turns out she just had the wind knocked out of her. We decided to re-leash the two dogs, and only let them off once near the top of the ridge where there were minor scrambles down and over a few larger boulders.
For us, the ridge was really beautiful. The weather was spectacular, we reached the summit in solitude and it was overall very peaceful walking along the high ridge crest with nearly no wind in sight. There are some up-down hills, but nothing too tricky.
We reached summit around 8 a.m. (just over 4 hours). Losing track of time, we must have spent 45 minutes enjoying the views and lunch.
Still with much more energy, we decided to hit at least one of the nearby peaks. Although the class 4 slope down the ridge and over to Elkhead pass might be something we would do on our own, we knew not to take the dogs, so we headed back (standard route) to Elkhead pass. By this time there were several more people hiking up Missouri. The pass was a long, gradual climb in which we gained another 2,000 feet. We passed a few other hikers. The weather continued to impress us. Once we reached the saddle we contemplated hiking Oxford first and then Belford. By this time, around 11:30, the clouds were gathering and becoming denser. With the sound of thunder rolling in, we decided against Ox and continued to Bel. It was a little before noon when we summited Belford.
Hiking back down Bel was a chase against the approaching weather. Through the valley we enjoyed some more wildflowers, especially the Columbines (4 flowers for the 4 of us)
Crossing over the log bridge and other parts of the creek was refreshing.
Total time: 11.5 hours. Sore feet!
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):