| Missouri Mt. Missouri Gulch
TR continued from here:
We didn't waste too much time on Oxford as we wanted to regain Belford and take a look at our options for Missouri. The trudge back up Belford was not as bad as it looked and by the time we were back on top there were numerous people on the trail and we stopped to chat with most of them. It was fun to find out where people were from and that many were 14er.com members. Originally we had thought we would either backtrack down the Belford trail regain the Elkhead trail and follow it up to the Missouri trailhead or possibly bail off the side of Belford and hook up with it that way, but upon further review we decided to make a loop of sorts and take the well defined trail down the north side of Belford, hook back up with the Elkhead trail and then follow it down to the Missouri trail head.
Missouri as seen from the Belford Ridge
We ran into a few people doing this loop, some had missed the turnoff to Belford and were heading to the summit via this alternate route, and couple of guys from back east had been camping for several days and were on their way out to the road. As we hiked down the trail we were able to see the class 4 route on Missouri that Roach describes as "being regulated to his nightmares", we quickly decided we wanted no part of that route. We took a short hydration and fuel stop at the Missouri trailhead junction, deciding if we were up for our 3rd summit of the day.
Looking back up the valley we just decended
It was hard to fathom that it was only 11am and we had already been on two summits. The short break recharged us and weather was spectacular so we figured we'd take it one step at a time and see how things went. The trail up Missouri Mountain felt as steep as it looked on our tired legs.
Looking back down a section of the trail
We passed tons o f people on their way down all of whom offered encouragement and a "warning" about the dicey scramble right before the summit. The one thing that still stands out in my mind about the trek up was all the %$& crickets, I don't know why there were so many of them but they were everywhere!
After you reach the ridge you think that your serious elevation gain is over, not so, you still have to climb this
Eventually our one foot in front of the other approach led us up on the ridge and all we had to do was walk a long it (forever) to the summit. I completely enjoyed the ridge walk, probably because it didn't involved the steep elevation gain that the rest of the route did.
Looking back on some of the ridge walk
We finally came upon the "dicey section" right before the summit. I can see why some would call it that. I guess because both of us have been up worse, but we would not have called it that, instead we found it to be a fun scramble but everyone's tolerance is different so make your own call.
Looking back up the hardest section of the trail
We hit the summit at 1pm and unbelievably to us for the third time that day we had a summit to ourselves. We knew we still had a long hike out so we took a minute to call our families and update them on our progress, took our summit shots, and packed up for the hike back down. On the way out we ran into a guy who said he had climbed all the 14ers more than once.. wow, how would that be!
The hike out was my least favorite part of the day, I was tired, my legs were getting sore, and it was hot, but the beauty of the area made it more tolerable. We hiked for what seemed like forever crossing the creek more times that I can count and eventually made it back to our water stash. Thankfully neither of us were in dire need of it but it was nice to know that it was there. It was also nice to be able to see what we had missed on our hike up in the darkness of the early morning hours. The only downside was the elevation loss was brutal on my knees and they were screaming by the time we got back to the trailhead at 5pm. We talked to so many different people I can't remember them all but it was great to see young people, older people, in state, out of state, first time 14ers and seasoned veterans- all out enjoying the mountains.
At the Missouri trail head looking down the valley we still have to hike out of
Ah so that's what Belford looks like in the daylight..cool
We were both pretty excited about our accomplishment. We have both tackled some pretty big single day projects in the past- tour de Massive, Holy Cross, Evans/Beirstadt via Sawtooth, Sherman and Quandary in a day, but this was by far the most mileage and elevation gain we have done. I am not sure either of us would do it again. Roach is definitely correct when he says it makes for a tough day. But on the flip side 3 summits in one day is pretty cool and we don't have to tackle the "memorable switchbacks" a second time to summit these peaks. Big thanks to Lovenit for driving 5 hours just to go hiking for a day, and to our families for understanding and working with us on this crazy obsession we have.
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