| Who said the Midwest is flat?
Missouri Mountain (south ridge/Elkhead Pass), Iowa Peak
Since my plans for Longs Loft were stymied by Mother Nature for the last 2 weekends, I needed to do something to cure the cabin fever. So I headed down to Buena Vista to finish off the Missouri Gulch triumvirate.
After carbing up at Subway, I took off toward CR390. The sky wasn't looking too friendly, with lots of thunder and virga over the peaks. But I decided to trust that the weatherman was right, with a forecast of a clear morning. I made my way past the throngs of vehicles at the Missouri Gulch TH and settled down a little ways past there.
I lit out from the TH shortly after 5AM. As I remembered from my last visit, the immediate switchbacks on this trail give a body a nice warmup. As I crossed the log bridge and ascended out of the trees, the pre-dawn darkness, low clouds and stealthy animal sounds made for a nifty horror story setting.
Upon passing the old cabin, I came up behind a bunch of 18-somethings wandering along. I'm sure they were enjoying smoking and listening to hip-hop on their boombox while hiking, but it wasn't doing much for me. So I put a little extra in my step as soon as I got by them. One of them kept running loudly up behind me and then falling back while mock gasping. Whatever, brah, let me know how that works for you.
Looking back down the gulch shortly after the Belford/Oxford junction
Missouri on my mind
The next section of the trail is a really pleasant stroll among willows and tundra. The rate of elevation gain settles down a little here, and I was soon chilly in the breezy shadows. I broke out the filter, refilled and pressed on toward the Elkhead/Missouri junction.
Sunrise over Elkhead Pass
I turned right onto the Missouri trail and headed up the well-worn path. More gentle uphill for a little way here.
Missouri's north face coulours from 13000', Harvard peeking over its shoulder
The trail up through the talus was recently (?) worked over by CFI. It's relatively easy on the legs now, with plenty of rock steps. Once on the northwest ridge, the way is mostly class 1/2 with a few nice ups and downs to hold interest. The summit looks far from the saddle but comes up quickly.
The Three Apostles (left) and Huron from the summit
"D*mn kids! Get out of my yard!"
South ridge to Iowa Peak
I'm trying to do things just a little differently on the 14ers, so I headed down the south ridge instead of returning down the ascent route. I was feeling relatively good after bonking early on my last few hikes, so I decided to pick up Iowa Peak too. The hike was easy and enjoyable and in no time I was enjoying the view from the 13er.
Harvard and Columbia from Iowa
Looking back up at Missouri from the saddle
Back at the Missouri/Iowa saddle, it would have been easy to head straight down into Missouri Basin to pick up the Elkhead Pass trail. But I decided to try to cheat the mountain gods by avoiding most of the 800' elevation loss and re-gain back up to the pass. "I'm smart" I thought. "I'll just contour around the SE face of Missouri and end up right below the pass".
The gods had the last laugh.
I should've known better when I saw the view of the face from the saddle. The pass is right at the snow patch in the center of the picture.
No problem. That slope should be at least somewhat solid. I'll just cruise right across it.
An hour later, I reached the pass, completely and utterly exhausted from slippery gravel and garbage rock sabotaging me on every other footstep. Word to the wise: You don't want none of this. I stayed right around 13K the whole way, but dropping down even a few hundred feet would've saved massive amounts of annoyance. I took a shot of the east ridge to remind myself that I could have taken an even worse route.
Roach: "...so rotten that it is relegated to this author's nightmares".
The hike back down the gulch seemed way too long. I was (pleasantly) surprised at the relative lack of other hikers, and grateful that I could just shut off my brain and go on auto-pilot. I kept reminding myself of the chilled sixer of Laughing Lab I had waiting for me in Buena Vista, and that kept me going until I reached the TH - at which point I bid adieu to Missouri Gulch, broke camp and headed for a relaxing evening.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):