| Missouri Mountain-Northwest Ridge
With only 5 fourteeners under my belt for 2008 because of various commitments from work, family and an overzealous bike racing schedule, I was not a happy camper. I was very upset earlier in the year, that my 14er season wasnt going as good as I wanted it to. I had to bail on two of my friends (Lordhelmut and Skasgaard) on the site earlier this year for a Wilson's climb and it sent my whole summer in a tailspin with regards to climbing. I want to apolgize to Brian and Kiefer again, and I hope that they will actually someday invite me to climb with them again.Sooo.. I actually found the time to climb over the labor day weekend. As I knew I had firm plans to climb Maroon Peak next weekend, I headed out to Missouri Mountain to get a little closer to finishing the Sawatch Range and to get my climbing legs back for Maroon the following week.
I left Denver at 430 am with my loyal climbing partner Jeter, who at 4 years old has a pretty nice 14er resume of his own climbing 16 fourteeners. As I drove up I-70 in the dark towards the Copper Mountain exit, I looked forward to the Missouri Gulch trail. What a beautiful amphitheatre I has remembered from my last climb of Belfors and Oxford. As I neared the 319 turnoff past Independence Pass I was reminded that indeed this was a Labor Day weekend. Two cars turned onto 319 in front of me and there was another behind me. When I got to the Missouri Gulch parking lot it was full. I got the last spot. As I got ready for the climb, car after car pulled in. There was nowhere to park. Many parked on the road.
So off Jeter and I went, I signed the register on the other side of the creek and I started the climb.
Jeter excited to be climbing
I had climbed Belford and Oxford two years ago and had remembered that the climb up to Elk Head pass and tree line was pretty steep and had many switchbacks.. You gain a lot of elevation very quickly. The sun was rising quickly and I did not need the headlamp any longer. I passed two other climbing groups before I got the creek crossing with the famous bouncing log bridge.
Jeter taking the easy way over the creek! Typical water dog!
With a lot of energy from being stoked about being outdoors and climbing, I reached the dilapidated cabin and the Missouri Basin in no time.
As I neared the basin I met two guys from Aspen named Jessie and Mike. They were super cool guys who live the dream. They have good jobs, ski 70 days a year and live in Aspen. They were planning on getting Belford and Oxford and I hiked with them until the Elk Head pass trail breaks off from Belford. Jeter and I continued on in the morning alpenglow.
Cloud Buildup over Missouri
As I listened to The Samples on my IPOD I marveled how beautiful this amphitheatre is, and how the CFI has done an amazing job with the trails up there. As the hike brought me closer to Missouri, the trail broke to the right up a steep hill with more switchbacks. The trail climbed steadily up to the ridge and the trail was very easy to follow and was in great shape. The trail is fairly steep in sections but is never difficult for someone in decent shape.
Jeter looking at a marmot as the trail turns uphill towards the ridge
Belford from ElkHead Pass
Jeter waiting for me.
When I reached the ridge, I noticed that the cloud buildup I had seen earlier in the morning, was certainly not looking good, but that the clouds were moving too fast, it was too cold and I took comfort that in my experience that these type conditions weren't conducive to clouds getting angry.
Huron off in the distance with a blanket of cloud cover
The Three Apostles with cloud cover.
"eatinhardtack" Zach and his friend on the ridge
I ran into 14ers.com member Zach "eatinhardtack" and his friend that was climbing his second fourteener. I urged his friend and everyone else I met that day to log on to Bill Middlebrook's 14ers site and get a username. Most stated that they loved the site, lurked and grabbed lots of info from 14ers.com but never got user name. They all said they would log on and participate.
The ridgeline to the summit is pretty long and contains IMO the crux of the route. It is short and sweet and only takes a few careful steps to easily clean it.
Jeter after coming down the "easy crux"
I reached the summit and had a stiff cold wind and only limited visibility from low lying clouds. Jeter and I ate our lunch and I took some photos. Of course Jeter wanted my turkey sandwich and not his Eukanuba!
I felt cold and the thought of descending in the rain didn't sit well with me. I started down after20 minutes on the summit. I felt really good going down and made quick work on the ridge and then the switchbacks back down to the Missouri Gulch Basin.
The technical route that Roach talks of in his book. According to Roach, one of only a hanful of technical routes in the Sawatch Range.
Jeter heard someone calling his name from the side of Belford. It was Jessie and Mike again. They turned around after summiting Belford because they were a little concerned with the approaching weather. We shared many stories about Aspen, and the upcoming skiing season.
As we descended into the woods, my IT band in my knee started to bother me quite badly. No Advil! Damn! It bothered me more than it has ever before. It has me a little concerned for my attempt of Maroon next Saturday. I will be taking a whole bottle of Advil. I caught up to Jessie and Mike in the parking lot, had an O'Dells IPA with them, while we soaked our feet in the creek and watched Jeter swim in the ice cold water. We exchanged numbers so that we can tele this winter in Aspen and I look forward to seeing those guys again.
Missouri Mountain is a great workout, not hard at all technically and a climb that is one of my favorites in the Sawatch because of the overall beauty and condition of the trail. I recommend this climb for any experience level. I think it is a class two most likely because it has sustained steep sections during the climb. It overall was a great day.
With any luck, I hope to get 4 more fourteeners this year to bring my total to 30. I still am hoping to climb all 58 in the next 3 years.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):