| Missouri's Never-ending West Ridge
This trip is part of the Spring 14er's gathering near the Missouri Gulch Trailhead. I arrived at the group campsite Friday evening still wondering whether or not I wanted to backpack up to Chohesy lake and camp or to camp at the group site. After driving up to Rockdale and checking out the first stream crossing, I chose to camp down the road with about 30 + from the 14ers.com.
Bought this tent 5 years ago at the garage sale and this is the first time I'm actually using it.
Throughout the evening I enjoyed meeting and talking about climbing with many of the people from 14ers.com. Given the recent reports of the snow conditions on the normal route and north face couloirs for Missouri, I was leaning towards attempting the West Ridge from Rockdale. I met Brett (bhaydin) who was willing and up for attempting the West Ridge. We agreed to get up at 4 and head for the trailhead.
4AM Saturday morning came early and after a quick bowl of instant oatmeal and hot cocoa, we packed up and drove to Rockdale. Once determining the first stream was crossable, we drove across to the middle ground (more like a drive down the river 100 yards or so). Once we saw the second stream we could tell that although driving across would be possible, the road was blocked by snow 50 feet up so it wasn't worth it. We walked across to check the conditions and then on the way back to the truck, I decided it was a perfect time to take a swim in the stream. Landing on my shoulder in the stream, wondering if my day was already over, at least I was able to successfully test the waterproofness on my gear. The shoulder was very sore but hurts only when I lift the arm up. Knowing that the first three miles were very mild, I decided to try it out and see how it did.
We geared up and started out up the road using our headlamps.
The snow that early was pretty hard with only some minor postholing. About 1.5 miles up the road we decided it was time to strap on the snowshoes. The road up from Rockdale was covered with rolling hills of snow most of the way up to the 4wd parking lot. It is a relative straight forward hike, with a few short sections that are a little steeper.
Once we passed the 4wd parking lot, the trail got steeper and narrowed as we climbed the last section to the lake. Just before the lake, we found the turn off for the Missouri West Ridge trail and headed up to the left of the lake.
Once attaining the hill above the lake, it was very obvious that the trail through the trees and was not going to be discernible with all of the snow. We chose the steeper more direct route up to the West Ridge, staying along the rocks on the side. The picture shows the route we took but was taken in the afternoon after our glissade down the same track.
Once we cleared the first shoulder of the ridge, we saw what would be the next of many shoulders as we worked our way up the ridge. Slow and steadily we made our way from one shoulder to the next.
We were able to remove our snowshoes about 12,400 feet, but kept them with us for another 400 feet vertical to make sure we wouldn't need them on the next section. Finally at 12,800 feet we were able to stash them seeing enough of the remaining route to be comfortable without them.
The last major hurdle was the crux of the route up the ridge, shown here, which was a steep class 2+ climb, which was over relatively quickly.
After clearing that last major hurdle we could see the rest of the route to the summit which was only about 200 feet but 1/2 a mile or so. (Shown from the summit looking back)
The last ridges goes up and down over a couple of small subpeaks or points and then before that last climb to the summit there was a 200 foot or so snowfield across a steep slope. Luckily several of the other climbers had already beaten a path across it forming a ledge for us to follow.
Success at last
Thinking back, this is my first successful 14er summit in about 3 years time. I'm looking forward to many more this summer and in the years to come.
We reached the summit slightly before noon and spent about 1/2 hour enjoying the views and the calm winds. It was a strange wind day since coming across the ridge the winds were buffeting us pretty well, once we reached the summit, it was almost perfectly calm
Heading down we returned basically the same route we took up, including a long glissade down the snow fields above the lake. At the bottom of the glissade, the snowshoes went back on and we began the long slog out the road. The snow had softened considerably and in areas we were postholing even with snowshoes, especially in the meadows on the road where the sun had been hitting it all day.
All in all a wonderful, but long day and a successful summit of Missouri. I was very happy to have met so many great climbers at the gathering and really wish I could have stayed the second night. I'm looking forward to the next gathering.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):