Peak(s):  Missouri Mountain  -  14,067 feet
Date Posted:  06/29/2019
Date Climbed:   06/23/2019
Author:  MonGoose
Additional Members:   cliz, BillMiddlebrook
 Summertime POW!   

This has been the year that winter refuses to come to an end. Following an amazing spring where the snow seemed to hold on forever, winter conditions came roaring back on the first weekend of summer. The weekend forecast called for temps dipping in the low 20's overnight around 13,000' and then rising to the low 30's during the day with a few inches of snow. It was the coldness of the overnight forecast that caught our attention. Regardless of how much snow exists, a solid overnight freeze is needed to ski the following morning. And despite the record snowpack, there's been a lot of mush sitting there wasting away because conditions have been too warm. Was this our chance for one last ski descent in late June? We set our sights on Missouri Mountain because the north face is a steep line and holds a lot of snow.

Snowpack levels in the mountains are near all-time highs as we are just starting to hit peak runoff levels.

Olaf singing about the spring of 2019:

The Ascent

Beep! Beep! My watch alarm sounded at 3:15am, as I slowly awoke in my sleeping bag in the back of my jeep at the Missouri Gulch trailhead. Looking out at the cold air and fresh dusting of snow, I knew we had a few hours of hiking before we could even put our skis on. We left the trailhead a little after 4am in trail runners with skis and boots on our back, heading up into the cold air into the darkness. There's something magical about early starts. I always think it's the 1,000' you gain before you're even awake. When dawn arrived at 5am, we had just made it to the river crossing in an area that was completely wiped out by an huge avalanche earlier this year. Throw a few inches of fresh snow on top of the downed trees and it felt surreal in the early morning light. The Colorado Fourteener Initiative (CFI) has done a good job clearing a clearing a path through this area.

The trail goes through an area that was taken out by an extraordinarily large avalanches this spring.

When we popped out of the trees around 11,200', the bitter cold wind welcomed us to Missouri Gulch. My feet were getting cold in my trail runners with skis and boots on my back. With our early start, we had been at the head of the pack but other groups were starting to catch us. We could see a long trail of headlamps following us up from the trees.

Mount Belford on the left and our target, Missouri Mountain coming into view.

Finally, around 11,600', there was enough snow to put on the skis and start skinning. At this point we had a decision to make. Should be bail on Missouri and head to the much closer Belford? Or should we stay on course for Missouri? After a group discussion, we decided to stick with the plan and go for Mizzou. Most of the other hikers veered off towards Belford as we headed across the valley in brisk headwind towards the mighty Missouri Mountain.

Skinning near 12,000' as Missouri Mountain looms in the distance.
Craig skinning to the base of the couloir.

Around 12,800', it was time to switch over to crampons and begin the couloir climb. The summit loomed only 1,500' above us and the north face couloir was packed with fresh snow. It was going to be an amazing ski, we just had to get up there.

Bill and Craig ascending the couloir.
Bill kicking steps about halfway up the couloir as the winds pick up.

The higher we climbed in the couloir, the deeper the fresh snow. The bone-chilling winds pounded us from what felt like all directions as my crampons kept floating in the powdery snow. My mind began to drift to a far off place...

Lana keeps my thoughts warm when I feel cold. ♥

Back to Reality...

Near the top of the couloir we encountered the strongest winds we had seen all day - 30 mph gusts in 20 degree temps. We were so close, just a few hundred feet away was the summit.

Craig getting wind blasted at 14,000 feet.
My last hundred feet to the summit. (photo by Bill Middlebrook)

The Summit

When I reached the top of the couloir, I climbed the remaining few feet to the summit. The winds were ferocious, nearly blowing me over. I tucked down behind the summit in a little spot Bill had found. "Good job, you did it!" - Bill yelled over the howling wind. "Thanks, Happy Summer!" - I shouted back. A few minutes later Craig joined us.

Seeking shelter from the winds behind the summit block.
Mount Harvard looms in the distance.
Obligatory summit photo in cold, windy, feel-like winter conditions.
Purple summer snowflakes all around!

The Ski Descent

We left the summit just after 11am and dropped into the couloir. We estimated about 4" of new snow had fallen over night and we discovered stashes up to 16" in a few places. The snow was cold and all powder sitting on top of the solid, consolidated snow that remained from winter. In the winter, the avalanche danger on a slope like this would be too high, so we generally wait until the spring and ski it as corn. Today was special because of these rare conditions - we had fresh powder sitting on a consolidated snowpack. Our ski descent was truly amazing!

Finally time for some skiing.
MonGoose milking the goods! (photo by Bill Middlebrook)
Bill thinks he's in a ski movie.

After hours of flat light, the sun finally broke through as we headed down the couloir.

Craig letting it fly.
It doesn't get better than this. (photo by Bill Middlebrook)
Bill halfway down the couloir.
Craig can't stop, won't stop!
Okay, now this is just ridiculous. (photo by Bill Middlebrook)
The ghost of Craig screaming down the mountain.
Well, that was pretty amazing.
And it just keeps going, and going!

Our line from the summit - darkened to show ski tracks. (modified from Bill Middlebrook photo)
Cruising the valley floor as temps finally start to warm up.
Around 11,600' is was back to boots.

Another look at the avy area on the way down. Most of the new snow had already melted.

Closing Thoughts

Overall, it was one of the best ski mountaineering days I've ever had. Despite a long day of bootpacking, continuous winds hitting our face and getting snow blasted, we persevered. And it was worth every moment for a very special ski. I would like to thank Bill and Craig for coming out for this adventure You are both great partners. Although we didn't know exactly what to expect given the crazy forecast, we were rewarded for what ended up being one of my favorite ski days ever. Thank you!

- MonGoose

My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions
Whoop whoop!
06/29/2019 08:58
Glad all of you had a winter wonderland while I am melting in Spain with the heat wave.Coming back to CO tomorrow!.Cannot wait to go up to my beautiful & precious mountains !.


06/29/2019 11:08
A day I won€„¢t soon forget. Thanks for the report, Nick!

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