Peak(s):  Missouri Mountain  -  14,067 feet
Date Posted:  05/28/2007
Date Climbed:   05/26/2007
Author:  scotthsu
 Missouri - N face snow climb & ski   

Route: Missouri Mtn N face couloir
Who: scotthsu (Scott) and Nice Axe! (Amy)
Altitude climbed: 4450 ft.
Ski descent: ~2400 ft.
Time up: 5:20
Time down: 2:45
Equipment: avalanche probe, beacon, shovel, crampons, ice axe, skis, skins, poles

We slept at the Missouri Gulch TH and started hiking at 6am with skis/boots strapped to our packs (we were delayed about 40 minutes due to major pack issues). This was to be Amy's first 14er ski descent!


Temp was probably already in the low 40's and there was not a cloud in sight. Due to the warmth, we set a fast pace, not wanting to get shut down by soft snow. We polished off the first 1,000 vertical feet in a blistering 1/2 hour. The trail was completely snow free, and then there were increasingly bigger patches above ~11200', no problem hiking around or over.

Here was an early view of our objective (ascent in red, ski descent in blue):

There were continuous strips of snow starting around 12000', but we hiked almost to the signed trail fork at 12600' between Elkhead Pass and Missouri Mtn before putting on skins. (We managed to stay on skis down to about 11600' on the way down with a few shoulder carries.)

We could see remnants of few small wet slides on NE aspects, including the couloir toward which we were headed.

Scott starting the bootpack around 13200':

There was a ~2-4" layer of fairly new snow (maybe 3 days old) that felt wintry in places and a bit crusty and hollow in others. We were careful to stay near the edge of the couloir or on spines. The snow was fairly firm on the way up, and it was relatively easy to set a bootpack. We had ice axes out, but crampons were unnecessary on our ski boots.

Amy traversing from the edge of the couloir to a spine in the center:

Amy approaching the summit:

A view from the summit back down Missouri Gulch. You can see the continuous strips of snow pretty far down the gulch, which we later skied.

Looking down the couloir:

Scott's first turns:

The snow had turned soft and wet pretty quickly during our fairly short stay on the summit (about 20 minutes--we started skiing around 11:45am). After a turn or two, I knew that the upper layer of new-ish snow would slide, so I deliberately did a hard turn or two, and a ~15 ft wide swathe of snow slid down the couloir all the way to where we started bootpacking (about 800 vertical ft), leaving behind a well-consolidated spring surface. I did this a few times, and cleared out about half the couloir's width. We knew there was nobody below us. The only other people we saw was a team of 3 hiking up the ridge to the NW.

Amy's first turns:

More sweet turns:

In the previous shot, you can see the entire wet slide we deliberately set off. The visible S's were made on silky smooth snow!

Amy's PSIA form (Thanks to Taos instructors Dave and John!)

Looking back at the couloir:

We were able to ski fairly continous snow strips down to about 11600', where we took a snack break and changed back to hiking boots. Several Belford hikers passing by asked us if we were the skiers setting off slides on Missouri. (The Belford hikers all pretty much said they did not need snowshoes, ice axe, or crampons, although the ridge to Oxford was apparently still full of snow. With ice axe, several people glissaded down parts of the NW aspects of Belford.)

Finishing a great day:

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

your stalker this weekend
11/30/2010 17:20
Hey Scott,
My wife (Sarah) and I apparently followed you guys around this weekend. I'm a friend of Jeff Hylok's, and he has actually introduced me to you at one point in time in the Pajarito parking lot. Jeff knew we were planning to ski Missouri this weekend, so he gave us a call after talking to you on Saturday. We weren't sure whether it would be worthwhile to take skis, so thanks for the secondhand trip report! We skied Missouri early Sunday morning and headed home after grabbing some lunch. Oddly enough, we ended up behind a yellow SUV with backcountry skis on the roof on the way up the main hill road and even into Smith's parking lot. We were sure it had to be you guys since there aren't too many people traveling to Los Alamos with ski gear this time of year. Small world!
P.S. We would have liked to thank you in person in Smith's, but we bee-lined to the Ben & Jerry's and never saw you.

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