Peak(s):  Missouri Mountain  -  14,067 feet
Date Posted:  10/23/2008
Modified:  10/24/2008
Date Climbed:   10/23/2008
Author:  James Scott

 Snowy Missouri  

Trailhead: 6:00 AM
Summit: 11:20-11:30
Back to Trailhead: 2:30
Route: North Face Couloirs (on accident)

Hoping to climb one more mountain this year, Derek and I met and drove to the Missouri Gulch Trailhead at 5:45. There was a car there, and a tent pitched directly beneath a "No Camping in Parking Area" sign. Wish I'd got a picture.

According to the radio and 14ers weather, it was a shade below 10 degrees when we left. There was a couple inches of snow on the ground, and I quickly realized that 30 min miles were a pipe dream today.

Here is the first good view of the day:
And the trail below timberline:
And my foot in the snow, my toe covered by snow.

There were sections of what I call "junior varsity" postholing here and there, but the trail to timberline wasn't hard to follow, and the snow wasn't deep enough for real frustration. By the time we got to timberline, the snow was a good four inches, and some drifts were far deeper- above the knees in places.

Here is Missouri from timberline:
and Belford- where I dislocated my finger last October. I shook a deformed fist at Belford as I passed.
And the trail going through Missouri Gulch.

The snow deepened and slowed us down through the gulch, and by the time we got to the turn up toward the Missouri ridge, it was clear we were in for a long day. This is looking up the ridge- you can tell that the snow was deeper here and there.
We were doing fine, but the trail disappeared, and rather than traverse all the way to the right of the ridge, Derek had the idea of going directly up a couloir we were standing under. It didn't look too awful from the bottom, but this was a huge mistake. Roach calls these the North Face Couloirs, used for early season snow climbs. They are not good without the snow. They turn very steep very quickly. The ground was soft and wet, and seemed to disolve beneath our feet, leaving us sliding downward on each step. Eventually we got toward the top, and tried to make our way through deep snow to the ridge, doing varsity (thigh deep) postholing, but halfway across Derek decided we had to turn around- there was the real soft snow under a layer of crust, and Derek didn't like the sound. He thought there could be a slide. So we made it back to the rock out cropping (the big one in the middle at the top of the picture below). This was a nightmare. I've climbed the Bells and Pyramid, and let me tell you, this was 50 times worse. There was rarely a well anchored place for either hands or feet- every rock was pulling loose, and footholds were crumbling beneath us as we stood. Had we fallen, it would have been a major injury, and I was constantly filled with that "hanging by a thread" dread feeling. Here is the picture up the couloir:
and looking down toward the basin from about midway up:
I was trying to climb to the ridge without falling and without soiling myself, and eventually made the top, successful on both counts. Grateful, we looked toward the summit:

The ridge was long and snowcovered, but eventually we got to the final summit approach:

Here's Derek, then me, on the summit, Harvard in the background:

And Belford from the Missouri summit.

Obviously, we weren't interested in returning down the same couloir, and made our way all the way across the ridge to the unmissable cairn turning us down back into the gully. This made for much easier going, with some postholing, but solid snow, and even a short glissade.
Looking back up toward the ridge:
and looking down into the Gulch:

I'm not used to climbing with this much snow, so my legs were exhausted by the time we got back to the car, but I have to say that climbing snow-covered 14ers exposes a kind of beauty I just don't see in the summer months. More work, but a bigger payoff!

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

Thanks for posting this,
02/05/2011 00:22
did you happen to get any shots of Belford from Missouri?


Great trip report,
10/24/2008 16:17
glad you made it up and back safely!

James Scott

got it
10/24/2008 16:39
I added a picture of Belford from the Missouri summit. You heading up soon?
And thanks Greg!


10/24/2008 17:10
I‘m planning on climbing it on Tuesday (28th). From your pictures and comments I‘m thinking about taking Skis and skins for transportation. What do you think?



Yeah we‘re heading up there tomorrow
11/30/2010 17:28
and I'm trying to decide whether or not to take the snowboard. It looks really bony but it also looks like the gulleys might have just enough...

Thanks for posting the pic

James Scott

Skis or boards?
10/25/2008 03:59
I would be doubtful that skis and skins or a board would really be worth it. There‘s not enough places or enough snow that you would need them. Mostly you‘d carry them, ski down from the ridge to the gully, then walk them out. Plus today and tomorrow are supposed to be quite a bit warmer, so the snow levels might be decreasing some. Let me know how it works out.


Looks Good!
10/25/2008 17:18
Congrats on making it to the top and thanks for the photos. It‘s nice to see your comments on this early-winter climb.


10/26/2008 15:08
That just leaves Oxford for this valley, right? Sounds like you had to work for it but the reward was worth it and all digits are intact.


10/27/2008 18:52
”Shook a deformed fist at Belford” That cracked me up! You‘re right, snow covered mountains really add some elements that are not present during summer. Nice job!


Good Beta
10/28/2008 01:47
I am going to be heading up to this area over Halloween weekend, the pics and input will be great beta. Great TR and thanks!

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