Missouri Mountain Trip Report

Trail: West Ridge, Class 2, 5 miles, ~ 3300 ft elevation gain   

After a rather eventful summer chock full of technical snow and rock climbs I decided it was really time to take a break and go back to tagging a few 14ers.  I had bailed from an attempt on Mt. Lindsey a week before due to horrendous winds but Jen and I were revving to try something again and decided to go for Missouri Mountain via it's less traveled west ridge.  I mentioned this to my friend Chris who wanted to come and he mentioned it to Colette, the wife of one of Chris's partners who also wanted to come.  We decided to make it a foursome and picked Sunday, September 24th as the day to try the route.  There had been quite a bit of snow recently and we weren't sure what to expect but all of us were itching to get into the high country.

Colette met Jen and I around 4:30 in the morning and we headed up to Golden where we met up with Chris.  The four of us then headed down towards Chafee County 390 (15 miles south of Leadville) and made our way up the road towards the Rockdale Trailhead. The first 10 or so miles passes on a well maintained dirt road before turning off and becoming harder.  Right at the beginning of  the 4wd part of the road we came to an impasse.  There is normally a stream crossing but the recent snows and melting had swelled it to 100 feet wide and 3 feet deep.  I decided to go for it and quickly came across a beaver damn.  Seeing no other alternative I made my way over the damn and into water that was about three feet deep (Jen really loves this type of stuff :) )  

Beaver Dam

Once past the water the road quickly worsened and was snow covered but the Tacoma always does a good job and we soon found ourselves at the very snowy trailhead.  

Rockdale Trailhead

We started hiking at about 9:00 and found that the whole trail was well covered in snow.  The route was pretty obvious and we followed a dip in the snow which marked the location of the trail.  After a time we switchbacked up a path next to an obvious gully and then turned North into the basin between Missouri Peak and Iowa Peak.

Heading To The West Ridge

At this point things became considerably steeper and deeper as we headed up towards the ridge proper.  Along the way we passed a gentleman from Boulder named Jim who would later turn around.  Chris was definetly the strong one for the day and post-holed up the ridge leaving great boot placements for me.  As I usually do once a year I neglected gaiters and ended up with very wet feet by the day's end.

On The Ridge

Postholing Fun

A Pretty Day In The Sawatch

I imagine this route is pretty tame in the summer time but the recent snowfall had left accumulations of one to three feet which made our excursion much more difficult.  It also made everything around us quite lovely and meant we had the whole ridge and summit to ourselves.  This never happens on Sawatch 14ers during the tourist season so I was quite happy about the snow.

We spent quite a bit of time on the ridge and passed through several false summits before coming to a moderately corniced section.  After this section a series of towers prevented easy passage and we made our way down and around the first few.  There were several points where the slopes below us were maybe 30-35 degrees and this added a fun element of spice to the trip.  We made our way down from the ridge, past the first towers, and over terrain which went from two foot deep snow to exposed scree.

Jen & Colette On The Ridge

Jen & Colette Passing The Final Towers

After a bit of traversing we came to a clear point in the snow where we were able to head right up 30 degree snow to the summit.  Snow climbing in September was quite a treat.

The Last Push

We finally arrived on the summit at 2:00. The weather was absolutely perfect and we spent about 30 minutes eating, chatting, and enjoying the views. We had originally planned on trying Emerald and Iowa but the snow had made the whole excursion challenging enough that we all felt that we had enough for the day.  We also unanimously vetoed going back the way we came as it would take hours.  It looked like the easiest way down was to descend to the saddle between Missouri and Iowa so we opted for this route.

From The Summit

Once we reached the saddle we carefully traversed diagonally down the slopes to a point where there were no rocks in front of us and glissaded the rest of the way. The slopes probably reached 35 to 40 degrees but the snow was good enough that we didn't need axes (although we had them). Unfortunately the glissade ended to soon and we had to posthole through  quite a bit of stuff before reaching the descent from the basin.  This part proved to be the crux of the day as the terrain was to snowy to see the rocks underneath but not snowy enough to prevent a lot of banged shins and knees on the way out.

Glissading Down

Heading Out

When we reached the end of the basin where we were to descend into the trees we saw three people coming back down from the ridge.  It felt good to be the only group that didn't turn the climb that day.  The descent through the trees was pretty annoying as much of the snow had melted out leaving tons of mud.  Mud is never fun on steep, slippery descents.  We made it back to the truck around 4:30 and headed out.  I snapped a quick picture of the stream before crossing it again.  I also took a picture of the poor beavers whose damn I had destroyed.  On the way out I noticed that the whole population of trees had been pretty much decimated  but there were still enough for the beavers to rebuild.  I felt bad about driving over their damn but I'm not sure where else I could have gone (although  I did manage a little junction which avoided to much new damage on the way out).  

All in all it was a very fun and rewarding day.  Colette is a medical student about to be assigned to her residency so hopefully she and her husband are able to be placed in Denver.  It is always nice to have interesting partners to climb with.  Chris was, as usual, a very fun partner and I thank him for breaking trail.

The Road Out

The Beaver's Home

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