This trip report/recap/long winded photo share is a tad late but I think its perfect timing…all the misery of the vicious switch backs and never ending ridge has faded so the whining will be minimal!
A few weeks ago we decided to give hiking with Paula another chance since we failed miserably at meeting her for Mount of the Holy Cross. As a federal government employee Paula had all kinds of time to kill so we picked a Monday morning for our hike up Missouri Mountain.
Thinking a meet up closer to home would solve all our problems we met at the Dino Lots before 4am then headed into the mountains together. I’m not quite ready to blame my luck on Paula (she rocked my socks off on my birthday run!) but I did manage to leave my wallet at home again…and this time I got to explain my stupidity to a friendly police officer. Oops.
One speeding ticket later we arrived at the trailhead and talked ourselves out of the warm car, into the brisk autumn air and up the trail of switchbacks. As we all knew from hiking Mt Oxford and Mt Belford the first 1.5 miles of the hike were painful. There was no gradual climb, instead you almost immediately headed uphill.
Once we branched off to the Elkhead Pass/Missouri Mountain just short of 2 miles into the hike the intensity of the climbing mellowed out. We hiked across an open valley surrounded by 13,000+ foot mountains. It was truly stunning and the gradual climb gave us a chance to really take it all in.
A few miles later we reached another split in the trail and veered right to start climbing switch backs again. As we climbed we could see the long trail the swung along the side a 13’er en route to our ultimate destination – Missouri Mountain. I still haven’t decided if seeing the trail was a good or bad thing. On one hand, we knew where we’d end up and there were not daunting switchbacks. On the other hand, we could see how far we had to go. At the very least there was no way to get lost!
As we hiked the trail got snowy, which wasn’t bad on the way up but it was bound to be a slushy mess on the way down. We did what we could to enjoy it while slipping and sliding all over the place. Fun Fact: Crampons would have been hugely beneficial…shoulda, coulda, woulda…
Eventually we made it to the top…of the ridge. Yea. The ridge. Not just any old ridge. The never ending ridge that went on for nearly a mile! Along the way we summited a random, nameless 13’er then trudged on along the ridgeline staring off at the far away summit of Missouri Mountain.
Honestly, it was a relatively uneventful hike up. We saw no one else on the trail, the skies were perfectly clear and the trail was crazy easy to follow. For the first time ever we had a mountain summit all to ourselves for as long as we wanted – there was literally no one else around! Which meant we got a little goofy…
Not only was it a bluebird, cloudless day there was essentially no wind! We’ve had great luck this year with calm summits – there is nothing better than actually being able to enjoy your lunch on a mountain top without freezing or being afraid you’ll get blown away! With the seasons changing we’ll have to start paying attention to the forecasts, especially with wintery wind…because, yes, there will be winter summits! We have high hopes for our winter!
As expected our trek back down the mountain was rather treacherous – all of the packed snow became slushy, muddy and littered with rogue slabs of ice. Once again we were wishing we had crampons! Though it did feel good to know we hadn’t just forgotten our crampons – we honestly don’t own any and clearly need to go shopping! Because I need an excuse for that…
The gradual stretch of hiking through the valley felt luxurious after we slid our way down the mountain side but it was a short lived victory. The final 1.5 miles was brutal. It kind of kicked our butts on the way up so we were prepared for the incline. We were not prepared for how long it would feel. For nearly an hour we said all of four words to each other and I think they were “I have to pee”. We were definitely a lively bunch at this point.
While hiking up we chatted about a little detour to Buena Vista for a late lunch/early supper but by the time we got to the car all any of us wanted to was take a nap. A nice, long nap that lasted until the next morning. Luckily we’d stashed a Mt Dew in the car so before long I was Chatty Cathy…lucky for no one but me. Poor Chris and Paula.
I will say I am more than glad to have summited all the 14ers accessible from the Missouri Gulch trailhead. If I never have to hike that first zig zag of switch backs again I’ll be happy. I won’t say never, ever again…but it’ll take some convincing!