Missouri Gulch 14ers Sept 2nd, 2007

I set off with my friends Peter and Andy at 645am from the Missouri Gulch trailhead in route to Belford and Oxford, with the option of tacking on Missouri at the end of the day. The trail is steep, but in great shape, and water is plentiful in the upper section. We reached the turn off to Mt Belford just before 8am, and started up the steep CFI trail. The trail is very well constructed and as easy hiking as steep stairs can be. This was Peter and my first big day out since Leadville and we were surprised how well our legs had recovered as we pushed on uphill. Andy was hurting a little bit from the altitude, though was still maintaining a good pace not far behind. Peter and I topped out on Belford at 1005am, Andy showed up just 10min later.

On top we ran into a man and his young son, Peter and I thought, "that kid looks really young to be up here". With that it didn't come as a surprise that it was Scott Paterson and his 5yo son Kessler. Peter had met Scott once before, I had only chatted with him online. We spent 20min talking with them, and I must say Kessler is such a wonderful ball of energy, and incredibly friendly. At 1020am we said our goodbyes and Peter and I took off ahead of them (and Andy) heading toward Oxford. The descent off Belford is steep, while the ascent up to Oxford is real gradual, and I summited peak #2 at 1115am.

There were a handful of people on the trail, but it wasn't as crowded as I thought it would be on the Sunday of Labor Day weekend. I told Peter that I was feeling good and was going to head off for Missouri. He said he'd wait for Andy then cruise down and meet me at the car. I jogged back over to Belford, then down to Elkhead Pass on good trail. From the pass I stood and stared at Missouri's East ridge for 10min, trying to decide if I wanted to climb the route. Every description I'd read said the ridge was horribly loose and dangerous class 4, but it was so direct a route as to be tempting. In the end I opted to drop down on the South side of the pass and traverse around Missouri's South face. I stayed high, finally reclimbing a grassy slope to a short class 3 rib that brought me onto Missouri's ridge about 200ft above the Missouri/Iowa Pass. The ridge was steep but easy going, and I summited Missouri Mt at 105pm.

Here I ran into the crowds, as a group of 8 arrived shortly after I. I took off down the standard route heading down the NW ridge back toward Missouri Gulch. While there are rough sections of trail along the ridge, there are also several very runnable sections. I made great time down the trail, flying through the junction and back to the main trail. The upper sections of the Missouri Gulch trail are rough at times, then return to smooth running surfaces. The switchbacks down low are incredibly smooth, and I made it back to the trailhead at 216pm, 7h and 31min after starting. As it turns out I somehow beat Peter and Andy down the trail, which was a problem as Peter had my keys. So I stretched and soaked in the creek as I waited for Peter and Andy to arrive(40min later). This would be my 4th weekend this summer spent in the Winfield area, and last. The area is always pretty, but it's time to explore some new areas of our wonderful state.