On September 28, 2016 Dan and I hiked Missouri Mountain. This 14er is one of the Collegiate Peaks located in the Sawatch Range of the Rocky Mountains.
This wasn’t my favorite 14er. We hiked the Mt. Oxford and Mt. Belford 14ers last summer, and as this hike has the same [steep] approach for the first few miles it wasn’t NEW! and EXCITING! as most 14ers are to me. And I had more labored breathing and sluggish legs for this hike than normal so blah.
- Round Trip: 10.5 miles
- Start elevation: 9,650 feet
- End elevation: 14,067 feet
- Elevation gain: 4,500 feet
- Difficulty: 2nd class
- Trail head: Missouri Gulch
- Route: Northwest Ridge from Missouri Gulch
Getting there: From Leadville drive 20 miles south on US 24. Turn right on Chaffee County 390 road (2WD road) and drive 7.5 miles to the Missouri Gulch trail head parking area on the left.
From the parking area, take the Missouri Gulch Trail. This is the same start for the Mt. Oxford and Mt. Belford 14ers. Cross the bridge that spans Clear Creek and continue up the forest. After about 0.25 miles we hit the steep switchbacks that continue until 10,400 feet. It was pretty through the forest but I couldn’t appreciate it fully with the burning in my lungs consuming a lot of my mental energy.
At 10,800 feet we turned left to cross the stream and reached the east side of Missouri Gulch. Less than 0.5 miles more brought us to the remnants of an old shack. When we last hike Mt. Belford and Oxford we saw people using it as a camping spot. You could make this area a backpacking camp base from which to capture all three 14ers in the basin.
At about 11,300 feet we reached treeline and a reprieve from all the upping. We hit the trail junction at 11,600 feet. The Missouri Gulch trail (the one we wanted) continues to the right and the Mt. Belford trail is to the left. Then it’s alpine-zone hiking through the basin.
We stayed to the right again at the next trail junction (12,600 feet). Then it was MORE (!) upward zig zagging.
Near 12,900 feet the trail flattens a bit and continues northwest to the base of a talus slope. We followed the trail across the south side of the slope toward the saddle which sits at 13,700 feet. From here the summit is 0.75 miles further.
The trail continues along the ridge crest for some easier hiking until it drops about 20 feet for a brief “Difficult Class 2” section. Looking at a potential slide down for a thousand feet was kind of intimidating and I did some butt sliding on the way back.
After the drop we followed the trail to the summit.
We ate our normal summit food of cheese and crackers and then headed down. We used to make peanut butter and jelly but it fell out of favor. The savory-ness of cheese and crackers is a nice change from all the energy bars/sugar-containing stuff we eat on the way up. Try it! Or crackers and a peanut butter packet is another good option.
We could better appreciate the fall colors on the way down, such as this view from the bridge over Clear Creek:
As I mentioned, this wasn’t my favorite 14er. But a few years ago we set out on a quest to collect all the 14ers so really in the end it doesn’t matter if I liked this one!! I think we’re at 23 of 53. I’m already plotting the next one which will likely be of the winter 14er-variety.