| Missouri - East Ridge-ish
Start from Missouri Gulch TH: 5:00 AM
Mt. Belford summit: 7: 45 AM
Mt. Oxford summit: 8:30 AM
Elkhead Pass: 9:35 AM
Missouri Mountain summit: 11:20 AM
I think we're all pretty familiar with the Bel/Ox route, but I wanted to provide some potential insights into a route that isn't well-traveled. I had to qualify my route with the "-ish" because I certainly did not stay true to the ridge in order to summit. Thanks to Monster5 who shed some light on a way to skirt the ridge to the south which served as a general guide for me.
The first two photos show the ridge from Elkhead Pass. You can see it starts off pretty mellow then gets hairy. How hairy remains to seen.
After ascending the grassy slope on a faint trail, the ridge gets a little rocky but remains fairly solid. You can scramble across the top or bypass to the left (get used to this latter option).
Ultimately, all roads lead to a large headwall. There is actually a point in the foreground that you can bypass to get to the crux of the route, but it's hard to tell from the photo. Don't try to climb over it because it will present an impossible downclimb on the other side. It's difficult to get a sense for how intimdating this part of the ridge is from the picture. I was awestruck by its magnitude and the fact that Roach has "relegated it to his nightmares" because of its looseness certainly gives you pause.
At this point, I started tracing Monster5's route that bypasses this area down to the left. The first picture looks back at the bottom of the crux area (the crux is in the top left of the picture), and the next picture looks ahead. I hugged the bottom of the solid rock while traversing through the scree. In my opinion, the scree was never that loose, and I never felt unsafe on it. Granted, I probably only weigh in at around 160/165 with all my gear, so if you are heavier it might be a different story.
The next portion of the route traverses in much the same way; staying below the cliffs but above the looser scree. You cross several ribs which reveal further scree gullies to cross. In this regard, it reminded me of the Ellingwood Ridge on La Plata, though that ridge was much much longer and noticeably steeper in my opinion.
There are no cairns on this route, but you know that eventually you have to start going back up towards the ridge. I felt that I needed to traverse far enough so that I wouldn't pop out on the crux, but after crossing maybe four or five gullies, the cliffs provide an opportunity to start working your way back up. As you traverse, the cliffs present easier ascending routes, which you'll want to take advantage of because I felt that the scree gullies started getting wider and looser. The first picture looks at the cliffs that I passed up, though it looks like they offer some class 4+ climbing. The second picture looks up at the route where I began my ascent. From this point on it was pretty much a mix of solid class 3 climbing and not-that-loose scree and was a lot of fun.
A look at the some pictures of the ascent. If it ever gets too loose, there are some more solid options on the fringes.
Looking up to the ridge. The final pitch up to the ridge for me was just to the left of that snowfield at the top on some nice rock.
Several ridge points become apparent as you ascend, but it's difficult to discern which one is summit. In my case, the summit was a couple points to the left (you can see two people on top).
This picture looks back on the easternmost ridge point that is almost as high as the summit (does that make sense?). If you look up from the basin, it is the top of that broad-looking slope above the crux. So, I think you could start ascending earlier than I did, and it would presumably put you on that broad slope.
I traversed over two other points on the ridge (class 2+) to reach the summit.
The scree traverse is not that miserable, and the cliffs offer some awesome climbing opportunities. Roach (and others) detest the rotten and "asstastic" (not a geological term, by the way) rock on the crux, but it seems to be isolated to that section. To me, this route offers a favorable and safe alternative to descending Elkhead Pass to the Missouri standard route.
Thanks again to Monster5 for indicating that this was possible as well as to the others who responded to my forum post with very useful information (crossfitter, Iman, kansas, tuba, VT).
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):