| Missouri Mtn, West Ridge attempt
Missouri Mountain (14,067’)
West Ridge II, Class 2
Rockdale Trailhead, 6.0 miles, 4,450 feet
This was my second attempt on Missouri. The first was two years ago in the spring via Missouri Gulch. That attempt was unsuccessful due to deep soft snow in the couloirs below the summit. This year I took my 12-year old son on his first 14er attempt via the West Ridge route. We left the front range Saturday (9/21) afternoon. Chaffee County 390 was in good condition; save the never ending wash board conditions. There were two sections from what I remember that had significant pot holes. The turn off (left hand side) @ Rockdale was easy to find during daylight. At night, however, I can imagine it could be difficult to see.
The two stream crossings were about 1-2 feet deep and easily navigable in my stock 99 4Runner. The road from the stream up to Clohesy Lake is definitely a 4x4 road. At the upper portions of the road there were 4-5 large pools of standing water about 1-2 feet deep covering the road; all easily passable. There were 1-2 sections of the road that felt technically challenging, but clearance was not an issue.
About 100 yards below the 4x4 gate is a large open/flat area that is perfect for camping (sorry, forgot to snap a picture). We camped in the trees on the west side of clearing. There are enough parking spots right at the gate to support 4-6 vehicles. The aspens were just starting to change color. It's a beautiful time of year to be the high country.
The trail up into the basin below Missouri's west face gets steep as it parallels the basin drainage. The trail is easy to follow up through the trees. After a brief leveling off above tree line the trail climbs steeply up to Missouri's west ridge crest line. It was during our ascent to the ridge crest that it began to rain/sleet/snow. By the time we reached 13,300' the clouds had dropped elevation, the winds had picked up to 15-20 MPH and the snow turned heavy. After careful consideration and no break in the weather visible we decided to call it a day, turn back, and come back another day. My son was disappointed but now has a sense of how bad the weather can be at elevation. Safety first!
The route finding back down the steep section to Clohesy Lake proved to be more difficult. We managed to get off trail by staying too close to the drainage for too long. This put us below the trail. Once we realized the error of our ways we simply traversed the hillside heading north until we met up with the trail.
"Getting to the top is optional, getting down is mandatory!"
-- Ed Viesturs
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