Missouri Mountain - West Ridge
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|Difficulty:|| Class 2 |
|Total Gain:||4,250 feet - starting at Rockdale (2WD)|
3,150 feet - starting at the gate (4WD)
|RT Length:||11.75 miles - starting at Rockdale (2WD)|
5.75 miles - starting at the gate (4WD)
|County Sheriff:||Chaffee: 719-539-2596
|National Forest:||San Isabel|
|Wilderness Area:||Collegiate Peaks|
From Leadville: Drive 20 miles south on U.S. 24 and turn right on the Chaffee County 390 road.
From Buena Vista: Drive 14.5 miles north on U.S. 24 and turn left on the Chaffee County 390 road.
On the 390 road, drive about 9.6 miles and turn left into Rockdale (an old abandoned town). Drive down past 4 old cabins and then left near a 5th. If you don't have a high-clearance, short, 4WD vehicle, park in this area. Even with the right 4WD vehicle, driving through the upcoming water is not recommended until after July, when the water levels are lower. It's a 3 mile walk to the end of the road, near Clohesy Lake.
Follow the road through shallow water to Clear Creek. You must now cross two streams. First, cross Clear Creek to gain higher ground between the two streams. Then, cross the Lake Fork stream. Taken in September, 2007, here is a video of the stream crossings.
After the water, continue 2.6 miles to a large parking area at 10,880'. Most 4WDers park here, but it's possible to continue another 0.3 miles to a gate, near 11,040' (3 miles from Rockdale).
Photo #1 and Photo #2 show the area of the river crossings near Rockdale. After the crossings, hike/drive 2.6 miles up the road to a large open area which is often used for camping and 4WD parking. Continue 0.3 miles to reach a gate at 11,040' (Photo #3) - this is the "upper" trailhead. Pass the gate and continue up the road for another 0.1 mile to a point where road descends toward Clohesy Lake. In this open area, the Missouri trail starts on the left and goes up a small hill - Photo #4.
Leave the road and hike up through trees. Hike over a small hill, stay left, and reach a confusing trail junction near 11,100' - Photo #5. Continue straight through the junction and angle up (Photo #6) and away from Clohesy Lake - Photo #7. If you find yourself going straight on a trail along the side of the lake, you're on the wrong trail - backtrack and hike east up from the lake to hit the trail for Missouri. Near 11,200', reach a trail junction where another trail goes up to the left - Photo #8. This is shortcut trail that was made in recent years and heads southeast up through the trees. It may save you a small amount of time, but the main/old trail is a bit more scenic. The shortcut is often used on the descent. Continue on the old trail (Photo #9) as it gradually climbs the slope and enters the trees.
Near 11,400', reach the drainage/stream that runs west out of the basin below Missouri Mountain - Photo #10. Turn sharply left and climb steep terrain along the stream - Photo #11 and Photo #12. Near 11,600', and possibly after having to scramble over a few fallen trees, reach the trail junction where the shortcut meets the main trail - Photo #13. Leave the trees and continue along the drainage (Photo #14) to reach the basin below Missouri Mountain - Photo #15. Missouri's summit is ahead and Iowa Peak (13,831') is off to the right. Your next goal is to hike up a broad, grassy slope to reach the crest of the west ridge. Taken from Huron Peak, Photo #16 is another look at the remaining route. Follow the trail up to 12,200' (Photo #17) where it begins to fade away. Pick your line and begin climbing northeast up the slope - Photo #18. Haul up the slope (Photo #19, Photo #20 and Photo #21) until you are at the crest of the west ridge - Photo #22. The cairn seen in Photo #22 is near 12,800' and provides a good landmark for your descent.
Find a weak trail and hike northeast along the ridge - Photo #23. Reach a steep section near 13,400' and climb onto the first pile of rocks - Photo #24. The crux of the west ridge is next - Photo #25 - a 200-foot section of talus, between 13,500' and 13,700'. Climb steeply through the rocks on the left side (Photo #26) and then angle up to the right to reach the top of this section along the ridge crest - Photo #27.
Above the difficulties, ascend 150' on easier terrain to intersect the standard trail that comes up from Missouri Gulch (Photo #28), at the northwest end of the summit ridge. On the defined trail (Photo #29), hike along the summit ridge where you can finally see the summit - Photo #30. More than half way across the ridge, the trail dodges some difficulties by dropping about 20' (brief, Difficult Class 2) on the right side of the ridge - Photo #31 and Photo #32. After the drop, follow the trail to the summit - Photo #33 and Photo #34.
Be careful attempting the river crossing before August - it can be quite difficult. IMPORTANT: This route enters the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness area. Wilderness areas have special regulations and restrictions for party size, dispersed camping, campfires, etc. Also, dog owners should read the wilderness information carefully because some wilderness areas prohibit dogs to be off-leash and/or limit how close dogs can be to lakes and streams. If you have questions about the Wilderness area, please contact a U.S. Forest Service office for the National Forest(s) listed above.
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