Note: this report was written from memory on February 27th, 2004. I know that is pretty old, but it was a memorable trip, and I believe it to be accurate.
I had been climbing a lot this spring, and had just returned from a long trip. I really wanted to get out again, so I talked my dad into coming with me. We headed a short distance up Missouri Gulch, and camped in some open trees around 11,000 feet. Dad stayed in camp while I headed off for the summit.
I left rather early, a bit before sunrise, but I should have left even earlier, as the snow became a bit soft near the summit. After filtering some water in the waning darkness, I headed off up the trail. As soon as I had reached timberline, the north face of Missouri, which I intended to climb with my rented crampons, was displayed in it's full glory.
On the approach to the face, I was fortunate enough to see two ptarmigans. One was in it's summer plumage, while the other at higher altitude (about 500'), was still showing some of it's winter colors. They were very well camouflaged, but I was able to notice them when they were frightened by my presence and started to move.
I continued up the basin, and sloshed through the trough beneath the north face, as it was quite soggy with meltwater. As I approached, I tried to choose which coulior I would ascent. They become much more difficult as you look east, climber's left. I chose to ascend a coulior which looked pretty difficult, but appeared to have good snow coverage.
When I hit the snow, I could feel it was already becoming a bit soft, but as the ascent is fairly short vertically, I chose to continue. I followed my chosen route, and soon found myself quickly gaining altitude as the coulior narrowed. The snow was very good, and I made good progress easily kicking steps into the snow. I paused for a break, and the view downward was incredible.
As I continued higher, the snow became considerably softer and weaker. By the time I neared the ridge, the snow was very unstable, and I became a bit concerned. I decided to remove my crampons, and move the the rotten loose rock which lined the coulior. Fortunately, I was within a couple hundred feet of the ridge crest.
After some exciting moments on the poor rock, I made the ridge crest. The view was great. I believe it is Mt. Columbia in the photo, but I am not entirely sure. If you know, please tell me. Anyway, in the photo you can also see how poor the rock is on this route. It is a good idea to wear a helmet on these coulior climbs, as the rock often comes down the mountain, especially when other climbers are present.
When I reached the summit, it was still pretty early in the day, and the weather was quite pleasant. I took an obligatory summit self portrait, and sat down for a while to eat. I did not see anyone else on the entire mountain that day. I surveyed routes up Mt. Belford for a while, and then started on the descent.
I glissaded down the largest, most obvious, and gentlest coulior on the north face. It went rather well, except the snow had become very wet, and in a small, localized area, I crashed through the upper layer of snow. With a little routefinding, I was able to keep to the more stable snow.
Near where I had seen the ptarmigan on the ascent, I spotted a marmot, and incredibly, It stayed upright, watching me as I took it's picture. Some marmots are more timid than others, but I was happy to get such a good picture of one. I was back at camp quicker than I had expected, and I started to rest for my attempt on Mts. Belford and Oxford the next day.
A route photo can be found here.
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