We decided to do a weekend backpacking trip into the Collegiate Peaks wilderness and attempt Missouri Mountain from the west ridge instead of the main northwest route.
Friday Aug 24, 2007
From Leadville, we took Hwy 24 south for about 20 miles to CR-390 West. We took this for about 9.6 miles and then headed south on a 4wd trail that immediately passed 4 old cabins. This is kind of hard to see or describe, but if you don't see the cabins after going down the road a little ways, you know you're on the wrong road. Near the 5th cabin, you take a left down the hill and go through a few river crossings of Clear Creek (requires high clearance). We then continued on the 4wd Clohesy Lake road. This is a fairly serious 4wd trail and will require a vehicle with decent clearance. To give you a little more concrete of an idea... I have a Jeep Wrangler on 35's with a 3.5" suspension lift. But you wouldn't necessarily need that much. We saw a few stock SUVs at the top, such as a 4-runner. The trail is absolutely beautiful, stretching on for a few miles and being bordered on both sides by the Collegiate Peaks wilderness. The road eventually dead ends into a parking area. We parked and began hiking down the trail with our packs. You will soon see Clohesy lake to your right. At this point we started branching off to our left into the forest to find a decent place to camp. It was hard to find anything remotely level, but we did the best we could.
Saturday Aug 25, 2007
In the morning, we headed out from our campsite at about 9am to look for the west ridge trail to Missouri Mountain. This is a lesser traveled trail, so you might have some difficulty. Just keep ascending towards the cleanest ridge line you can find and stay roughly parallel (north/south) to Clohesy lake and you should run into it. According to 14ers.com, a good general altitude level to branch off from the main trail is about 11,000'. We found the trail fairly easily within an hour or so in the morning, and headed up. Above treeline, the trail will curve north and approach the big broad south face of the west ridge. At this point we couldn't really see a clear trail, but just tried to stay close to the ridgeline and move upwards. We did run into a bit of scree and had to do a little bit of light scrambling towards the edge of the west ridge. Once we were on the ridge we met up with the trail again and followed it all the way to the summit. Note that the west ridge route does meet up with the main northwest route on the ridge, so you're not really avoiding the summit crowds by taking the lesser traveled route. Near the summit, there is a steep section of loose rock that you must traverse. Some people seemed to have difficulty with this, although we found it to be pretty manageable. We summited by about 1pm.
On the descent, we decided to branch off the west ridge trail a bit earlier and head down the broad open south face, thinking that it might be easier. This was a mistake. It was steep, there was lots of scree, and we ended up sliding and falling a few times. At one point, we were taking a break and accidentally let go of a pack. We watched it tumble hundreds of feet down before coming to a halt. In retrospect, it was kind of funny.
All in all, we made it down without any major incidents, but were happy and relieved to approach the beautiful lake once again.
We moved our camp closer to the lake and took it easy Saturday night.
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