Set Your Alarm Clocks Early
I want to file a brief trip report for those interested in Missouri’s north face. There’s probably some useful information to be shared considering the unusual warmth we’ve had this spring. Anticipating a warm day, I left the Missouri Gulch trailhead at 3:45AM. I climbed in the dark until reaching the base of the standard NW ridge route around 5:30AM. The standard route was almost completely buried in snow, so I chose to ascend a snowfield on it and traverse across a small, dry bench to access the basin beneath Missouri’s north face. The air temperature overnight was clearly above freezing, but a good radiational refreeze had consolidated the upper snow. At 6:15AM, I arrived at the base of the north face couloirs. I had forgotten how early the sun is coming up these days, so I was surprised to see the summit already in full sun. I knew things would heat up quickly, so I had to make haste.
From the bottom
At first light, the snow rapidly turned wet, and I began to hear scattered rockfall. I’m glad I brought my helmet. I entered the lower portion of the westernmost “C” couloir which is really more of a “Y” since it has two branches. The lower portion was inset enough to remain shady throughout my climb. The snow here was still completely frozen and perfect for crampons. I climbed quickly through the lower section to several rock knuckles that mark the curve in the “C.” Here, I hit the first sunstruck snow and the effects were immediate. I began postholing up to my waist through the snow bordering the rocks. I moved away from the rocks in hopes of finding more consolidated snow in the center of the couloir but, while this worked well in general, there were still occasional pockets of rotten snow lurking. I arrived on the windless summit at 7:30AM, glad that I left as early as I did.
From the middle
From the top
I followed the NW ridge back to Missouri Gulch. There were numerous snowfields along the ridge that were terrible to cross. I tried to hug the still shady western sides of the snowbanks when possible, but some postholing was inevitable. When I got to the face that the standard route ascends, I plunge-stepped down scree for a few hundred feet until arriving at a snow field I felt comfortable glissading. After a good, fast ride I had to cross a flat spot that was once again randomly rotten. Another short glissade got me down to the Missouri Gulch trail. Up to that point, I hadn’t seen a soul especially since Missouri is still a technical snow ascent by every route. I ran into my first hikers somewhere below the Belford trail junction. I was still wearing my helmet to keep the sun off my head since I forgot to pack a cap and was carrying my ice axe as a walking cane, so I guess I took some of the hikers by surprise. They seemed worried that they didn’t have the proper gear. Funny how much respect you command when you’re the only one holding an ice axe! Roundtrip took 6 hrs, 15mins. Leave early and go soon. I’m guessing there’s enough snow to hang on for another 2-3 weeks.
The snowfield I glissaded
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