Missouri Mountain Spring Ski Descent

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Date: June 6, 2009
Partners: 14ers.com group outing
Route:  North Face Couloirs
Stats:  4,500‘ climbed, 2,100‘ skied, 9 Miles, 7.5 Hours

When I noticed Thursday night that a 14ers.com group was heading up Missouri and that there was at least one other skier in the group, I decided to join the party.  The standard ski route on Missouri is north facing, so I figured the route would be in and even potentially decent this late in the year.

I pulled into the Vicksburg parking lot at 4:30am and located Tim as he was to be my ski partner for the day, he along with several others had camped the night at the TH.  We set off at 4:45am as a group of ten or so, it had only been and month and a half since my last trip to Elkhead Basin so things seemed familiar.

Mount Belford seen from Elkhead Basin in the morning.

After a two hour jaunt from the trailhead we were staring at the North Face.

The group ahead of Tim and I decided on an ascent route slightly east of the standard route, Tim and I being the only skiers stayed close for the majority of the day.  Since we were some of the last in the group, we received the luxury of an excellent boot pack set by the group ahead of us.

The wind began to pick up as we headed up the face, apparently the weather was not going to hold pretty for the entire day after all.

Tim working his way up Missouri’s North Face with Belford behind him.

A photo one of the group members took looking back down towards the trailhead.

Upon gaining the ridge, we were exposed to some intense wind gusts.  I was interested in getting to the summit because I was absolutely freezing, my pace quickened as a result.

On Missouri’s summit ridge with the summit in sight.

A look at the North Face couloirs.

After 20 minutes of scrambling and booting through spring snow, lostsheep5 and I summited Missouri.  A good portion of the group was only moments behind.  As soon as we summited I was surprised to see a spring gale heading our way from the south.  One by one the group summited, high fives were had, celebratory photos were taken.  I believe it was one person‘t first 14er summit, congrads dude!  Realizing that the weather was about to turn, the group began to head out with a sense of urgency.  Tim was just about caught up, he was nearing the summit as the weather really began to turn ugly.

We quickly geared up for the descent, switching into ski mode and throwing on our extra layers.  The weather was absolutely terrible; almost a complete whiteout and very cold, it caught me off guard.  The ability to descend two thousand feet in a matter of minutes was welcomed at this point.  I touched my tips to the register, stepped off the summit, and skied below the ridge to gain refuge from the winds.  Tim followed shortly thereafter and the ski descent was underway.  Although we had the option of traversing across to the C, we opted to ski the main couloir direct off the top.

‘The Davenport”, (shot over skis looking down the line).

Photo by TIm.

Tim‘s turn, he skied the crusty hard pack well.

Our primary interest was to get down as the wind was howling and fingers were freezing.

Photo by TIm.

Once we skied about halfway down the face the weather started to clear again.

The North Face was pretty well frozen and the runout was chalked with avy debris.  A straight line later and we met back up with the leaders of the 14ers.com group who had glissaded down from the ridge.  The snow here was incredibly tough to ski, breakable crust with sugar underneath.  Tim and I managed to ski to around 11,900‘ before finally removing the skis for the hike out.

After switching back into my tennies, I said goodbye to the front runners of the 14ers.com group and hightailed it back to the TH (I needed to be in Denver by 3pm).  I hit the parking lot at noon, ate a bag of Sun Chips, and booked it back to Denver.  It was nice meeting all you guys up there!  Tim thanks for the ski, let‘s get out again sometime!

-benners

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