Friday, July 15, 2011

Missouri Mountain

"Oh, it's an ass. I thought it was a mountain goat." Laurel sounded relieved. I took a few steps further on the trail and saw a guy in white shorts bending over to tie his shoes or something. Hmm... didn't look like a mountain goat to me. I took another few steps and saw a white donkey!

We took off for a few days to hike 14ers in the Sawatch range. Laurel had picked out a bunch of mountains, and I had the idea of linking together Missouri and Huron into a two-day backpacking trip (which became a bit of an epic adventure).

Most of the trip up Missouri was familiar territory, as we had taken that trail to hike Belford and Oxford last year. Once we got to the turn-off for Missouri, things got more interesting. The trail became steep and rocky with some exposure in a few places.

Along the way we ran into a guy hiking with his son. The father had fallen and dislocated his shoulder. My first-hand knowledge of dislocated shoulders finally came to use -- I explained how to reduce the dislocation and it actually worked!

We summited Missouri soon after that. The weather wasn't good enough to attempt the two peaks to the south, Iowa and Emerald. Emerald looked neat, maybe some other time we'll hike it.

From the Missouri summit we could see Huron, which looked very far away. Clohesy Lake was out of sight but we knew it was in the valley between the two 14ers. Just a matter of following the trail down to it... or so we thought.

Our Trails Illustrated map showed a "trail" descending from the saddle between Missouri and Iowa, down into a cirque, then down further into the valley. We hiked to where the trail should have begun. It appeared others had gone down at that point, so we figured that was it.

This was no trail! The slope was very steep and covered in loose sand, gravel, and rock -- all of which was treacherous to descend. It took us forever to glissade down 1,000 vertical feet of nasty rock. Our heavy backpacking packs didn't make it any easier.

Once in the bowl we managed to find a trail that seemed to go in the right direction. The interesting thing was that the trail also went in the other direction up a grassy slope to a ridge, and presumably up the ridge to the Missouri summit. That would have been a much nicer descent. (The next day we saw that trail drawn correctly in the Roach 14ers book. Trails Illustrated just plain got it wrong. Strike one.)

We got to the lake, set up camp, made dinner, and did a little exploring. It seemed like we had the whole area to ourselves. Other than hiking up and over a 14er, the only approach was on a long 4wd road with a difficult creek crossing, so we really didn't expect to see anyone. However, we did hear some hikers a few times in the night, one person said "Hey look, a tent!" Guess they were as surprised to see someone else as we were to hear them.

The other surprise for the night was that somehow I managed to pack up our water filter without the actual filter itself, so we used iodine instead.

The clouds turned a beautiful shade of red as the sun set behind the mountains.

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