July 25, 2013
Missouri Mountain, though located next to the Collegiate Peaks, was not named after the University of Missouri. The name was bestowed by a group of miners who hailed from that state.
Missouri is one of my favorite peaks in Colorado because it's one that teaches you to enjoy the journey rather than focus on the summit. It's a long trek to the top and if you only focus on what appears to be the summit, you will be disappointed repeatedly. The summit barely stands out from its ridge and is so far toward the end of the valley that the four points earlier on the ridge appear to be higher.
Occasionally, hikers will be fooled to the point that they stop trusting the trail and set off on their own. The only result of a detour is adding four unranked 13,000-foot peaks to your summit check list. So don't get too focused on spotting the summit.
Take time to notice beautiful Missouri Creek. Stop at treeline to visit the old miners cabin. Keep a keen eye out for wildlife - I've seen an elk herd on the high ridges every time I've visited this valley in the summer. Above all, remember to enjoy yourself.
Missouri also presents a great opportunity for those looking to climb their first snow couloir route. The trail reaches the north face at approximately 13,000 feet and then takes a hard right to ascend to a saddle on the ridge before turning back toward the summit. There are a half dozen or more couloirs that the trail passes.
The north face of Missouri also tends to hold snow well into July, making these couloirs great for spring ascents. Each couloir the trail passes is a little easier and a little shorter than the previous one. Find the one that you think suits you and head up. They all reconnect with the trail on the ridge west of the summit, so no matter which one you chose turn east and make your way to the top.
I must add a word of caution for any neophyte couloir climbers. Before attempting a steep snow climb, be sure you have the proper gear and learn the art of self-arrest. An ice axe is a life-saving tool in the hands of a competent user, and watching a YouTube video on self-arrest does not make one a competent user.
Friesema is a Colorado native who has scaled each of the state's 14,000-foot peaks. He has been a member of Teller County Search and Rescue since 2003. Read about his high-country adventures at hikingintherockies.com.