Peak(s):  Missouri Mountain  -  14,071 feet
Iowa Peak  -  13,831 feet
Emerald Peak  -  13,904 feet
Mt. Oxford  -  14,158 feet
Mt. Belford  -  14,202 feet
Date Posted:  08/15/2020
Date Climbed:   08/05/2020
Author:  dwemp6
 5 Peak Loop Mizzu Gulch   

5 Peak Loop Mizzouri Gulch

Despite several years of membership to this wonderful site, this is my first trip report contribution. I never posted a TR because I never thought that anything I summited or attempted was quite worthy of a full report. I am always happy to contribute a peak condition here and there but that was about it. I haven't done much too exciting. And the following route has been documented before but perhaps my perspective can help someone in the future.

Even before COVID, I had been social distancing on the trails. As many do, I just prefer solitude while in the mountains. So for the past few years I have almost completely avoided popular 14er trailheads (which is all of them now?) during summer weekends and mostly just gone after some of the Centennial 13ers. Thankfully, my work allows a pretty flexible schedule lately so I took advantage and planned a midweek bid. I wanted to maximize my time and the Missouri Gulch seemed like the perfect mix of some Centennials: Missouri, Iowa, Emerald, Oxford and Belford. After going over the route a bunch, I decided to stick to that order and I am glad I did.

After a great night of camping near the trailhead I was on the trail by 530am. First up, Missouri. With a long day I wanted a strong start so I pushed hard to tree line knowing that I’d hit sunshine soon. And I was right on. Second only to reaching a summit, I love the feeling to the sun hitting you for the first time during an early morning hike.

Missouri in the morning light.

Sunrise over Harvard

With the Sun on my back, I got to Missouri's ridge pretty quickly then headed toward the down climb 'crux'. I did not think it was too bad, just a bit loose. I stuck near the solid rock when possible for stability. After it though, I realized I made the right call beginning with Missouri. Had I finished with Missouri my exhaustion would have made me a bit more nervous descending that section.

Just past the loose down climb

I summited Missouri right before 8am. The earliest I have ever been on a summit! Great hike, great mountain but I needed to move on. There was another two people that summited not long after me, but after I left Missouri I would not see another person until Elkhead Pass!

Iowa and Emerald from Missouri with Apostles on the right.

The descent to the Missouri/Iowa saddle was pretty easy, as the slope eased I was able to do a bit of running. Iowa actually had a nice little summit and fantastic views of Huron and The Apostles. But I didn’t linger too long and headed to Emerald.

Emerald from Iowa

As I approached Emerald, I considered going for the 'north ridge/face' which is steeper and appears to be a bit loose. Though, I knew it would add time for route finding and I still had a lot of ground to cover and planned check in points with my wife (I always carry my PLB and so should you!) and I needed to stick to it. I scolded myself for even considering it and headed to the less steep NE ridge. There was one bump that was a bit loose but I followed the faint trail and went to the right, pictured below.

I stayed right on this bump on Emerald's ridge

I summited Emerald by 10 am. I was feeling incredible and ready to take on BelOx.

Great views of the Apostles and Huron from Emerald!

From Emerald, Iowa and Missouri on the left with Belford above Elkhead Pass.

I only brought 2 liters of water so filled up in the Missouri Basin (not Gulch) at the second bigger lake. Then without losing any more elevation I headed directly to Elkhead Pass traversing under Missouri's East Ridge.

Missouri Basin from just below Elkhead Pass.

Missouri's East Ridge

Elkhead Pass was the point where I could bail and head back down but the weather was near perfect and I was feeling pretty good so I just kept moving.

Oxford's Ridge

Hitting the ridge of BelOx, I remembered why I did not go for Oxford a few years earlier when I summited Belford and let a few expletives fly. But I certainly was not going bail now Oxford. And it was only 11am and the weather was holding. I did under estimated how steep the ridge down to the BelOx saddle. Had I been fresh, I would have had no issue. But my legs were starting to feel it. So I took my time until the saddle. I was on Oxford by noon. I felt awesome but I knew I'd feel better on Belford.

Belford from Oxford

Got to Belford by 1pm. I let out a pretty loud howl, I was pretty proud of myself. Well, that high was given a reality check by the descent on Belford's NW ridge. I think my only mistake all day was descending that sh*t show of a trail. I should have gone back to Elkhead Pass, adding extra miles but much more gentle. My knees would have appreciated it.


Got back to the TH by 230 pm, making this a 9 hour loop. Loved every minute of it even the painful parts. My tracker had some issues but round trip was ~17 miles and 7800 vertical.

Thank you for reading. Be kind to each other and take care.


Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17

Comments or Questions
Big Day!
08/16/2020 08:22
Nice job!

Big Day!
08/16/2020 14:01
Thanks! It was a bunch of fun!

Excellent report
08/16/2020 14:58
That's a lot of effort for 9 hours.

Excellent Report
08/16/2020 16:29
Thank you! Nine hours well spent.

thanks for the report!
08/26/2020 22:23
Thanks for the great report. Nice effort.

Looking to do this in the next week or two probably. Seems like a great loop. Did you consider adding on Pecks and Waverly for the Grand Slam? Seems like by the time you hit Oxford it would be veryyy easy to decide to skip the out and back to Waverly.

Thanks again for the report.

Waverly & Pecks
08/30/2020 09:33
Thank you!

I considered while planning but decided it would too long a day. After I read this report I decided my 5 peak loop was long enough.

I would highly recommend a weekday if you can arrange it.

Happy Hiking!

thanks again!
09/06/2020 09:04
Ended up doing this loop yesterday. Took me just under 10 hours showing 17.7 miles with ~7800 vert.

Just wanted to say thanks again for the report. A fun route for sure.

   Not registered?

Caution: The information contained in this report may not be accurate and should not be the only resource used in preparation for your climb. Failure to have the necessary experience, physical conditioning, supplies or equipment can result in injury or death. and the author(s) of this report provide no warranties, either express or implied, that the information provided is accurate or reliable. By using the information provided, you agree to indemnify and hold harmless and the report author(s) with respect to any claims and demands against them, including any attorney fees and expenses. Please read the Safety and Disclaimer pages for more information.

Please respect private property: supports the rights of private landowners to determine how and by whom their land will be used. In Colorado, it is your responsibility to determine if land is private and to obtain the appropriate permission before entering the property.

© 2022®, 14ers Inc.