Peak(s):  Missouri Mountain  -  14,071 feet
Mt. Belford  -  14,202 feet
Date Posted:  02/17/2022
Date Climbed:   03/11/2016
Author:  SnowAlien
 Missouri & Belford winter ski descents   

Missouri & Belford winter ski descents

Routes: Main NF couloir on Missouri and SW face on Belford

Date: 03.11.16
Partner: Jon Kedrowski for Belford
Trailhead: Missouri Gulch

Dr Jon was in the middle of his "Ski the 14ers" project, and since I was looking at the same peaks, we were bound to run into each other. I missed him by a day on Culebra a month prior. We messaged back and forth and I knew he was going to ski Missouri/Oxford/Belford that day with a very early start. Since I only needed Missouri, I decided to start at a more reasonable hour - an hour or two behind him. Missouri was a holdover from 2013, when I hiked Huron, but still didn't realize the summer TH access to Missouri was a rare thing in an average winter. A few seasons passed with close monitoring of the road conditions, when I finally saw an update that the trailhead was accessible. With stable avalanche conditions (green below the treeline, and yellow above), the standard route also became a viable option. The approach was a cruiser due to the pre-existing trench refreshed by Dr Jon and I was making great time. I was also very curious as to what route he was going to ski, as I haven't seen any prior reports on doing the north couloirs in winter outside of an absolute epic of late Mrwaffles989. Even variations of a summer route have only been done in low snow years (2012 & 2018), as NW ridge from Rockdale was considered a standard winter route. With yellow avalanche conditions and solo, I proceeded with caution. After the Elkhead pass sign, all other tracks petered out except for the freshly laid skintrack.

Missouri comes into view
Elkhead pass turnoff
Follow the white rabbit

Halfway up the ridge on skintrack, I looked left - and what did I see? Dr Jon skiing one of the north face couloirs. I was impressed and even jealous - yellow conditions above the treeline, solo, early March and sending the spring line. Darn, I need to up my game! Up to this moment, I didn't think skiing a north face couloir was even an option, and fully intended on just descending the standard route. Besides, I had already skied Missouri in great conditions back in spring of 2013. So instead of leaving my skis on the ridge as planned, I decided to carry them all the way to the summit and see what's up. I could see Dr Jon tracks down the Main couloir and the snow looked great. Could I do it? Should I do it? I didn't really need to ski Missouri because I had already skied this couloir in spring. But the snow looked great, and I didn't see any red flags on the skin up, so I dropped in. The skiing was great indeed.

Dr Jon skiing
Not a very good zoom
Summit ridge
Missouri summit

The dirty little secret of winter 14er skiing is that most peaks are unskiable above 13k until spring. It's just too windy and snow blows away, exposes rocks, becomes sastrugi or crust. Some people (myself included) tried skiing high peaks in winter, but in most cases it's just not worth hauling that extra weight for the poor quality ski descent (not to mention serious avalanche hazard). I count only 2 out 59 peaks as skied in winter from the summit (under rather improbable snow conditions, I could see the number going up maybe to 10 peaks). For the duration of the winter 14er project, I simply considered my backcountry skis as glorified snowshoes and didn't concentrate on ski descents and lines, just the summits. Missouri was one of those legit ski descents. The powder was a little dense and wind affected, but skiing glorious, and the turns were enjoyable. I skied down quickly, mainly to get away from the potential avalanche hazard.

Dr Jon's turns off the summit
Tracks down the couloir
Did my best to figure 8 Dr Jon tracks
North face tracks

The day was still young, I was feeling great and got motivated for more skiing. I really enjoyed skiing Belford's NW gully the prior spring and was up for a repeat. I quickly transitioned back to the skin mode and hoofed it to the Belford summit. Just below the summit I spotted Dr Jon coming back from the ridge with Oxford. Oxford looked dry and unskiable to me, but it appeared that Dr Jon simply skied the ribbon of snow towards the saddle with Belford - which doesn't constitute a ski descent based on Lou Dawson standards. For reference, Dawson skied the West face of Oxford. I reached Belford summit first and waited for Dr Jon to arrive. We exchanged introductions and went to look at NW gully - sadly, it didn't connect to the summit at all, and the downclimb of several hundred feet on dry ground was required to reach the snow. So we skied the SW face into Missouri gulch, connecting patches of snow. NW gully, when in condition, is definitely a better ski descent.

SW face of Belford (ski descent)
Ribbon of snow on Oxford
Dr Jon arrives for his 3rd summit of the day
Dr Jon skiing

The following day I woke up to CAIC downgrading the avy danger to "green" in the Sawatch. Skiing Missouri was a good call!

Comments or Questions
Cool report
02/17/2022 18:19
With wonderful photographs. I always enjoy reading about your adventures.

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