8.21.2004

Midwestern Tour

Well in honor of my homeland I climbed a few peaks named after Midwestern Universities in the Collegiate Peaks. First, I climbed the fourteener Missouri Mtn, then traversed over to Iowa Peak, before finishing up over centennial thirteener Emerald Peak and descending from there. The Collegiate Peaks get there name for being named after universities, the tallest of the group is Harvard, which I got some great views of from these neighboring peaks. I climbed Missouri from the “back”, using the West Ridge route. The standard route is to climb from the east, but that route is also used to climb Belford and Oxford, and seeing as I will be over there sometime in the future, I thought I’d check out a different valley this trip. The other benefit is that it is easier to climb Iowa and Emerald this way. There is a long 4WD road off the main access way that leads to a lake that can be used as “base camp” for these three peaks, it cuts off over 2 miles of the route each way, making a 14 1/2 mile round trip only 8 1/4, so it was worth the drive. The drive is not bad, except for the creek ford at the beginning. In spring its pretty deep, but its late August now, so it is much shallower, and no problem for most SUV’s. In fact I saw an Explorer, Range Rover and 4Runner at the trailhead as well. I’d rather drive through 2 feet of water than walk through it anyway, maybe that is why this route is less popular than the other side. The route ascends above the lake along Missouri’s west ridge, and then joins the standard route for the final half mile or so. Even though its less used, it was still popular and I saw 6 other climbers using this route today. From the 14,067 foot summit of Missouri (making it the 36th highest peak) the trek over to 13,831 foot Iowa is an easy ridge traverse. Iowa is unfortunately not quite an official peak, it only rises 291 feet from the saddle with Missouri, missing being official by a mere 9 feet. I should have piled some extra rocks on top to help it out! Emerald is directly south of Iowa about 3/4 of a mile away. It is 13,904 feet tall and the 71st highest peak in the state. The descent back to the lake takes you further south over gentle grassy slopes to avoid a steep and lose western face, before swinging back around to the north and back to the lake. The 8+ mile trip took just about 6 hours, but unfortunately it wasn’t quite quick enough to avoid the rain. The last mile I had to put on my "emergency" poncho (which I carry just in case) to help keep me dry from the rain. The drive back held a surprise, the dirt road that accesses Missouri’s two drainages and Huron Peak was having some sort of afternoon race, the poor souls were getting rained on though. The road is fairly wide and two vehicles can pass comfortably, but not when the road is full of parked cars and joggers! There were several sections where I had to crawl slowly behind racers to let oncoming cars pass. I was surprised to see the race, there were no signs or advertisements in the area for it at all at 8am when I was driving the road the first time. It caused quite a traffic jam!

Anyway, so the other Midwestern tour is coming up soon as well, I booked my flight this week to come to Chicago, I will be in town the weekend of September 25th , so keep your calendars open! Well now it is time to watch the Cubs on WGN, I’d write about the progress so far, but I can’t without the express written consent of the Cubs and MLB, sorry :)