Missouri Gulch 4th of July 2004

For the 4th of July weekend we decided to head into the back-country via the Missouri Gulch access, over Elk Head pass and keep going from there. We started in Friday afternoon and camped halfway to Missouri mountain the first night. Next morning was beautiful and we started the day by summitting Missouri and glissading back down a north facing gully.

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With one 14'er checked off, we picked up the big packs again and headed over the pass into the long valley which comes in between Oxford/Belford and Harvard. Two other guys were heading in when we were, but the hike in from either direction gets pretty long and we figured there wouldn't be much in the way of human population. We pitched camp on a nice flat spot out of the wind and then hiked Emerald for an afternoon jaunt.

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Moon was setting as we got up in the morning and three elk thundered by the campsite as were were starting to make breakfast. The day's objectives were Harvard and Columbia. I wanted to hit Harvard by the direct route, which would be all 'off-trail'. Gretchen noted that the Roach book described a trail on the north-north-east side of Harvard. So we hiked down and out along pine creek for several miles along the north side of Harvard, looking vainly for the trail that Roach had described. Eventually we ran into a couple other hikers breaking down camp. We talked for a few minutes, and one looked at Gretchen and said "Are you Gretchen Braham". She about fell over, it was an old friend from Wisconsin named Nate Blair, long since out of contact. The people you meet in the middle of nowhere.

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At this point we gave up on Roach, crossed the stream and started up the north side of Haravard. The weather was coming in with the usual afternoon T-storms, but they stayed either north or south of us and we managed to summit. We were way too tired to try to throw Columbia in there as well.

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We took the direct route down, and ran into a large herd (30+) of Caribou in the process.

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The third day we headed out, with full packs, but wanted to knock off two more 14ers in the process. So we headed up Belform from Elk Head pass, dropped the packs where the spur heads to Oxford, summited Oxford, came back, had lunch on Belford and then headed out. It's a long, steep trail down Belford to the Missouri gulch trailhead.

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