Attempted Murder in Missouri

Let me first start this off by saying I rarely like to plan out adventures. I enjoy scoping out the overall terrain, but I get this sense of surprise by not looking too much into these class 2 routes. I figure the mountain is there, and I will find the trail.

The morning started just at sunrise. I was still new to hiking on my own, and certainly did not want to encounter any animals at dawn, especially mountain lions. I couldn’t tell you how many stories I’ve heard of morning traill runners encountering their scare of stares.

My personal goal was to hit Missouri mountain, summit, and cut across to the trail that connects to Oxford and ending on Belford. Most hikers would summit this in reverse order, but I purposefully wanted to knock out the most difficult climb first.

I slowly found myself above tree line. While I did not see anyone on the trail all morning, I could see the few spots of people on the ridge of Belford, climbing up.

The climb up Missouri was an endless switchback. If I wasn’t careful, I could easily miss the cairn along the talus rock, and find myself on an entirely new face of the mountain.

It took me a couple hours, but I was finally in the home stretch. I cross the south ridge feeling like I landed on mars. The sand was red clay, and lovely curves cut off to drastic edges.

I slowly found myself above tree line. While I did not see anyone on the trail all morning, I could see the few spots on the ridge of Belford, climbing up.

The climb up Missouri was an endless switchback. If I wasn’t careful, I could easily miss the cairn along the talus rock, and find myself on an entirely new face of the mountain.

It took me a couple hours, but I was finally in the home stretch. I cross the south ridge feeling like I landed on mars. The sand was red clay, and lovely curves cut off to drastic edges.

Found myself on the summit just a few moves later. I was alone, but I was accompanied by the views of the land. I cannot begin to describe the joy I felt a top my tower of solace.

Everything in life just aligned so perfectly in that moment. Until it didn’t.

The trail downloaded from my alltrails app indicated a clear cut across the north face couloir. I later found out this heat map was most likely based on mountain goats.

I slid down the scree with uncertainty. It was a fun speed and I didn’t have to climb back up, so I didn’t see the harm in this route down.

It did not take me long to look ahead and address the MASSIVE 1000+ feet of ICE SLAB that would soon become my life. In a fast approaching panic, I desperately reached around me. The rocks were so loose that I couldn’t find a single one sturdy enough to support my weight.

The sheet of ice was quickly below me and by some miracle, my single poorly-treaded hiking boot stopped me from falling below to my death. I caught my breath, looking at the plunge below me with dread. I knew the foot hold would not last long, and quickly found a jagged, knife-like rock to carve out a hand hold above me.

My life depending on this weak, little foot hold as I found a second rock and utilized it as an ax. Primitive, but effective, I was able to use these two rocks to ax diagonally toward the safety of some slab 400ft away.

Out of the frying pan and into the fire. I was finally on stable ground, but when I looked above to the distant, VERY distant trail, I was cliffed out. I took off my shirt to use as a towel to wipe off the entire pool of sweat that was now my body. I never sweat. My body must have suddenly went into shock as I used ever inch of concentration and energy to quickly get myself out of the scary situation I was not completely out of.

Frustrated with my lack of knowledge in mountaineering, I was loosing hope and reassurance that I would get out without a broken bone at best. I had to pep-talk myself for a solid twenty minutes that I would get out of this unscratched. It was then that I turned to look above and assess my climb up that I saw a human being above me on the trail. Words cannot express how grateful I am to that one stranger whom I never saw again. Seeing that dark figure of a person above me was enough. I was seen, spotted and accounted for on this mountain. They were simply a symbolic reminder that help is easily on the way should I hurt myself.

With a bolt of energy, I started with my first two hand holds. Then one by one, found my feet. I zoned out into a trance as I spent the next hour climbing into the rest of my un-lived life. To this day I cannot tell you how or what brought my mind and body to jump into this muscle memory. If past lives exist, surely I had summited Everest.

The next hour was the best hour of my life. I made it down the mountain, embracing every moment with gratuity. I had so much to see and conquer and this was just the beginning.

However I did loose an hour and was doubting if I could finish the other two summits before nightfall. It was then that I encountered a trail running blazing from the meadow up Missouri. As we crossed paths, he stopped to greet me. I was a little frazzled from my recent dance with death, and he clearly noticed. This kind man took the time to ask what I did, and where I was going. After sharing my story and my hopeful goal to summit the other two, he was the final push I needed to validate I could do it.

So I picked up my pace and spent the next hour in pure bliss, reminiscing on past life and excited about future. The clouds were drifting away into a blanket of blue around me.

From the saddle, I could see the long stretch of elevation decline and gain I would experience before hitting Oxford. I was game. BRING IT.

With a new sense of step, I hurried my way up to the second summit. It was so much better than the first, and I’m pretty sure they were the same views.

I made it across to my last summit of Belford by 4:30pm and celebrated. The weather was completely on my side all day, despite my decisions going against me. I was low on water, after all I packed 16 oz to wet my mouth between summits. I was training myself to drink lots of water before and after the hike, but during just under 20oz.

Anyways, I met a nice old man on my last summit. He offered me water after we spoke about our days and our evenings ahead. He was my moral support system to help me get down and chase darkness out of the woods.

Lesson learned today: never again will I underestimate the power of a pile of rocks. These mountains are majestic and can trial you in many ways.

Some still say its organic shapes were a reflection of the constant movement of thoughts on never-ending ideas. It was remarkable but prudent, complex but minimal, and it’s geometrical lines contrasted beautifully with the curly waves that defined it.

This was my sanctuary, the place where I could go to rest, but also to celebrate. You only have to walk a few steps into the woods to understand the mysterious peace of the valley. Was it the endless organic shapes? Was it the assurance of its geometrical lines? Or was it simply the mountain?

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