Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Mt. Belford & Mt. Oxford

After another long night of work, I printed off more NatGeo maps and tied up the loose ends of the pack. David got Cliff Bars and fresh fruit from King Soopers earlier so we would be ready to hit the road when 4 AM came the next morning. We set off in the trusty CR-V for Missouri Gulch, via I-70 and CO-91. We hauled stopping only at the "Kum-and-Go" in Idaho Springs for Pretzels and Coffee, and then once again when I missed the exit for Leadville at Copper Mountain, which was a mistake because you can't turn around until that rest-stop 5 or 10 miles past Copper, adding 15 or so minutes onto the trip...ahh I'm an idiot. Soundtrack: well the soundtrack for the trip was mixed, but mostly KBCO on Iheartradio. 

The road to the TH was clear, dry and easy 2WD and no issue whatsoever. We arrived at the trailhead around 6:40AM and proceeded to use the facilities and strap on the packs. Hit the trail right at 6:45. We were extremely discouraged at how the route immediately starts by descending to the bridge, because after all, every step down is one more you have to eventually go back up. Ha. Only a poetic reflection on the day ahead. 

Below treeline was uneventful until a series of stream crossings in the vicinity of 11,000'. Those were fun and easy with a little concentration. Shortly after we reached the old shack that was populated with tents, and shortly after that we found ourselves at the trail junction looking back down into the beautiful valley.

And so the incline begins. We tackled the ridge head on and kept a good pace through the switchbacks. We passed the CFI group working on the ridge, thankful for their work! With intermittent stops and breaks we finally reached the flat area towards the top and with the summit just a ways to go, we trucked on in. The summit was well attended and we ran into some pretty fun people, most of which participated in the traverse to Oxford.  

Descending the ridge took a touch of concentration, all the while trying to push out of your mind the fact that you'll be headed back up this ridge on the 8th mile of the day. 

David exercising mountaineering rule #1: never pee uphill...

But anyway, we hiked up the gentle Oxford slope towards what we called "The Butt" (see pic below) and were on top of Oxford under an hour.

We stayed long enough to polish off the fruit and some sandwiches and then began the low-anticipated hike to Belford. It was one of those things where it wasn't a hard ascent by any means, but after the 8th or so mile of the day, you just would rather be going down-hill. We finally were back on top of Belford, and stopping just briefly to soak up the views of an awesome basin we were finally headed down. 

Nothing special headed down, except when I got sloppy and lazily postholed into the little bit of snow on the trail and bottomed into a puddle of ankle-high mud. Fun. But the weather was too great to get down about that and kept going down to the car. We pondered many of life's great questions, most important of which was what sound do marmots make? We were stumped and decided that they don't make noises, but if they did it would be a Pokemon-like "marmot! marmot!" noise. We ended up solving world hunger and global warming by the time we reached the TH. 

All in all a great hike, great weather and some Colorado fun! Back down in Morrison for some Willy's Wings for dinner by 6. 

Date: June 28, 2011
Elevation: 14, 197'
Range: Sawatch Range
Location: 20 miles Southwest of Leadville
Climbed With: David (Brother) and Damon (Friend)
Conditions: Sunny, windy, afternoon clouds, no precipitation 
Trailhead: Missouri Gulch
Route: Northwest Ridge (Class 2)
Round Trip: 11.0 miles
Elevation Gain: 5800'

Timeline: Denver: 4:00AM
                Trailhead: 6:45AM

                Summit (Belford): 10:00AM

                Summit (Oxford): 11:30 AM
                Trailhead: 3:00 PM                


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