Mount Belford (14,197′) & Mount Oxford (14,153′)

Adventures6 Comments

Distance 11.45 miles
Moving Time 5 hr 6 min
Summit Elevation 14,197 feet (B)/14,153 feet (O)
Elevation Gain 6,033 feet
Route Missouri Gulch Trailhead

I have obviously been consumed by running this summer. Plus with B2 on the sidelines with her new baby, there isn’t a lot of company on hikes. So I called my sister, Natalee, mid-summer and put the bug in her ear again. Don’t you want to climb this summer? She has been dealing with some medical issues so I figured that is wasn’t going to happen. A couple days later I get her flight itinerary. Guess we are going!

Natalee has a good friend from Indianapolis named Rick who will be coming out here with her. Rick is going to visit his brother Steve, who happens to live in Longmont too. Its going to be a foursome. Should be interesting. Natalee called the guys the day before and told us to meet at a nearby gas station at 2…you mean AM? Ugh. Ok.

We hit the road just after 2 AM and headed out to Leadville. It takes just less than 3 hours to get there. I still prefer getting some sleep in my bed and just doing the drive. We arrived on schedule. Skies were clear. There was nearly enough moonlight to guide us. But we threw on the headlamps and headed out into the dark wilderness. Getting an early start before sunrise is great. Its peaceful. Plus you are spending that valuable time climbing before the turbulent weather of the coming afternoon. Finally, some daylight as we start to cross treeline.

The rocky switchbacks slowed the group down. The altitude was setting in for the out of towners a bit. Steve was having some pains in his knees as well. He had been struggling with his knees for the past few months he explained.

Rick and Natalee taking a breather and taking in the views of the Missouri Gulch.

Morning was cold as we were in the shadows waiting for the sun to come down and touch us. From this point, our car is down at the bottom of the gulch and around to the right. The group started to feel their progress but there was a long way to go.

Our pace was declining as Steve’s knees needed rest. Steve decided to take his own pace and the rest of us would continue ahead of him. I took the opportunity to get a good uphill workout in and flew up the trail a ways. Then I could get a view back down on Natalee and Rick as they made their way back up to me.

We finally made it up to the ridge! The summit isn’t much further. Here comes Natalee over the hump.

A little ways along the ridge and there was the summit. Looked like a big pile of rocks up on the ridgeline.

We allowed Rick to enter the summit first, as he was the only virgin of the group. That was summit #10 for me. We usually take time to enjoy but we had more work to do. I was a couple of minutes before my cutoff time for going and trying to make the trek to Mount Oxford and back. Anyone up for it?

Natalee summoned up the strength to forge ahead with me. After her miss on La Plata last year, she wanted a 2-fer to make up. We headed down the east slope of Belford.

Oxford is the peak in the distance. The saddle and trail are down below. You can see it pretty clearly. You have to drop 1,000+ feet here and ascend 1,000+ to get to Oxford. We flew down to the saddle in about 15 minutes.

We were on cruise control across the saddle. I was watching the weather but it looked like we could squeeze this one in. Here is Natalee up ahead starting the ascent.

I came up around Natalee and took this photo back at her with Belford to her back. Belford is that little tan knob in the upper right on the ridge line. Rick was there waiting for us. Could see a body from here but its a ways back over there.

Lots of flowers on the hillside as we approach the summit.

Me on Oxford. Made it. A 2-bagger. They say you have to ascend 3,000 feet to count an ascent. This ascent was only 1,000+ from Oxford. But the problem is that that 1,000 feet was after we just did about 5,000 to get to the top of Belford. And now we have to descend Oxford and reascend Belford. That was going to be the worst part of the day!

And Natalee started feeling it. On the ascent, she would go 40 steps and break. Steps, break, steps, break. I was trying to lighten the situation but I don’t think it was welcomed. It was the final struggle. Later that evening, Natalee would admit this was the “hardest thing she had ever done”. Its tough to pull up energy when you are bonked. Frankly, I think my marathon training has helped me. It puts me through this threshold nearly every weekend. So you learn to deal and adapt to the point where your bottom is out of glycogen.

From there, we got back to Belford and caught back up to Rick. It was time to head down. We moved pretty quick back down the hill. Cruising from switchback to switchback. Rick and Natalee had fun recalling the uphill struggle with each turn. I remember that rock! I remember that step! The downhill is always the final part of the challenge but its rewarding to see what you did.

We ran into one 60+ year old gentleman at the top who had climbed Belford many times. He admitted it wasn’t the most technical or hardest but “she’s an honest mountain” he said. He was right. You see what you get here — a good clean climb where you can see the goal the whole time. This map should help illustrate the trail.

More pictures if you like — view a slideshow.

It started raining as we came back into treeline. It was a nice refreshing sprinkle. We caught up to Steve back near the trailhead and had our group back together again. We crossed the bridge, saw the car, and exchanged high 5s. It was a long day but there is nothing like getting out there and getting up on top!