As I finished my night shift at 0400 Thursday morning I hopped in my roommates car and got about 2.5 hours of sleep while he drove to the Belford/Oxford TH. He doesn't have a high clearance vehicle so if you're wondering whether you'll make it, you will. We set out from the trailhead at about 0745, a little later than I like to start. The sign at the TH says its 3.1 mi to the Belford summit, but I have read other reports citing it as closer to 4 miles, but either way, it's a lot of elevation gain in a short amount of time. The trail goes up fast from the start.
After passing the log cabin area the trail flattens out and goes through the gulch area. This is a needed rest for what is ahead. Turn left at the sign so that you head towards Mt. Belford and not Missouri Mountain.
turn left here.
From this point you gain lots of elevation through numerous switchbacks that seem to go straight up a ridge leading to the right of Belford's summit. This part was hard on the legs especially after getting practically no sleep before starting the hike.
Luckily the sun came out and made the ascent much warmer and more comfortable. There are a couple false summits before you reach the top. At the top of a ridge take a hard left and head towards the final summit pitch. It took us 2 hours 45 minutes to summit.
me on the summit of Belford
After gaining the summit we sat down out of the wind and downed water and food in preparation for the hike over to Oxford. The nice slopes of the ridge leading to Oxford give you a false sense of an easy hike. Although I would not call this section tough I do think it is much harder than it looks.
looking back at Belford
The hike over did not take too long but the elevation change started to hit me. After gaining the summit I ate my lunch and got more water. At this time my legs were pretty done and I started to feel signs of altitude sickness. While others sat at the summit I ran off to summit a mountain that I thought was a 13er but after my mind cleared on the way down to the TH I realized that I was no where near the named 13er printed on my map. I laughed at how much the altitude had gotten to me at this point.
me on Oxford
Undoubtedly the worst part of this hike was the re-climbing of Belford. At this time that altitude really got to me. I could hear my pulse, my head was pounding, and I started acting unusual. Having gone through it before I realized what was happening and tried to deal with it as best as I could before I had a chance to descend. It took us about an hour to get back to Oxford. At this point the only thing I was thinking about was ascending ASAP and going to bed so we hustled our way down to the TH. The trip down was uneventful and quick. The aspens were turning which was cool to see.
Here's a breakdown of the times for you interested.
TH to Belford summit: 2 hours 45 min
Belford to Oxford: 45 min
Oxford to Belford: 1 hour
RT: 8 hours
This was definitely one of my favorite hikes thus far. Numbers 16 and 17 on the 14er list. I am hoping this weather holds up for a little longer. Thanks for reading!