The Route: Southern Slope of Oxford from Pine Creek then traverse to Belford then back across Elkhead Pass into Pine Creek.
Ascent Party: Exiled Michigander, Stiffler_from_Denver, Alex “BlackJack”, Up “the two-backpack Thai”
Day 1: 6.68 miles, 2,107 ft. of elevation gain (Pine Creek TH to just past Little Johns Cabin) 4.5 hours
Day 2: 9.66 miles, 4,332 ft. of elevation gain (3,400 in the first 1.3 miles to BelOx and back Elkhead pass) 10 hours
Day 3: 6.68, -2,-107 elevation gain (Little John’s Cabin back to TH) 3 hours
Total: 23.02 miles, 6,439 feet of gain
With the weather looking good for Memorial Day weekend, 4 economics graduate students left Denver on Saturday for a trip to Little John’s Cabin in route to summiting Oxford and Belford from the Pine Creek Trailhead.
This is an awesome 3-day camping/hiking/14er-bagging trip and hopefully this trip report will give some more information about an awesome, non-standard route to bag BelOx.
Here we are gearing-up. For a bit of comic relief, we normally hike with Up “the two-backpack Thai,” who refused to rent a hiking backpack from REI claiming he would just use two regular packs. This was not an efficient method.
The Pine Creek trail is a fantastic route with very gradual elevation gain over 6.5 miles to Little John’s Cabin. Below is a picture of the valley that opens up just as the Pine Creek Trail intersects the Colorado Trail.
It is about 2 miles from the Colorado Trail intersection to Little Johns Cabin. There are some great camping spots behind Little John’s Cabin as well as directly south of Little Johns across the river on South Pine Creek Trail. Once you start seeing a lot of aspens, you know you’re getting close to Little Johns.
We continued about 200 yards further into the aspens and found a great camping spot pretty much directly south of Oxford Peak. We slept only about 1.5 miles from the summit of Oxford but that 1.5 miles included 3200 feet of elevation gain the next day.
Here is the route we took up the southern face of Oxford.
We followed the Pine Creek trail headed west the next morning about 100 yards until we crossed a north/south flowing stream. This is where we turned north and started the bushwacking steep ascent up Oxford’s south slopes. We stayed pretty close to the steam through tree-line and never cliffed-out or ran into too much trouble.
a little bushwacking but it wasn't bad
Looking south across to Harvard peak back down our route.
looking up to the summit of Oxford following the stream
steep climb breaking through treeline
Alex "BlackJack" climbing the south side. Picture looks back down toward Pine Crek
worst part of the route
red star is Little Johns Cabin
slow steep part to summit
It took us just shy of 4 hours from near Little John’s Cabin to the top of Oxford.
Summit of Oxford
the traverse to Belford
Summit of Belford
From the summit of Belford we headed to Elkhead Pass for a longer but less steep descent back to Little Johns
Elkhead Pass is a beautiful way to get back into Pine Creek with a well-defined gradual path into a beautiful basin where you are surrounded by Harvard, Emerald, Iowa, and Missouri Peaks. It's about 6 miles to get back to little Johns from Belford, but taking the gradual Elkhead route back to Pine Creek trail is much better then traversing back to Oxford then descenting the Southern Slopes which would be fairly dangerous.
someone made a nice wind-break shelter and fire pit in the upper Pine Creek Basin
all four of us hiking out on Memorial Day
Tons of elevation gain between mile 7-8.5 as we climbed the steep southern face of Oxford
We got back to camp at 5 o'clock that night, made cheddar brauts and freeze dried beef-stew for dinner. The next day we hiked out and headed to the Quincey's in Buena Vista for our celebratory lunch. (this part of the trip is highly recommended)