| Belford/Oxford/Missouri- Missouri Gulch
I had finally landed a job and Lovenit has a break in his busy schedule so we were bound and determined to get out and hike. We broke out Roaches book and poured over 14ers.com, we tossed around a dozen different 14ers as possibilities, but in the end, the lack of summits this summer was the overriding factor in determining where we decided to go. We settled on tackling the Belford and Oxford combo with Missouri as an optional 3rd summit, time weather, and endurance permitting of course. Roach suggests doing Missouri first and then moving on to the other two summits. We took the opposite route figuring that would maximize our chances at gaining the most summits. A few of the trip reports I have read from people doing it Roaches way seem to be able to tag Missouri and then get to the summit of Belford only to either get chased off by the weather or run out of steam. We figured it was better to leave a solo peak like Missouri undone rather than having to re summit Belford if we missed Oxford. We were both well aware of the fact that we had done practically no hiking over the summer and we may very well have to leave one or more summit undone.
The plan was to meet up in Buena Vista after I got off work, car camp at the trailhead, and get a very early start. We met up in Buena Visa late Friday night and had us some prime rib and a brew at Quincy's- a place recommended to us by one of the locals. It had been since April and our snow climb of Shavano that we had last been able to catch up so we spent a lot of time just chatting and did not end up leaving for the trailhead until 8:30pm. Finding 390 was not problem at all, but for whatever reason we drove right by the turnoff for the Missouri Gulch trailhead and ended up having to back track. The parking lot was already filling up with easily a dozen cars in it. We found a couple of empty parking spots and prepared our packs for an early departure before throwing out bags out in the back of Lovenit's truck. We still had lots to talk about and ended up chatting up a storm and watching the Perseid meteor shower, what a display that was in the clear night air, very cool! I am not sure either of us slept more than an hour or two. We are both like a couple of little kids the night before Christmas when it comes to hiking. The alarm finally sounded at 2:30am signaling us to get ready and hit the trail. We had a quick breakfast, double checked our packs and were on the trail at 3am.
On most of our hikes we like to see where we are hiking and don't leave until sunrise, but we had hopes of watching the sunrise from the top of a 14er and we knew if everything worked out for us, hitting all three summits would make for a big day and an early start was mandatory. We barely noticed the "memorable switch backs" as Roach calls them in the beams of our headlamps we just pushed steadily forward. The double shot star buck's espressos probably didn't hurt either.
Lovenit messing around on the log bridge..clearly too much caffeine
The trail is well defined and the only route finding issue we had was locating the logs crossing over Missouri creek, in the darkness we almost walked right by them. In the daylight they are clearly visible. Once we got back on track we quickly found ourselves at the site of the old cabin. We stopped to take a look around, only to find that someone had pitched their tent behind it, we had been talking up a storm so I am sure we woke them up ,oops!
Section of the trail as seen in the glow of my headlamp
The sun was just starting to show itself over the horizon
Still in complete darkness, we hit the turnoff for the Belford summit, we decided to stash some of our extra water here in anticipation of needing it later in the day on the return trip. This is also where you start to gain some serious elevation and unfortunately for me about half way up the trail my quads began to cramp up. I should have learned after Pikes Peak that I need to make sure I am fueling up properly. I had to stop several times and let the knots ease and down a clif bar.
More quick elevation gain…
Sun just hitting the tops of the mountains
Yet more elevation gain
We pushed on, but did not quite make the summit before sunrise, we were none the less, treated to some spectacular views and took some great pictures as the sun started to rise. We managed to hit the summit of Belford at 6:30am in respectable 3 ˝ hours.
Looking back down the valley you can sort of make out the route
Last push to the summit
We also had the entire summit to ourselves, a rarity on a Sawatch 14er in the summer. Despite the prediction for near record temperatures that day it was still very cold and windy and we quickly added our extra layers. I think if we had we made the summit any earlier we would not have been able to just sit there and wait for the sun to come up, we would have been forced to keep moving in order to stay warm.
The summit block with the sun coming up behind it
Looking back down the trail we had just climbed
Route heading off Belford, Oxford is actually out of the picture to the left
We were none too pleased at all the elevation we lost on the way over to Oxford, knowing full well that we would have regain every foot of it on the return trip, but I guess that is why they are classified as two separate 14ers.
Oxford with the sun behind it, most of the elevation loss is hidden by the ridge line at the bottom of the photo
now just a quick trot across an easy saddle and then up the gentle ridge and the summit is in sight.
Almost to the summit now, looking back at the route across the saddle, the elevation you lose and then have to regain is more visible here
Yes Oxford's summit is that flat…
The hike over to Missouri hike continued here:
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):