| Belford Group Grand Slam Attempt
After reading the Fisching's TR for the Belford Group Grand Slam last year, I've been eager to attempt it. Knees, questionable weather, and inefficient routes didn't allow me to finish the full day, but it was a great day in the mountains and a good first crack at the challenge.
Three goals for the day, in order of importance:
1) Come home.
2) Don't lock my keys in the car (this has been a recurring problem)
3) Get beta on a first attempt at the challenge
5) Finish in under 11hrs.
I went in with some reasonable expectations knowing that my knees weren't perfect and the full day might not be possible, but I still wanted to make a first attempt, get a feel for some routes, and lay the foundations for attempting it again. No photos yet but I'll try to get some up soon.
I'm very, very conservative with weather and I knew it would be a very long day, so I made the decision to start out very early at 2am. I figured the mitigating the risk of weather out weighed climbing the start of this particular route in the dark (Peck's Peak), but would love this community's input on that. Maybe that's not the right call, but hey, I thought it was a reasonable calculation.
Nonetheless, the trip up Peck's was great. While steep, it is very doable even in the dark. I didn't scope it out in daylight and there are certainly better routes up, but it was a nice climb in moonlight even over some sections of scree. I would do it again in the dark and feel safe. The solitude of hiking the ridge up to Belford in the very early glow of sunrise and the presence (not so much view) of the surrounding peaks was amazing. This route is very straight forward with little exposure. There was no snow. I summited Belford at 2hr and 45 minutes after leaving the TH.
I made it over to Oxford and hour later and then began the trip over to Waverly. It is tempting to drop below the top of the ridge line (as Fisching notes as well), but it is ultimately much more efficient to stay very high, out and back. Do not underestimate the 800 ft needed to gain back Oxford (though you can dip below the peak a bit on the way back to save some climbing).
At Elkhead Pass it was time to take a rest. The weather looked fine so I took off across the park, taking a lower route past the two lakes to avoid any sidehilling as there was no snow. There is a mild grassy ramp up to the saddle between Emerald and Iowa.
At this point it was decision time. While the weather was ok for the time being, clouds were slowly gathering and the 40% chance of T-storms was on my mind. As I measured up Emerald, I had a moment of summit fever realization: I was just too tired to complete the last three peaks quickly enough to be safe, particularly if the weather turned ugly. It was time to call it a day. (The weather turned out to be fine for what would've been the last 3-4 hours, but I'm going to invoke Murphy here: had I pressed on that would've been the day I busted a knee and that 40% opened up the skies!)
I took off across the watershed, over the pass, and back down after 18 miles and 8,000 ft f gain. No burpees as I think those need be reserved for only the complete grand slam. I expect to do the second half (Emerald, Iowa and Missouri) before attempting the whole thing again and perhaps challenging the 11 hr mark. Huge thanks to Fisching for posting the original idea. Three out of five goals ain't bad for a day and great info for trying it again. That's one of the beauties of the mountains; they'll always be there tomorrow.