| Belford and Oxford - Sun, 8/21/2005, standard route.
Originally, I had aspirations of a moonlight hike and doing Belford, Oxford and Missouri in one day. When we drove to Basalt on Friday eve, the full moon was spectacular and bright.
However, Saturday night the sky was cloudy. Besides, having ran a Basalt 1/2 marathon on Saturday morning, we couldnt get ourselves out of bed till after 5am on Sunday. After stopping in Aspen, where we got coffee and some supplies, we got to the trailhead at 8:40. At that time the sky was clear, but I knew that we were supposed to get some storms in the afternoon, I was kind of worried.
Anyway, we headed off at 8:48.
After the first few hundred yards the trail got really steep. It was ok going up though, I that was going to be painfull on the way back down. After we passed the old log cabin and started getting close to the tree line the clouds started coming in, they werent too scary yet. When we got on the switchbacks on the soulder of Belford the sky started turning grey and at about 1300 it started hailing, not too bad at first. It got stronger and it actually started hurting, but we kept going. Our 5-month boxer Ramone wasnt really happy with it, we had to wrap my fleece over him, and he kept going, he is a true go-getter! At that time we saw a bunch off people coming back from the summit, and only 2 other parties besides us were going up. It was kind of like, we kept looking at each other, thinking "If they keep going up, well keep going up". The hail slowed down and stopped as we were approaching the summit.
We summited at 11:48, 3 hrs even after we started. It was first 14er for our friend Danny and our dog Ramone and #21 for me and Richard. We celebrated with an orange, took pictures, ate, and started debating whether we should go on to Oxford. The weather cleared up right above us - it was sunny and getting warmer, even though we could still see grey clouds in all directions around us. One of the parties that was on the summit with us went on to the Oxford summit, the other turned around back to the TH. We hesitated a little. If it was just me and Richard, I would just go for it, but I was worried about Ramone, he was getting tired. We came to consensus that we have to give it a shot. We were already there and it wouldnt make sense to have to come back for Oxford and do the whole thing over again. Ramone revitalized after he ate. It looked like the weather was passing (wishful thinking?)
We left Belford at 1:15 or so.
The weather stayed nice while descended to the saddle. As we approached Oxford summit it got colder and the clouds got darker and lower.
At the very summit it was weird. I could feel elecricity in the air, our hair was standing up and I could hear light buzzing. (That only happened once before when Richard and me hiked up Evans and snowboarded down, that time as we got off the summit thunderstorm began and when we were on our snowboards lightning stroke very close, we heard thunder at the same moment, extremely loud; it felt like it went right in between us, that was scary.)
Basically we got up on the summit and headed back right away, I didnt feel like enjoying the summit in that situation. As we descended back to the saddle we heard loud thunder a few times, but never saw lightning, the storm traveled from the neighbour Harvard north-east just passing Oxford. Skies cleared up right above us as we got back on Belford.
During our descent we heard thunder-storms all around us, but we just got a few rain drops and as we got in the tree line, it got warmer. The descent down the last 1000ft was grueling! It was harder than going up as I predicted. At least for the last 1000ft or so the sun came back out, Ramone got his second wind. When we were coming down the Belford slopes I was worried wed have to carry him pretty soon, he was so tired, but in the tree line he started playing with sticks and rocks and running around like crazy.
We were exhausted. None of us expected this trip to be so hard. It was great that we did it anyway! Two more out of the way
For these two definitely would recommend to leave TH before the sunrise.