| Belford, Oxford and Missery?
Ok folks, let's start with a riddle....what leaves a lad a bit sore, a lot of thirsty, and a tad sunburnt....you got it, a threebagger. Yes, it was a good day on the granite. The heavens held which allowed me to bang out my first solo trio of the season.
The day started by oversleeping in Buena Vista. Turns out there is a difference between 4am and 4pm as far as alarm clocks go. Who would have thunk it? I was still able to make it the Missouri Gulch trailhead by 5ish. I started hiking shortly there after. The trail to the fork for Belford is very easy to follow and should defiently be done in the dark (to allow extra time for the other peaks) if given the opportunity. I took the 'west slopes' route up Belford. This route is pretty frustrating. You are within an arms length of the summit the whole time, but all of the switchbacks makes it take forever. None the less I was still able to summit by 7:30. I was greeted on the top by a reincarnated version of Jesus, and his buddy 'Ugs'. The two of them were enjoying a morning bowl of 'energy potion' and discussing a rock formation on Columbia referred to as 'god's toilet' (please don't let your kids grow up to be hippies). Normally I would push right on past, but during my ascent of Brlford I found a sim card to a digital camera. I asked the 'messiah' if he had lost one....he had, and I gladly returned it. For my efforts the duo offered me a bowl of the 'energy flakes'. I gladly passed. Karma 1, Negative Vibes (dude) 0.
After a quick granola bar it was time to head to Oxford. The ridge line between Belford and Oxford is very simple to follow. Direct and quick. I made it over to Oxford in less than 30 minutes. The view from the ridge was stunning. You could see the entire range from tip to tip. In addtion the morning fog and clouds were stuck in the valley between Oxford and Harvard. Remember this the next time the family thinks they need a trip to Machu Picchu save the overpriced plane tickets, and the inevitable food poisioning and head to the Sawatch instead. To make it feel more realistic you can bring along Juan Valdez and that decrepit burro of his. I hear he's looking for work ever since Bush 'reformed immigration'.
A brief pause look around on top of Oxford and it was time to get back to Belford it was 9 o'clock by the time I got back to Belford. I was suppose to meet some gal pals at the junction for Mt. Missouri at 9:15, and I had planned on being 'fashionably late', but it looked like I would miss them all together at this point. Damn alarm clocks!
I descended Belford to the south in route to Elkhead pass (elev. 13,220) This is a great descent (route 1V2 in Roach's book). It is gradual, yet gets you there. I was the only hiker in this huge valley. The trail winds a bit, but the views make it worth it. The trail endos perfectly at the base of Missouri northwest ridge route. At this point it was 10 and I figured the gals had allready passed through. I didn't think they would be far ahead though, so I pushed on. The first half of the route is a real bear! Pretty tough on my allready tired legs. Turning back started to seem like a good idea. I was even begining to second guess my refusal of the 'energy potion' from 'Ugs'. After a bit of thumbsucking, whining, crying for mommy, and a PB&J sandwich I decided to push on. Once you reach the upper saddle of the ridge you are essentially there. You still have a long exposed ridgeline to cross in route to the summit, but the elevation gain is all but a distant memory. As I summited I was out of gas, starting to cramp up, and wondering why I didn't take up lawn darts instead of moutain climbing for a hobby. Luckily the two lovely ladies I had been tracking were on the top waiting...A great sight for sore thighs. I quickly forgot about the sore muscles and dehydration (that may have been due to the ibuprofen I was poppin like Skittles). We lolly gaged around a bit on the summit, put on more sunscreen, ate another PB&J that was reduced to mush in my pack, and stretched out a bit (the ladies love it in the tights). We (that's right 'we', me and the two ladies) began the descent about 12:30. Weather was holding, so we took our time on the steep section headed down to the gulch. My knees felt like they were bleeding internally, and my feet were a bit tender. The sun was blazing, so the only option for some relief was to shed some layers! It was really heating up..... We made good time to treeline, and we were back at the car shortly there after. Badda bing, badda boom, a memorable threesome on a hot summer day (I'm talking about the mountains).
Here are some final words to think about with relationship to this trio. 1)Go early, way early, there is no part of this trip you couldn't do under the veil of darkness. The whole gulch area really heats up when the sun comes out, so the less time you have to spend in the UV rays the better you'll look when your 50. 2)I would suggest doing this trio in reverse from how I did it. Start with Missouri, it's much more difficult than the other two when your legs are weary. 3)Thirdly, don't wad up your lunch sack and shove it into your pack like it's raingear. The end result isn't too appetizing.
Until next time gang, may all your summits be real, and your carins be plenty.