| Belford and Oxford Ski Descents
Missouri Gulch Trailhead at 9,640'
Ascent of Belford's Northwest Gully
Summit ski descent of Belford down East Slopes
Climb to Belford/Oxford saddle and over to Oxford Summit
Summit ski descent of Oxford down West Gully
Climb to Belford/Oxford Saddle and traverse to Belford Summit
Ski descent of Belford Northwest Gully
-Elevation Climbed: 6,950'
-Vert skied: 4,750'
-Mileage RT: 12.5 miles
- Round Trip Time: 8 hours 15 minutes
Route: climb blue, ski red
Climbing Belford's NW Gully:
Sunday morning, Debbie and Prakash headed to climb Columbia's Southeast ridge while I set off for the Missouri Gulch trailhead. At 5:15 am I began the climb up the steep switchbacks toward the Belford Group.
Starting the day
It had been a while since I had traveled solo and I was looking forward to the day. Although my legs were burning from the previous two days of hiking, I made nice progress to the stream crossing in the lower basin below Missouri Mountain. The summer standard route on Belford is almost exclusively dry all the way until the upper 200' of the mountain. Expecting crowds of climbers, I was pleasantly surprised to have only seen two people to this point.
Looking up at Belford from tree line in Missouri Gulch, NW gully ski route marked
Continuous snow stretches from the summit of Belford all the way down the NW gully and into the basin. This provided perfect skinning terrain all the way to the summit which I took advantage of.
Starting the skin
The snow had about 2 inches of crunchy surface crystal stuff which made for great purchase. Someone had glissaded the entire 2200 vertical from the summit making for a nice pathway. Here is a series of pics showing the condition of the gully throughout the course of my ascent.
Conditions of the NW gully to Belford's summit
In three hours and 10 minutes I was on the summit of Belford, it was 8:25 am. The east face wasn't yet corned up yet, so I hung out for a half hour to wait for optimum conditions. The snow was continuous up onto the summit block but stopped five feet short of the tip top. Trying for the exact summit descent of all the 14k peaks meant I was going to get some ski rock walking time.
Skiing Belford East Slopes:
Skiing, uh, I mean, walking off the summit of Belford.
Beginning the ski down Belford's East Face
Fortunately I satisfied the summit descent criteria by standing on snow while touching the summit with my pole. The ski down the face was really enjoyable. Fast turns commenced down the mid 30 degree slopes. A few dying cornice lips provided for a terrain park feel.
Looking back at the East Face of Belford
When the terrain mellowed out to high 20 degrees slopes I traversed over toward the low point in the Belford Oxford saddle. A few hundred feet were required to gain the ridge, then easy hiking lead to the summit of Oxford.
Traversing over to the Belford Oxford saddle
The ridgline is mostly dry. An occasional snowfield has deep troughs cutting through them from previous hikers footprints.
Skiing Oxford's West Gully:
The Belford Oxford saddle can be skied from the summit of Oxford all the way to the low point in the ridge. I am not a fan of considering a saddle ski a summit ski, it just doesn't feel right, so I chose to ski the easy northwest gully into Belford Gulch. The summit wind block had snow in it which allowed me to stand on the summit with my skis on my feet and slide 5 feet. Then I walked with my skis on 15 feet across the summit plateau (a vertical drop of 2 to 3 feet) to link the remaining continuous snowfields into the gully. Here are marked route pics of the descent. As you may be able to tell, I am trying to be as transparent as possible with my summit descents.
Oxford ski descent route from the summit of Belford
Upper section of ski descent
Access from the ridgeline into the NW gully
A nice couple took a few pics of me skiing up high. My gear is flopping all over the place...
Skiing off the summit of Oxford
Nice view of the descent on the East Face of Belford from here…
The gully wasn't in great shape corn wise due to its NW aspect but it still provided for fun turns.
Looking down the NW Gully
Looking up at the evidence of turns past
The snow led me all the way to the bottom of the basin.
Lower end of the gully
I followed grassy slopes and snowfields back to the Oxford Belford Saddle low point, then followed the ridge back to the summit of Belford. You have to cross a few snowfields near the top of the steepest section of the ridge.
Looking at the terrain ahead to get back to the Belford/Oxford ridge
The ridge back to Belford
I was back at the summit of Belford at 11:40 am. My goal was noon, so I had some time to relax and enjoy the clean cool air.
Skiing Belford's NW Gully:
This was the longest ski descent on the day and definitely the most gratifying. I had completed 5 summit descents in 3 days which put a nice happy glow on my mind as I completed the final turns of the weekend. Here is a series of photos showing the gully with better lighting than the morning shots… from the summit:
Entering the gully:
Some scenic's on the way out… its spring baby!