| The Elusive Oxford
I've been keeping a journal since the first grade thanks to Mrs. Lane, my 1st grade teacher. Now-a-days, I make it an effort to write at least one or two entries a year. This "trip report" is ripped from that journal. I don't really know how to write a step-by-step Trip Report like most people who post here so this entry will sound a tad different; I hope everyone will forgive me for the deficiency. I've been surfing 14ers.com for the longest time and never had the courage to write one. So here it is ---- MY FIRST TR and I'm dedicating it to David "TalusMonkey" Worthington
THE ELUSIVE OXFORD
Trailhead: Missouri Gulch (standard)
Total Round-trip Distance: 8.95 miles / 14.4 kilometers
Total Calorie Burnt: 736, with the average heart rate of 148 bpm
I flew Home to Colorado during the extended Columbus Day weekend for a badly needed break. I was going to see some friends before their flight to Peru to explore Machu Picchu on Saturday, October 6th but they had other plans. So I instead went to visit my friend, Kelly Canull, who took me out to do a little warm up hike at Lookout Mountain near the grave of William Frederick "Buffalo Bill" Cody. It was a leisure 5-mi hike to get my lungs burning at 7,000+ ft. elevation before the big climb up Mt. Belford (14,197 ft.) on Sunday. The graph below had been generated by my Garmin Forerunner 305. It outlines the general trail with respect to a map showing Route 6 and Golden, Colorado. It also shows my heart rate (red) and elevation gained-and-lost (green). Kelly took it easy on me since I was in the process of acclimating to the increased elevation. I had only arrived the day before from Philadelphia. She informed me that her book had finally been published and it's on Amazon.com -- just helping out a friend to get the word out Hehehe!!
On Saturday evening, the news upgraded the storm condition and this led my teammates (Sarah, Nick, and Tracy) to back out on the Sunday morning climb. Instead we were going to do a light hike in the Rocky Mountain National Park; my friend, Alex, would join us. At least, that was the plan before my head hit the pillow. Well, at 3:30am that early Sunday morning, I turned on the TV and saw that the front had passed over the Central Rockies. I decided then that I would give the summits a try. Without putting anyone at risk, I would do it alone.
On my way to the trailhead, I texted Nick telling him that I'd be late for the hike. In retrospect, I should have texted everyone and cancelled the day's plan all together. Obsessed with taking Mt. Oxford (14,153 ft.), I rushed to the Missouri Gulch Trailhead and started my ascent at 9:47am; that was a mistake, I should have started much earlier but I had stuff to do in Vail. The sky was clear, calm, and blue. The cold front dumped only a few inches of snow in the higher elevation so I had to rely on my ice axe to get good footing. A few hours and 4.6 miles later, I made it to the top of Mt. Belford.
I should have stopped there but I didn't. I went on -- descending the peak to get to the ridge that links Belford with Oxford -- even though I knew that my cut off time was fast approaching. I wanted to eat up every minute of the 2:45pm cut off time. I ran as fast as I could on the ridge and video taped myself doing it; I could see Mt. Harvard and it looked great. There were only 2 other guys on the mountains; they're from Colorado Springs and they stopped me from moving forward at 2:46pm. One of them regularly surfs the 14ers.com site, but admitted that he's not a member. He warned, "Aspen, the cluster is upon us. You won't make it!" A cluster of dark stormy clouds had begun to engulf Harvard and Oxford and stretched its tentacles to take the Missouri Mountain with hail, snow, and wind. I decided then to turn around with the guys after snapping a last pic of the Oxford.
Looking back up at Belford, I cringed at re-ascending the 700 vertical feet that I had just descended; it was our only way out and off the mountain. Another problem arose: In my rush to get to the trailhead, I had neglected to mix Gatorade with water in my Camelbak bladder so the pure water in the drink tube froze; it froze despite the fact that the length of the drink tube had an insulation cover. So from the ridge to the summit and down to the creek, I did not have anything to drink. Thank goodness I had a 64 oz. Powerade to quench my thirst in the SUV.
As we descended off the summit of Belford towards the Missouri Gulch Trailhead, the storm engulfed us with hail, snow, and wind. By the time we reached the timberline, the bastard sun shone brightly and the dark sky turned blue!!! Totally unbelievable!!! The entire ordeal took 7 hrs. 15 min. I should be happy having taken a 14er TWICE in the same day, but I wasn't. I resigned to the fact that my unhealthy pursuit for Oxford will take me into my 6th year -- she remains elusive. I stopped by the Vickburg Cemetery along the trail to pay my respect to its only residence, William Huffman, a 1-month old baby who died in 1884. Over the grave, I vowed to return in the Summer of 2008 and take Oxford once and for all...even if I have to camp there!
Long Live "The Monkey!"