| MT. OXFORD VIA BELFORD FALLS
This is an alternative unpublished route for climbing Mt. Oxford.
The route basically begins from a campsite by CR390 then crosses Clear creek and angles up to Belford Falls, then follows the stream up into Belford Gulch and once emerging from the trees, begins a steep climb heading in an easterly direction to gain the top of Mt. Oxford's north ridgeline, from which point, you just follow the easy ridge to the summit.
This round trip to Oxford's summit is approx. six miles when the return route is the opposite of the ascent route, with a total elevation gain of approx. 4,870'
On this particular day I chose to continue on to Mt. Belford's summit via the connecting saddle, then down via the standard route along Mt. Belford's northwest ridge into Missouri Gulch and exit at the respective trailhead followed by a two mile walk east along CR390 to get back to my vehicle.
The total distance covered in this example was approx. 10 miles and total elevation gain was approx. 5,600'.
First of all, I would like to say that this was a tiring way to climb this peak and if you are one that likes the comfort and ease of well defined trails then this is'nt for you, otherwise if you are the adventurous type and don't mind some bushwacking, trailblazing, routefinding, rock hopping and some steep 2+ climbing and hiking, then this is for you. This was a solo ascent and it took me 6.5 hours to summit but some of you younger could do it quicker.
Second, the Lat. and Long. coordinates that I have posted here as references are taken from Google earth by running the mouse over certain geographical points and are accurate from what I can tell by doing a comparison to the published Buena Vista airport coordinates that come from one of my aeronautical guides. They cross checked okay. I did have a recently purchased GPS with me but on this trip I was just playing with it and familiarizing myself with its operation and have not included any information from it here. Now, on with the report.
It began as a desire to climb another of Colorados 14ers but after three failed attempts I was now very determined to summit this peak! The first two of the three failures were weather related turnbacks at exactly the same place, just about to start up the Northwest ridge of Mt. Belford, which is part of the usual route for summiting Mt. Oxford. The third failure was due to my being exhausted by the time I reached the summit of Mt. Belford and simply did'nt have the energy to continue down and across the saddle, ascend Mt. Oxford and return across the saddle and reascend Mt. Belford requiring an additional 1400' of elevation gain. So there was to be a fourth attempt. I did'nt want to try it anymore by going over Mt. Belford and doing it from the Pine Gulch trailhead was too long for a day (16 miles) so I decided to find a shorter way to climb Mt. Oxford, one that I could do in a day that was fairly short and not too much trouble so I turned to Google earth (amazing site if you have'nt tried it out) and noted by playing around there that the distance from CR390 to the summit of Mt. Oxford was about the same as the distance from CR 390 to Mt. Belford's summit and it did'nt look like there would be too much bushwacking. Now it was just a question of where to begin. I chose a starting point at one of the camping areas down by Clear creek from which point you can see Belford falls. I parked at a location with the following coordinates:
N 39 Degrees 00' 08.91"
W106 Degrees 20' 44.81" Elev. 9,276'
I assembled my gear, backpack on, IPOD plugged in and started hiking toward the creek at 0830.
The first challenge was to get across the creek. There was'nt anywhere you could rock hop across and no bridge anywhere around and I had forgotten to bring my rubber wading boots! I was off to a good start. I came up with the idea of using some trash bags that I still had in my truck from camping this past summer. I doubled them up in case one broke, stepped into them and pulled them up as high as they would go to keep the water out. It worked well and my boots were still dry after the creek crossing. The first picture here shows the bags and my pack just after having crossed the creek, thought I'd throw this one in for grins.
This picture was taken from the same location as the previous photo, looking southwest up to Belford falls through the trees. You can just makeout the falls above the center of the photo. The workout was about to begin. I took a beeline course through the trees heading for the falls, stepping over logs and brush, it was'nt too bad, just time consuming.
N 39 Degrees 00' 04.84"
W 106 Degrees 20' 52.20" Elev. 9,290'
Taken by the falls. It's a pretty area and there was quite bit of ice all along the sides of the falls and stream itself. You would'nt want to slip there! Getting to the top of the falls required a little class2+ on some rock and dirt embankments but nothing that proved too difficult in my opinion. Continuing through the trees was'nt too bad, there was snow but did'nt even need my gaitors which I did have with me, unlike my wading boots! I came across some deer tracks that I began to follow as the animal appeared to be doing a good job of route finding through the trees. There were still quite a few fallen trees and bushes that had to be crossed over or around. It was still cold and you could hear the wind blowing through the trees, a sign of what it was to be like higher up.
N 38 Degrees 59' 47.37"
W 106 Degrees 21' 01.43" Elev. 9,828
Having just left the stream below and out of the trees, I'm now on my way up to the top of Oxford's north ridge climbing in an easterly direction. This photo looks back to the north where I'd just come from. It took quite a long time to get to this point and I was very glad to have the most tedious part of the climb behind me but by now I was already getting tired and one of my water bottles had fallen out of my pocket somewhere and was lost. What a litterbug!
N 38 Degrees 59' 01.90"
W 106 Degrees 21' 08.81" Elev. 11,484'
Here's looking in a southerly direction up and into Belford Gulch from where the last photo was taken.
Looking in the same direction as last photo but showing some rocky areas which were not necessary to climb but the hiking here was steep. From the summit of Mt. Belford a couple of weeks before, I noticed what looked like a well defined ziz zag trail that ascended the ridge where I am now and thought this would be a big help when the time came to climb it, but now that I'm here it turns out that this trail is actually a very faint trail probably made many years ago and was about impossible to stay on so I just kept going upwards instead. The summit of Mt. Belford is now visible (high center of picture) and also part of the saddle (to the left in picture) that links Mt. Oxford and Mt. Belford.
Gaining the ridge, finally! Mt. Belford and saddle (again, on left side of picture) now clearly seen. I could make out a few people hiking along the saddle toward Oxford. Although weather was nice, it was cold and the winds were howling.
It was around 2 p.m. at this point and I knew I did'nt have any time to waste as it would be dark by 5:30 and just in case, I did have my headlamp and a flashlight with me.
N 38 Degrees 58' 47.30"
W 106 Degrees 20' 39.59" Elev. 13,033'
On Mt. Oxford's north ridge and looking north in the direction from which I had come, taken from same location as last photo. Still some distance to cover yet to get to the summit.
Here I was working my way up toward the summit and was now having concerns about the time of day and was'nt really fond of either choice of hiking down from the top of Mt. Belford in the dark or to turn back and exit the way I came as that slog back down through the trees and over that terrain would certainly be in the dark, not to mention hazardous, so I opted for the Belford exit, and pressed on.
Looking westerly across the saddle and Mt.Belfords summit just right of the saddle.
Finally made the summit at about 3:00 PM! This looks west across the saddle. I did'nt see those other people up here, they must have summited and left in a hurry, after all, it was cold.
Looking along Mt. Oxford's north ridge from the summit once again, in the direction that I took coming up.
Me on top. I needed proof that I was there, 4th times a charm.
Down in the saddle looking east to Mt. Oxford, just before the grunt up to Mt.Belford's summit. I was really tired, it took an hour and twenty minutes to do the traverse even after a Cliffshot. This was like going ten steps, rest, ten steps, rest and so on but anyway I was thankful to get there.
Taken from the same location as the last photo but looking up at the remaining ascent of Belford, which is off to the right.
Made it to the top of the steep part of the saddle and now the final couple of hundred yards to Mt. Belford's summit is in view, and all that remains of the traverse. As soon as I got to the top of Belford I started down.
I did take time out to take this snap from the summit of Mt. Belford, it's looking north. I was anxious to get going so I was only on top for about 2 minutes. I left this summit at 4:30 PM. The sun was now very low in the sky.
Looking over at Missouri mountain, the sun has already gone down and I was perhaps a half mile from the top on my way down the northwest ridge of Belford taking the standard route back out. I knew it would'nt be long before I needed some lights on.
This one looks down into Missouri Gulch and toward the trailhead, which unfortunately was not where my Toyota was!
Last photo shows hike out through the trees in total darkness.
It was infact dark well before I hit treeline. Headlamp and flashlight were worth their weight in gold. The trail down was in good shape with the exception of a few icy spots on which I slipped twice onto my backside. I did take a hard fall shortly before descending into the trees stumbling and falling forward onto trail rocks and twisted my right wrist somewhat, luckily that was all that got hurt, and funnily all I was concerned about was whether I had damaged my GPS which I went on top of. It still worked fine after, did'nt even scratch it. Passed the old cabin, crossed the three log bridge and past the gravesite of poor William Huffman, a two month old early resident of Vicksburg at the time of his death.
It was a relief to arrive at the trailhead although I still had a two mile walk ahead of me east along CR390 to get to where my vehicle was parked. It was pitch black out and with a view of the stars that you never get from in town. Listening to Clannad on my IPOD while looking up at the stars as I walked seem to go very well together. I have to admit that I could'nt tell exactly where I needed to leave the road and head down to the camp area where my truck was as it was so dark. The turnoffs all looked alike in the dark. I did have to explore a couple of turnoffs before hitting the right one. Then while looking around in the third camping turnoff, I saw in the beam of my flashlight, the reflectors from my truck. I don't think I have ever been so glad to see that thing. Next time I do anything like this, I will remember to enter the coordinates of my vehicle into my GPS so as not to lose it again. Not a single vehicle passed me from either direction during that walk down the road, I would have hitched a lift if one did. Time was now 7:45 PM! It was a long day, but looking back on it, well worth the experience.
One final note, the few people that I saw making their way across the saddle earlier were the only people that I laid eyes on from near or far, from sunrise to sunset. A remote experience this was.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):