| Don‘t Do What Davey Dont Does
Yes, yes, yes, this trip report is unconscionably late. But now that I'm getting ridiculously excited again about climbing in 2008, I thought I'd go ahead and post it anyway.
So my goal for 2007 was to check 10 new 14ers off the list. And after a good start, I seemed to be stuck for a while. With it getting toward the end of summer, and me stuck on eight, I was starting to wonder if I would make it to my goal. So I was originally thinking of going down to the San Juans to try to bag a couple of the easier ones there, but having been to the Missouri Gulch trailhead four times in the summer and coming away with only one summit (Missouri), I was more and more determined to conquer Belford and Oxford.
So what could I do this time to put myself in the best position to summit? Let's review the failures: on the first trip, I drove up the night before and camped in order to get an early start. But the dog was restless and shivering in the tent, so I ended up "sleeping" in the car. Of course, I got up late in the morning and was so annoyed that I just headed home. The second time, I stayed at my (main) hiking partner's house in Evergreen – which, theoretically, would help us to get up there early enough. But my definition of "early" is not the same as his. So when we were half-way up to the final ridge on Missouri at noon and the clouds opened up with hail, I and another guy turned around. (He and his wife continued on, and, of course, the weather cleared up, and they summitted.) The next weekend, I finally summitted Missouri. Then, the next weekend, I thought that, for an attempt at Belford and Oxford, I would leave Louisville at 2:30am. Well, I still didn't start hiking until 7:30am because I had to stop for a couple of naps on the drive up there. Then, for some reason, my legs just didn't want to work that day. Plus, this was the day that was super windy all across the state. I recall reading posts that day about the winds in different ranges. So once again, I gritted my teeth and turned around.
So this time, to keep the dog happy, to make sure I got a good night's sleep, and to ensure that I didn't have a long drive, I reserved a motel room in Buena Vista for Friday night. I was feeling good – the problems I had had with my GI tract since the spring seemed to have cleared up so I should be able to eat well on the hike. Also, the weather report was for a front to move in – but not until late afternoon into the evening. So the stars seemed to be aligning.
But as I was getting dressed early Saturday morning, I had the "Oh, sh*t!" realization that I had forgotten to bring my hiking boots. You see, I had been keeping them in the car all summer precisely so I wouldn't have to worry about having this kind of "Oh, sh*t!" moment. But earlier in the week, after I had worn them to walk the dog, they had found their way into the house. What an idiot!
Still, I had run out of summer weekends to get to my goal, so my Keen sandals were going to be put to the test. Although I did actually bag the two peaks, I'd say they failed the test. Here are the problems that I encountered:
1) pebbles, snow, water (I slipped on a rock during a stream crossing – nearly resulting in a blister)
2) the traction was particularly bad on mud, snow, and loose dirt (I can't tell you how many times I nearly slipped and fell on my butt coming down those switchbacks – and sometimes even when the trail was not very steep)
3) not enough arch support (my feet were killing me after this hike)
4) no ankle support (nearly sprained my ankle a couple of times)
Anywho, the actual hike was a bit anti-climactic after all this. I was at the trailhead at 5:30am. Still, I took a nap and didn't start hiking until 6:20. I made normal time (about 1.75 mph) up to the old building. From there, it was a cool, clear morning up the switchbacks to Belford. The sun finally made an appearance just before the Belford summit. That helped warm things up a bit, but then the winds whipped up, too. I made the summit at 9:25.
Keens on Belford
After a 10-15 minute break and seeing clear skies all around, I headed toward Oxford. There was one short steep part along the saddle that had recently acquired some snow and ice - which caused a minor annoyance.
Also, the winds got worse on the saddle – I'm just guessing in the neighborhood of 20-25 mph sustained with stronger gusts. I summitted Oxford under clear skies at 10:45.
After another 10-15 minute break, I started re-tracing my steps to Belford. On the return across the saddle, the winds picked up even more – my guess would be at least 35-40 mph sustained. I was back on Belford at 12:10. Although I wasn‘t back at the car yet, I felt pretty good about making my 2007 goal.
Triumphant on Belford
I started back for the car at 12:25. After several conversations with groups of people along the way and a 20 minute break at the building to rest my weary feet, I was back at the car at 3:05. Whew!
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):