| Pulling another thorn from my side
Gear: 3 liters of water in Gatorade bottles, ¼ sub from Real Subs in BV, almond M&Ms, trail runners, some extra clothes, Canon G9, intention to summit Oxford.
This is my first TR of 2008. June was a month of travel (Croatia, Missouri, Boston) to places at or near sea level. During June, I got a wicked respiratory infection, tweaked my knee, ate tons of my mom & grama's comfort food, and did absolutely nothing to prepare for the summer. So, I decided to start out solo for the first few peaks to get my mountain lungs and endurance back without spoiling a day for anyone who's bothered to stay in shape. This meant balking at some amazing trips that have been recently documented here on 14ers.com. The take home message is stay in shape or you can miss out on the fun!!!
Having committed to finishing off the list of 14ers by Labor Day, the fun began in earnest on Mt. Massive 10 days ago, but losing my camera meant no TR was to be had.
I decided to remove some long-buried thorns in my side—Tabeguache and Oxford, both of which I'd previously missed out on. After putting Tab out of my misery on Sunday, it was time to take on Oxford again. Last time, I stepped in the creek on the ascent, and my feet were frozen by the time I reached Belford's snowy summit. This one would be different…
I awoke at 5:35 a.m. to the realization that I need a new (louder) alarm clock. I was already running late, but gathered my stuff, slammed a NOS energy drink, and hit the trail at 6:05 a.m.
This is a fairly straightforward hike that's been TR'd to death. However, I was grateful to 14ers.com user Brad for his recent write up that had useful beta (like I didn't need to bring an ice axe for glissades), so here goes another. If I'd seen Billygoat's alternate route, I'd have tried to duplicate that. That's what TRs are really about, anyway. Rare is the TR posted that includes a first ascent. We're simply sharing uniquely personal adventures on shared routes and peaks. This is my story of the day.
That being said, I started trucking toward treeline, not really looking around much or stopping to take pictures, just listening to the rushing water alongside the trail and breathing in the fresh piney mountain air. Here's the first pic, taken about an hour in near the Elkhead Pass trail junction:
As Bill says, "the work ahead is obvious," so I put the pedal to the metal and headed for the "flat spot" at 13,900 ft. The views were awesome.
Exactly three hours after signing in at the TH, I stopped at Belford's summit. The USGS marker hasn't yet been stolen…
No 14er summit is anticlimactic—it was a bluebird day thus far, and Missouri Gulch is underrated for its beauty, IMO--but I had Oxford on my mind. I stopped long enough to wolf down some M&Ms, take a few pics, gulp some water, and forget my sunglasses on a rock. Inspired by this year's threads on "what music do you like on the trail?" I grabbed the iPod, hit shuffle, and took off for Oxford at 9:25.
It looks like a long way, but proved to be more fun than effort. Time above treeline is precious to me, great for reflection and inspiration. Ideas and insight just flow because I feel free and so alive... Having a clear sky means time to enjoy this state of affairs, and I was sure grateful. Usually, I don't hike with music, but my iPod shuffled through some "random" tunes and lyrics that seemed oddly apropos for where I was at the time and what I'm thinking about these days.
As I plunged down toward the Belford/Oxford saddle...
Toto: Gonna take some time to do the things we never had (like Oxford)
Grateful Dead: Nothin' left to do but smile, smile, smile
Screeching Weasel: Do you believe in your own fictitious immortality?
The flowers and scenery were resplendent.
Here's the last push toward the top of Oxford:
Sly and the Family Stone had this to say, and I was down for it: I want to take you higher
Once on the summit, I rejoiced at having it to myself and took a few minutes to relax. After 15 minutes or so, I was joined by a guy from Golden named Nate. He snapped a pic for me, and I returned the favor.
Clouds were beginning to show their ugly side, so we eyed the return trip and took off.
It's amazing how fast things go when you have good conversation to focus on. Before we knew it, we were back on Belford. We met some folks in their 60s who came in from Florida to do some climbing. I really hope I can pull that off 30 something years from now. Talk about inspiration! Nate took off to find his friend who'd bailed well before the summit, I ate my sandwich, and then took off, turning the iPod back on to see what would come up.
Phish kicked off the descent with a classic live "You Enjoy Myself." Looking around at Missouri Gulch and beyond, I sure did, but didn't see the way to Firenze…
Soon, the weather started looking ugly and I picked up the pace. Being short is a blessing when it's time to haul ass down steep terrain.
As I sped downward, the song "Divided Sky" began to play. I stopped and took a couple pics facing opposite directions because no song could be more appropriate. I love the mountains...
Grateful Dead: I had move, really had to move
Then, SCI: Black clouds rollin' up the valley, black clouds cover up the sun
The wind and graupel picked up their assault, and I hurried down to treeline. Of course, as I reached the Elkhead Pass junction, the weather cleared up and "O Fortuna" by the Disco Biscuits began flowing into my ears. Life is good.
I jogged down to the TH, grabbed the requisite beer, (Anchor Liberty Ale), checked out the pics, packed up my stuff and hit the road for Leadville to plan for the next jaunt above treeline.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):