Hiking Partner – Myself and I (Solo) Distance – 11.4 RT (based on my GPS) Trailhead – Missouri Gulch
The original plan for this week was to meet up with some local hikers to camp and climb San Luis. There was interest, but summer schedules got in the way. Moreover, my last two weeks were incredibly busy so the San Luis trip plans just did not materialize.
All day Monday, I had this urge to take a day and go do something, but what? Belford with an Oxford chaser just came to me. I liked the remoteness and felt the need for some solitude so I prepared my gear and packed the car.
Tuesday, I headed for Buena Vista right after work for the two-hour drive. Plan was to camp at the TH after dinner someplace in BV. Brad had mentioned a sub place in a previous TR so I figured I would try it out. The place is great and I highly recommend.
Anyway, I camped just west of the TH (no camping at the TH) and slept pretty well. Awoke at 4:45am for a 5:00am start, however, it was very dark and I had heard the trail is rocky. I thought about using a headlamp, but decided to wait for some natural light.
Trail Head Information
Sun beginning to hit the valley
I struggled through the switchbacks and wondered if I could do it. The switchbacks were brutal and just got harder from there as you basically head up and up with little reprieve. About two miles in, I was passed by my first contact and it gave me some motivation along with the valley's natural beauty as I broke tree-line. The wildflowers are in full bloom and couldn't believe the number of Columbine.
First shot of Belford
As I got into a rhythm, the work seemed to get easier. Still, the climb up this ridge is steep with endless switchbacks. I stopped regularly to take in the gorgeous views.
View above Missouri Gulch
Elbert in the distance
Approaching Belford's summit
The views from the top showed a pristine wilderness area surrounded by some spectacular mountains.
On top of Belford - Sorry, didn't realize it was that windy
Trouble with going alone is getting a good self-portrait
After some food and contemplation, I decided to go for Oxford. My legs were feeling pretty good, but the return trip concerned me. By this time, two other people had joined me on top. I was not ready for the day to end (just after 9:00am) so continued on to Oxford. The trail down off Belford to the saddle is steep and full of loose rock and dirt and a hard place not to slip. On the way down, I ran into my fourth person on his return from Oxford. We briefly talked and he said he was just finishing his 27th and 28th 14ers. We parted ways and I continued. The approach to Oxford wasn't too bad as it was a long steady climb.
Looking back at Belford from the Saddle
Looking back at Belford from Oxford's summit with trail clearly in view
On top of Oxford, I watched a C-130 aircraft come down the vally from Leadville and turn to enter the valley between Oxford and Harvard. It was cool to see them fly below. I stayed on top for about 15 minutes before heading back.
The trip back was tough. The approach back to Belford was straight-up. I ran into a group on the way and they gave me an excuse to take regular breaks. Once I reached Belford's summit (again), I ate some more and drank my remaining water. My next goal was to make it down to the stream at the base of Belford's ridge to filter and refill. It seemed to take forever to get to this point, but the water was well worth it.
On Belford's North West Ridge descending into Missouri Gulch
A look at the trail
I reached the TH right at 2:00pm. The trip down seemed long and understood why I felt so bad at the beginning. On the way, found a little grave associated with the nearby ghost town of Vicksburg.
Overall, it turned into a great day. I enjoy my hikes with friends and family, but this one was special because I was by myself. It gave me some much needed alone time to enjoy Colorado's best and I didn't have to worry about anything else but me.
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