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Peak(s):  Mt. Belford  -  14,197 feet
Mt. Oxford  -  14,153 feet
Post Date:  07/28/2008
Date Climbed:   07/26/2008
Posted By:  emcee smith


 Cloudy day on Belford/Oxford, but not a drop   

7/26/08 Belford and Oxford

6:00 am departure from Missouri Gulch trailhead
9:00 am Belford Summit
10:00 am Oxford Summit
10:50 am Elkhead Pass / Belford trail junction
1:45 pm back at trailhead

Drove down to Leadville on Friday afternoon, driving in rain the whole way, and it was raining until I went to sleep. The next morning, the sky was cloudy and looked as though it could rain at any time. I didn't get a drop on me and I didn't hear thunder until right as I returned to the trailhead about 1:30 pm.

The dirt road to the trailhead is very good, with the little washboard ruts that you have to drive either slowly or fast to keep your sanity. Shortly after the switchback in the road, the trailhead is off to the left. There were quite a few cars already at the trailhead at 5:45 am, I found later that there were quite a few tents up by the cabin.

I left the trailhead crossed the creek, and started up into the gulch. I found the switchbacks to be nice, much better than the straight segments before and after. The creek crossing was easy, although the logs were very springy.

Shot of the creek crossing
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Above the creek crossing, the trail switches back and forth in an area with willows and trees, short of the true tree line.

Looking back down the gulch from just below where the cabin ruins are.
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At this point, you can start to see Belford. The true summit is the smaller hump to the left in the following shot. The prominent point in the photo is a false summit.
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Closer shot from above tree line, the trail follows the ridge to the right of the gully. By this point, you can only see the false summit.
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Looking back down the ridge from part way up.
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The trail up the ridge was fairly easy, not very many rock step ups and not extremely steep. The point above you on the trail is the false summit, the true summit is not visible until you are quite a bit closer.

Shot of a hiker approaching the small saddle, where the trail turns from generally SE to more of an ENE direction toward the true summit, still not visible.
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Shot of the true summit of Belford
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Closer view
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I didn't spend that much time on the summit of Belford, as I tend to feel that the longer I wait, the harder it will be to make the traverse. After about 5 – 10 minutes, I headed down the trail toward the traverse.

Looking down at part of the traverse.
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The trail down to the saddle was fairly steep, and somewhat loose, although not very much exposure. There is one section to the left (going downhill) of some white rocks that was probably the steepest, and the loosest, of the trip.

The crux, if you will
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From the saddle, looking back to Belford
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From the saddle, looking on to Oxford
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The trail up to Oxford is very manageable. There are some fairly steep sections (tired legs), and right from the saddle is pretty steep, but also some level sections to offset.

Looking back at Belford from the summit of Oxford
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I also didn't stay at the Oxford summit very long, for the same reason of getting it over with. The walk back to the saddle was nice, but the climb back up toward Belford was tough, primarily because of tired legs. All in all, the climb back up was shorter than I expected, but I took frequent 10-15 second breaks.

From the top of the climb, but short of Belford, I took the trail down toward Elkhead pass. The trail winded gradually down and around to the pass.
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Shot from the pass looking down into Missouri Basin
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Looking down into Missouri Gulch from just below the pass.
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The walk back down via Elkhead pass was very enjoyable, probably the easiest descent I have been on other than Massive. There were several stream crossings where I was glad to have my hiking poles to keep balance on the rocks, perhaps 10 - 15 feet across.

Shot of part of a small stream and snow bank.
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The walk back down to the junction of the Elkhead pass trial and the Belford trail was very nice, lots of scenery, flowers, water, etc. Back down below tree line, the trail was a bit rocky above the stream crossing. The switchbacks below the stream crossing were easy on the knees and short enough that about the time I was ready to be done with them, I was. About the time I was ready to be back to the car, I was.

All in all, a pretty good hike. Comparisons:

I thought the traverse was more difficult than the Shav-Tab combo, but the overall round trip was perhaps a bit easier, especially on the descent.

Could be some of the best scenery I have seen yet, especially in Missouri gulch below Elkhead pass.

If one were to take the longer route via Elkhead, getting to Belford could be one of the easiest hikes I have been on to a 14er summit.



Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
 


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