| Heaven on Earth...
After what seemed like a long blink at 7:30 p.m., the alarm shrieked at what I thought was an un-godly hour and volume level at 5:30 the following morning. I tested my legs by jogging over to my food stash in the trees above the creek, and suprisingly felt fine. Again, I prepared a quick breakfast of instant oatmeal, and began my ascent of Belford at 6:00 on the button.
Belford seemed like a dream, as before I knew it, I hit the summit ALONE at 7:35 and sat in complete solitude for 20 minutes, before setting off down the saddle to Oxford.
I crossed the saddle and took my standard summit pictures on Oxford at 8:25, then sat and enjoyed another summit to myself for 15 minutes or so.
After re-fueling and catching some water, I started off back across the saddle to Belford, who's steepness I really underestimated. A quick time check at the other side showed 9:25, which suprised me a bit. I made my way down to Elk Head Pass to avoid the masses that would be coming up the standard face of Belford, and made the pass at 9:45, a full 2 hours ahead of when I had originally planned. With the extra time, and an amazingly stable feeling in my legs, I opted to drop to the South of Elk Head, and shoot for Emerald, and Iowa
I dropped down the trail, and caught a series of drainages, and game trails to the plateau with two crystal clear ponds on them.
After pumping some water, I was under way once more. Emerald was a bear of a ridge, but the view was well worth it, though I screwed up and didn't let my camera fully save the images before hastily shutting it down to get on to Iowa.
I topped out on Iowa at 11:25, and shot some pics of the surrounding valley and the saddle to Missouri.
I started a quick traverse to Missouri, as the clouds started to turn gray and heard my first bit of thunder at noon, just as I stepped onto the summit for the 3rd time in 2 days
I descended after a few minutes on the summit, and reached my camp as the first few drops of rain hit my neck. I broke camp as several groups I had passed played leap-frog with me. With my bag packed, I began my bittersweet drop back to the car. I stopped off at Wild Bill's Burgers in Leadville, and ate a 3/4 lb. Sundowner...which may just have been the best burger I have ever had the pleasure of eating, then headed home, arriving at 6:30 p.m.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):