| Belford-Oxford via Elkhead Pass
Belford and Oxford – September 14th, 2008
I'm giving this a try – this being my first trail report. I wanted to get in my 29th and 30th mountains this year. I had planned to do Tabeguache and Longs on Sept 6 and Sept 14th respectively. However, I didn't get to the top of Tabeguache due to taking the wrong route and high winds, and my trip to Longs was canceled due to the route being considered technical. Therefore, I still wanted to hike somewhere and I considered Belford and Oxford and/or Missouri Mountain. I posted for some partners and Flashover00 said that he was doing Belford and Oxford on Sunday, Sept 14th and that he was camping near the cabin. We made a plan that I would meet him around 6am at the cabin which meant I had to start at the trailhead at 5am.
I left my house in Glenwood around 5pm on Saturday and arrived just after 7pm at Clear Creek Reservoir. I camped at the west end of Clear Creek Res because I knew there was a bathroom there – I hate pooping in the woods. After waking up at 4am getting a little breakfast and getting all my stuff together, I drove out to the trailhead around 4:45am. It took longer to get to the trailhead from the Reservoir than I thought and I almost missed the turnoff, because the trailhead sign actually parallels the road instead of perpendicular to the road like most signs. I grabbed all my stuff and started heading towards the trail with my headlamp. Once I got to the bridge crossing I realized that I didn't have my hiking boots on, but rather just my sneakers, so I had to hike back to the car and get my boots on. I didn't start on the trail until 5:30am and knew that I had to make up a little time.
I made the cabin about 6:30am almost exactly an hour after I started. I probably would have made it a little sooner, but this was my first night hiking experience and I stopped just about every time I heard a tree snap. Plus, my light was getting dim as it was running out of battery. By the time I was close to the cabin, the light wasn't needed though. Note to self: make sure batteries are working great before hiking in dark. Flashover00 was waiting at his camp when I approached, although he told me breakfast would be ready when I arrived, due to my lateness, breakfast was already finished. Flashover00 and I started discussing strategy and one thing was certain, we wanted to get at least one peak accomplished and that we would attempt via the Elkhead Pass trail.
The hiking up to the pass was actually pretty cool. It's a great basin surrounded by Missouri Mountain on the west/south and Belford to the east.
We ran into snow around 12,400 ft but it was pretty solid and there was no real problem of slipping.
It's hard to tell which mountain Missouri is because as you climb up the basin, the mountain to the east looks higher, but Missouri is actually in front of you as you hike more towards the south. It was quite a bit longer though.
This picture shows the path up pretty good. It's a little steeper than it looks, but it's still not too bad and it's a great hike up.
Flashover00 just after starting up from Elkhead Pass. You can see the trail going up to the left.
Belford to the left in this picture taken from Elkhead Pass
I have enclosed a map to show distances according to my GPS.
Taking our time hiking up to Elkhead Pass by taking lots of pictures, stopping to get to know Flashover00 at his camp and trying to keep warm, I believe took about 3.5 to 4 hours, but could probably be done in 3 hours, if you kept moving at a good pace. I know the weather was 29 degrees when I left at 5:30am and I think it was colder when we reached Elkhead Pass around 9ish. After reaching Elkhead Pass we took a small break and decided we would walk over and summit Belford instead of going directly over to Oxford.
After traversing the .88 miles to where Elkhead Pass meets with the Belford/Oxford traverse trail, we pushed on to the summit (another .16 miles) and were standing on top by 10:20am.
It took us 4 hours and 50 minutes from the TH to go 5.71 miles. It could have been a lot faster, but like I said we took our time heading up. We took a lot of pictures, talked and just enjoyed the views. Here's a great view of Elkhead Pass from the Oxford/Belford trail.
After sitting on the top for a while we debated whether to go on to Oxford. We both felt good enough to go; however, when we started to descend from Belford we began questioning our stamina and strength. Flashover00 convinced me to go on. We even debated quite a bit on the Oxford traverse whether to keep going for Oxford. Fighting back a little dizziness, I march ahead and after a quick snack my dizziness seemed to go away. We all, including Flashover00's dog "Angel", summitted Oxford around 11:30am.
The ridge back to Belford we agreed was probably the toughest part of the hike.
We then came back over Belford, took the switchbacks down the standard route, and were both thankful we didn't go up that way. However, we were wondering if we should count summiting Belford twice?? On the way down, we lost the trail a couple times due to a combination of snow and not being familiar with the route. However, it seemed like a good trail all the way up and back if one were to actually stay on it. Getting back to the trail we did a little post-holing.
My knees were killing me taking the switchbacks down and I kind of wished we went back over Elkhead Pass, but I'm glad we made the loop. There were about 15 people on Belford/Oxford that day but we were the only ones that went via Elkhead Pass. It was a great day. After packing up Flashover00's tent, we went down to the Trailhead and had a beer at 4:30pm and shared with some other hikers, 11 hours after I started. We were above 13,000ft for over 5 hours, but don't let that fool you, we were definitely taking our time. I was pleasantly surprised how well Flashover00 and I got along and we tried to hike at each other pace. Overall, it was a spectacular day!
Stats according to my GPS:
1.82 Miles from TH to cabin (seems shorter to me though)
.54 miles from cabin to Elkhead Pass turnoff
2.31 miles from turnoff to Elkhead Pass
.88 miles from pass to Belford/Oxford connecting trail
.16 miles from connecting trail to top of Belford
(total trip from TH to Belford 5.71 miles)
1.4 miles from Belford to Oxford
1.75 miles from Belford to Elkhead Pass turnoff via the switchbacks
2.36 miles from turnoff to TH
Total miles by going up Elkhead Pass and descending switchbacks: 12.62
Vert gain: about 5,700 feet
The Elkhead Pass route adds 1.6 miles (one-way) onto your trip, but definitely worth it.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):