| 4-3-2-1 Missouri, Oxford, Belford ???
4-3-2-1 Missouri, Oxford and Belford???
I was looking for a way to bag multiple peaks this week and after some research decided on Missouri, Oxford and Belford. So, since my brother-in-law had done all three the same day, I decided to call and leave him a message that I was going to head out on Friday, October 3rd and do Missouri, Huron, Oxford and Belford. Of course, I had no intention of really doing all that but I anxiously awaited his reply. When we finally talked on the phone, he said, "I think you are really biting off more than you can chew." So I admitted that my real goal was to do Oxford and Belford and then depending on how it went I might try Missouri as well. He gave me his horror story about going across the saddle from Missouri to Belford and said he wouldn't do that again. I found a trip report by thebeave7 that said he had dropped off the back of Belford and then up behind Missouri and thought I might give that a try. So I printed the standard routes as well as 3d maps of the area and the trip report by thebeave7 with comments. I was ready to go…oops, it was already 11pm. Well, I'd get up at 4:30am and give it a go. Knowing it would be another late start, I figured I would at least hit Oxford and Belford and then see what the time looked like. This was my first trip to the Sawatch range so I didn't know the best way to go. When I looked at Mapquest, it looked like Rt.24 went through the Sawatch area and I would need to go past Vail and then turn south. Then next morning I didn't get out of the driveway until 5:20am and when I was on I-70 before Vail, I saw a sign for Leadville but I didn't know if Rt. 91 was just a small road or not so I decided to stick with 24. That was the first indication that this day might not go as well as expected.
The Aspen were beautiful on Road 390.
I got to the trailhead at 10:20 and I was off.
I don't know if anyone else has ever experienced this, but as soon as I crossed the bridge and started up the switchbacks, I just felt exhausted and slightly dizzy. To get winded at first is fairly normal for me depending upon the elevation gain, but this was more of a lead-in-the-arms-and-legs and just general feeling of malaise. I struggled all the way up the switchbacks, thinking how it was really unusual for me to be feeling so tired.
Here is the area just before the bridge and the bridge.
I continued to the cabin at what seemed like a snail's pace.
As I continued out of the woods and through the willows, I could see Belford straight ahead.
When I arrived at the trail sign for the Missouri (Elkhead Pass) and Belford trails I still couldn't shake the feeling of weakness.
I was convinced that Missouri was now officially dropped from the list. I even resorted to my cliff shots that I pack for emergencies. I had been snacking on nuts the whole way up (as usual) and drank plenty of water but all to no avail. I crossed the small river and started up the Belford steps and switchbacks. I saw some people high up ahead and it looked like they were heading up too. I thought that having some company in the general area was a good idea. After continuing to struggle up, I realized they were, in fact, coming down. The weather was beginning to look a little scary to the North and was not looking so good over Missouri to the Southwest either.
Clouds over Missouri.
Thoughts of turning around began crossing my mind. The wind was kicking up and it was getting colder. I asked a couple of descenders if they made it to both peaks. They told me they had turned around after Belford due to the weather coming in. Was I really down to 1 peak? Or no peaks? As I continued to trudge along it was getting colder and windier and the clouds were getting closer. I met another descender and asked if there were any other hikers still up there. He said only one that was ascending Oxford as he was descending it. It was starting to snow now and the wind was cold. There was a little snow on the trail.
So close… I decided to continue on. I knew it wasn't too far to the top and at this point I was pretty sure my trip would end at Belford. I could see the summit and the snow had stopped.
Soon I saw the final hiker on the summit of Belford. We talked a little and he estimated 2 hours to get to Oxford and back. It was now about 2pm, there were some serious looking clouds moving into the area with snow and wind and I was still exhausted and dizzy. I decided due to the time, weather, my physical condition and the fact that nobody else was up there – it was time to call it quits. I started my descent just after he left, knowing that I would be back for that 2 hour roundtrip (via the wonderful switchbacks once again). I alternated between jogging and walking; hoping to beat the weather. I did eat my sandwich as I was going down. As I was making good time down the switchbacks I noticed that I was starting to feel a little better and that there was now blue sky taunting me where the dark clouds that chased me away had been. I arrived back at my car about 4pm. The scenery was beautiful though and I thought that this wasn't such a bad place to spend another day, another time.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):