| West Ridge & Missouri Gulch
The last storm left a nice white blanket over the Sawatch. However the wind rolled in as the storm broke over the weekend, bringing the avalanche danger up. Shifting wind directions were going to make it hard to know where the snow would be loading. I chose Oxford for the safety of the ridge.
The road was passable to the Missouri Gulch TH. Starting at 4:44, I broke trail from the bridge up a familiar trail. Crossing the creek, slowed my pace, hoping the light of day would catch up before having to cross the slopes below the cabin. This area is not too bad at the bottom, above the gully, but it does ramp up to a potential starting zone at the top. I trended way left to avoid this scenario. It was still kind of dark at the 'cabin'. The wind was ripping through the trees, making it difficult to sit still and stay warm while I waited for the dawn. I yanked my base layer, going skin to the wind for a few moments, and using a poly/wool thin sweater instead, then fleece, then a big thick wooly sweater, then poly puffy jacket, and a thick shell. I put on a baclava, and a gaiter, then put my hood up, and tucked it under my helmet and goggles: the wind fortress. I was tempted to put in some earplugs, but elected to listen to the snow until Elkhead Pass.
Huge plumes of snow spun from Belford, loading the northwest gulch. The entrance off the summit was looking dry, and MO's summit looked blasted as well. So I did not have any reason to think that Oxford would be in condition from any side, but continued on anyway since MO Gulch this is one of my favorite green runs.
Eventually, I used a climbing traverse above the big ice flows to wrap around the west side, ending up finishing from the northwest side over a couple false summits to Belford. The northwest side was really dry, but there was a way off the summit to the east into Belford Gulch. It was definately getting cross loaded though, so I just walked the ridge BOOO!
Oxford was looking almost as pathetic as I had envisioned, all but the ridge was bone. I really wanted to make Oxford special by itself by riding Waverly Gulch to Clear Creak, or The west side to Pine Creek, but the views from the west were not encouraging, and as I found out at the register, Waverly does not go from the summit. But hey, the ridge still went, and Davenport used this funny little line too. I simply adopted the standard mentality that this was only a continuation of the Belford climb.
Oxford's summit register
On the line, Oxford's West Ridge.
Hoofing it back up to Belford again.
Oxford from the south shoulder of Belford
Cruising into Missouri Gulch.
This was my third trip through this basin, and I had the line of momentum planned pretty well on the way up, so other than the the Missouri Creek crossing, I rode all the way back to the Clear Creek bridge. I skipped a couple of the switchbacks for some turns, but lower down the snow had not covered the fallen timber, so stuck to the trail to the bridge. It was 2:10, and I had finally finished the Sawatch range on snowboard.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):