| Belford the Beast
Our Rainier training is in full swing, with just weeks to go. Sherman was in our sights for Saturday, but Jen and I still needed a peak to climb on Sunday. A thread here on "Climbing Connection" about climbing Belford/Oxford looked like the perfect option, as Belford offers a good bit of elevation gain with easy trailhead access. Plus, as a bonus, we'd get to meet some fellow 14ers.com members.
That last beer of the night seemed like a good idea at the time. But since I was already waking up often, I just hydrated throughout the night so it was no problem.
The "go time" was set for 5:45 a.m.
We made it from the Super 8 in Leadville to the Vicksburg trailhead in just about 30 minutes. I only had to dodge one early-morning animal. I think it was a fox or a coyote.
At the trailhead, it was great to meet everyone, but there were so many people to meet I couldn't catch all the names. And because the trail is only wide enough for one or two, and because people have different paces, it was hard to find the opportunities to talk to everyone. Still, I enjoyed the short conversations I had with most of them.
Everyone started up the trail shortly before 6 a.m. It was plenty light out, even though this next photo makes it look dark:
All those switchbacks were just how I remembered them. Only this time we were lugging heavier-than-normal packs to get our backs used to carrying the weight.
Once in the upper valley, with Belford in our sights, I became excited. The weather was a bit unruly, though. It started to snow lightly and the wind was chilly. But it didn't look threatening.
For the first-timers up Belford, I didn't want to spoil its never-ending slope. That puppy just goes up and up forever. On this day, many sections were covered in snow. After crossing those snow slopes, it was difficult to re-find the trail. Had to do a bit of talus hopping at times.
Some pics of the climb up Belford's massive shoulder:
The weather was really weird throughout the day. One second we were getting pelted by snow and blown over by heavy gusts and the next second it was still and sunny. It was almost impossible to adjust appropriately, so it seemed I was always either too hot or too cold.
Once higher up on the mountain, the views were incredible, as I expected.
Here's Belford's summit block, with Oxford in the distance on the left and Harvard in the distance on the right:
Me walking toward the summit:
Most of the group made the summit in less than 4 hours. On top, the only break from the wind was a little perch on the rocks above a steep snow field.
Here's Jen on the summit, before others joined us in that cozy spot:
Other climbers making their way up:
Most of the group pushed on to Oxford, but it didn't look like the most appealing repeat for us, so we started down at about 10:20 or so. Jamie, having also done Oxford before, followed us.
Jen and Jamie descending:
The old cabin:
And the "trail" on the way back to the mostly dry switchbacks:
I think we made it back to the parking area at about 1 p.m. Overall, it was a great day to be in the mountains and we met some great people.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):