| Belford to Oxford day 1, Missouri day 2.
What a fantastic weekend we just spent up in the Missouri Basin just west of HWY 24 past the Clear Creek Reservoir. We backpacked up the Missouri Gulch Trail Saturday evening and found a sweet camping spot within a 1/4 mile from the trail junction of Mt. Belford/ Mt. Oxford and Elkhead Pass.
Camp at base of Pecks Peak
Because of the recent consistent rain showers, the mountains are vibrant green and speckled with beautiful wildflowers.
After a quick oatmeal breakfast and hot tea, thanks to our JetBoil,
JetBoil Personal Cooking System
we headed up the trail with one stream crossing from the melting couloirs on the Northwest facing slope. The trail switchbacks steeply up the Northwest ridge of Mt. Belford, as you can see drawn in below, where it was rather windy and cool until finally reaching the warmth of the morning sun.
Trail Switchbacks to Mt. Belford
Snow was not a concern on this trail. There were patches of snow on the ridge as you head Southeast toward Mt. Oxford, but you don't need crampons, snowshoes, or an ice axe.
Heading to Oxford from Belford
A pair of trekking poles will do the trick! There is an elevation drop of almost 700 feet along the saddle to Mt. Oxford, so make sure you allow plenty of time for your hike over to Mt. Oxford and back. Clouds started appearing and slowly accumulating around 9:30 am, so you might want to rethink "leaving the peak by noon" theory and really pay attention to the weather.
There were several folks hiking these mountains on Sunday,we saw a few dogs, several well-fed marmots, some grazing deer, and heard tons of chirping birds. We were back in our camp at 1:00 pm, and enjoyed the blue sunny skies until an afternoon storm blew in from the Northwest. It was nap time anyway, so it was a welcomed noise buffer and cool temperature fluctuation. After the storm cleared, and dinner was eaten, we filtered water from the creek for our next day's adventure to Missouri Mountain.
Filtering water with Katadyn Vario
View toward Missouri Mountain
Hiking along the Elkhead Pass Trail to Missouri Mountain, proved to be a much different experience than the Mt. Belford/Oxford Trails. Shortly after the trail junction you'll reach a creek crossing, the rushing water is at first intimidating, but throw on your gaiters and slowly cross being weary of icy rocks and you're in for a great hike. You will have one more "semi-major" crossing in the next mile, and then a few smaller ones as you near the Mt. Missouri and Elkhead Pass Trail split.
I would encourage you to bring the following pieces of gear in addition to your normal pack, hydration, food, clothing, etc. for the climb on Missouri: gaiters, ice axe, and optional helmet.
There are several snow field crossings on the hike up, which we encountered sufficient kick steps, but they were icy and an ice axe would have been nice to have had.
Brian on descent
Once you reach the saddle and begin to ascend the ridge south to the peak, you'll have to navigate through some technical snow/ice patches, where an ice axe would most definitely benefit you.
Jody and Toby on descent
Upon reaching the 14,067 foot summit, you're in for a majestic treat full of slightly snow capped peaks, green mountain sides, and several mountain lakes.
Token summit photo with Brian Jody and Toby on Missouri
On our hike up Missouri, we met two fellas, Forrest from Fort Collins, and Ben from Salida, who after summiting were going to snowboard and glissade for their descent. They ascended the same couloir as their descent shows.
Forrest snowboard descent
Forrest shredding le gnar!
Forrest bottom of descent, skier's left of Mike's ski tracks from the previous day (see report here)
Forrest at the bottom
Ben starting his descent on foot w/ axe
Ben middle of descent
Ben descending with glissade
One final note for snow ascent/descent. Forrest reported that the snow started getting softer around 10am. Ben and Forrest post holed the last 20 meters of the ascent. Snow conditions looked just about perfect for the descent around 11am when Forrest headed down. Monday was sunny and warm so depending on the weather I would say that shooting for a 10:30-11:30 ski descent window will give you pretty good conditions.
Check out our Facebook Page for more trip photos.
Happy Peak Bagging!
And mad props to the trail crews that worked on these three mountains. The scree field trail on Missouri Mountain is particularly impressive!
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):