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 Peak(s):  Mt. Belford  -  14,197 feet
 Post Date:  05/18/2010
 Date Climbed:   05/14/2010
 Posted By:  kenny

 Skiing Belford NW gully   

With two weeks left of school, we got together a team of 4 to head to the hills and partake in some wet weather and skiing. Heading up 285, the weather looked increasingly dark and the many zones of snow and rain we passed through showed how large the storm was. We were convinced it would lift at any minute. Arriving in Buena Vista at around 7pm it was evident that even though it was raining it indeed may still lift at any minute. After grabbing some delicious hoagies, a large plate of fries and an entire bottle of ketchup we headed up CR390 to the Missouri gulch trailhead. The low clouds fog and snow were all quite spectacular and would prove for an interesting night and to our advantage some 6-8" of fresh snow the next morning. After camping in front of the no camping sign at the MG trailhead and rising at 5 we hit the trail by 615, snow flying...oh yeah, and maybe a hint of the clouds lifting.
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Starting up the trail

Switchbacks out of the way and a stream crossing later the decision to skin up was made after post-holing became an issue. Image
pulling out the skins

Some spots were tricky with skins given there was fresh snow over bare ground/rocks but for the most part it brought us out of the trees in good time. There was still a decent amount of old snow under the fresh layer as we passed the old cabin to the left of the trail. Visibility out in the open wasn't anything impressive and we increasingly saw hope of clearing clouds to the east with momentary bursts of sunshine....definitely lifting. Image
The gully had about 6" of fresh snow from the overnight snow plus the wind deposited deep spots. Snow was pretty dry and we had difficulties with keeping skin traction in areas. Image
On approach to the NW gully

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Middle of the gully (fresh slide visible)


Now halfway up the gully a fresh slide was visible, likely from the last storm cycle so we decided to traverse right and head up the ridge where the summer trail winds up the mountain. Image
Traversing around
In retrospect we probably should have gone up the smaller left fork of the gully and made a more direct route to the summit instead of our decided course of action which I will summarize here. Icy patches = bootpacking the rest of the way to the summit + high winds = much more energy intensive than skinning to the left gully and avoiding the slide / cornices via that route. About 1000 feet of vertical later Team Leader Joe made it to the top.
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Summit acheived

Enjoying the summit
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The ski down was quite good.
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Skiing Down
A new storm was moving in and it would have been much nicer descending with more than 50 feet of visibility once we got into the gully. Unfortunately due to the thick fog rolling down the valley we didn't capture our turns on camera. A decent long run nonetheless.

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Still very much winter


We skied the drainage until the cabin in the woods and then charted a course through some sloppy snow and trees until we reached the skin up point from earlier and threw the skis on the backpacks for the hasty stumble back to the start.

A excellent day with no one else in sight from arriving the night before until we hit the road.
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