| Summer in the Sawatch
Belford, Oxford: Summer in the Sawatch
Peaks: Belford, Oxford
Route: Missouri Gulch
Date: June 5, 2010
Length: 11 miles RT
Vertical: 5800 feet
Ascent Party: Dancesatmoonrise & friends along the way...
It's in-between weekend – what's easy and close? Good time to get that west approach for Missouri, Iowa and Emerald. Hey, I'm bringing the flyrod for Clohesy Lake! A few hours in the afternoon over some rising trout is just what the doctor ordered. Sen is in, this will be fun. Last minute I get booked for Sunday and Sen gets booked for Saturday – not looking good. I'll go solo. But it gets worse. Attempt fails.
Creek crossing at Rockdale.
Turns out it's my third failed attempt of a 14er. At least I'm getting smarter. This one gets pronounced DOA just 10 feet from the car and after five minutes of deliberation. If you're going to have a failure, it's best to get it out of the way early.
Creeks are running incredibly high. Michael (Boggy B) warns that the Clear Creek crossing at Rockdale is up to his rocker panels – about 22". Looking at it, I don't like the idea of driving across, and especially trying to get back in the afternoon. A little walk downstream assures me that the runout is treacherous, so no fording either. OK, so there's actually something left in the day after this failed attempt. What's plan B?
Cabin along trail near treeline in Missouri Gulch.
Ah, how about Oxford, just right next door. Snow should be low enough that it would be fun to try and bust a time from last August.
Two miles down the road I bump into some very pleasant company. Ry and Gianna are a very nice Boulder couple I meet in the parking lot – they're planning on Mo' from the east side, then Bel/Ox, and invite me to join.
Belford's NW ridge.
At the Belford turnoff, there's too much snow on the east aspects to do without crampons, and mine are at the car. Axe, poles, and spikes don't seem sufficient for what I'm seeing – plus the hour is late. Ry and Gianna decide to go for it, and plan to catch Bel/Ox next, so I decide to hit Bel/Ox first, and get the beta from them when we meet back in the gulley. I head for Belford. I'm still hoping to bust last year's time; it's not looking all that good.
Huron peaks out from behind Missouri's north ridge.
It's windy and, for a pleasant day, surprisingly chill. I stop to layer up. There are a few snowy areas to cross, but I stay in trail runners the whole way – it's pretty much summer in the Sawatch from this point forward. To my surprise I carve four minutes off last year's time to Belford. Ry and Gianna skip Missouri and summit Belford instead, due to trouble getting across the creek in Missouri Gulch.
In the saddle between the peaks I'm surprised to bump into Ken, his first trip back after a month's hiatus. He's looking very good. I finally get a chance to meet Jean. They're on their way back over to Belford, and assure me I'll catch up. I head east and get the summit of Oxford to myself.
Harvard's north side, from Mt. Oxford.
The ridge between the two peaks is quite windy today. The only snow to contend with is right at the top of the Belford side, and is easily surmounted without even as much as gaiters.
Connecting ridge back to Belford from Oxford.
Elkhead Pass, Missouri, Iowa, and Emerald.
Beautiful Emerald Peak.
I never notice it on the way up, but I'm reminded of that steep loose section around 13,600 or 13,800 that poses some danger of slipping on the descent. I always seem to slide at least one foot in this section. Lower down, the rock stairs are a real luxury.
Ice Mountain hides behind Missouri's summit.
I join Ken and Jean to hang out in the sun on the big rock in the upper gulley at the base of the steep section. It's a lot warmer and calm down here – we change into T-shirts and chat as we head down.
It's a really festive atmosphere, with lots of folks out today. We bump into Austin Porzak and his friend Richard. Austin just finished his 34th 14er ski descent from Missouri. The five of us chat as we head back to the cars on a warm early summer afternoon.
Ken and Jean.
Clear Creek, seen from the footbridge at the Missouri Gulch TH.
As we cross the bridge below, the raging torrents beneath confirm the decision earlier that morning to let the west approach go – for now. It may be another three weeks or more before that stream is fordable…
Of course, there's always Pine Creek… : )
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