Peak(s):  Mt. Belford  -  14,197 feet
Date Posted:  07/06/2013
Date Climbed:   07/05/2013
Author:  DavidLeVan
 Up Belford and down Elkshead Pass  

In the trip description of the Belford-Oxford combination, Bill Middlebrook writes, “I recommend starting an hour before daybreak.” We did not heed his advice. My son Will and I arrived at the completely full trailhead just before 0730 and were walking shortly thereafter. I knew right then that summiting both peaks would be challenging. We crossed the bridge and quickly reached the initial switchbacks which woke us up. It did not take long to see the state flower.

The state flower

We reached the log cabin at 0850 at 1.51 miles at an elevation of 11,302 ft. At that point, I felt like we were making pretty good time, but we still had a lot to climb. Here are Will and Sadie at the cabin remains.

Who built this cabin?

Shortly after the cabin we crossed treeline and had a nice view of Belford in front of us. Yes, we still had quite a bit to climb.


We reached the junction of the Mt. Belford trail and the Elkshead Pass trail at 0915 at 2.04 miles and an elevation of 11,673 ft. Shortly after this picture we faced a lot of up, and this climb up the Belford trail was more challenging than I had imagined. While not technical or dangerous, there was quite a bit of climb in a short distance. While reading up on the hike, I thought that the short distance would be an advantage for us, but the short distance meant a pretty steep slope.

Still a lot to climb

Here is Will with the Missouri Gulch drainage in the background.

Still climbing

Clearly, we were not alone as we reached the top of Belford. The trails were full of people enjoying the holiday weekend. I know that sometimes people are irritated with all the traffic on the mountain, but it was nice to see so many people enjoying the mountains. When we reached the summit, there were a dozen people and four other dogs.

The Belford meeting place

Here are Will and Sadie at the summit of Belford. It was chilly on the top.

Summit #14 for us

Here we are. By the time I got around to taking pictures, all the other people on the summit had left.

On the summit

We reached the summit at 1125 after 3.58 miles up, and although other climbers were continuing on to Oxford, our late start left us pretty far behind. My rule of thumb is to always descend by noon, a time we would not make at all if we attempted Oxford as well. My best guess would have put the Oxford summit and return at around 1400, way too late for comfort so we gave up on Oxford on this day. There is always sadness with these decisions. I may never be as close to the summit of Oxford again, but we decided to walk away in hopes that there will be another chance to climb it. This is actually the third time we have tried to summit two peaks in one day but decided to turn back. We have also reached the summit of Shavano and Harvard, but Tabaguache and Columbia still need to be climbed. Let’s hope for another day for all of these peaks.

As a small consolation, we opted to hike down Elkshead Pass instead of descending the Mt. Belford trail, and we really enjoyed the descent. We had been dreading the strain on our legs and feet on the steep Belford descent, but Elkshead Pass was gorgeous and not nearly as steep. This variation added another two miles, but it was certainly worth it, and I would recommend this descent if you have the time. Here is Will on the walk down the trail.

The descent from Elkshead Pass

Here he is at one of the three creek crossings.

Creek crossing

We left the summit at 1150, reached the Missouri Mountain trail split at 1240, and the trail split with the Mt. Belford trail at 1325.

At the trail split

We reached the Missouri Gulch trailhead at 1425 after a roundtrip hike of 9.06 miles and 5,186 ft of elevation gain. Not a bad day’s work.

At the end of the day

My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

Good choice!
07/07/2013 03:01
We are headed up on Monday -- thanks for the recap, photos and the reminder to get an early start. This will be our first attempt at 2 in one trip, so we are being extra cautious with time in hopes of two successful summits!

I also have to give you extra props for being safe and still making the most of the trip!


Brought back memories for me.
07/07/2013 03:52
We did the exact same hike last year that you just described. We were unsure if the weather was going to hold out, so we weren't able to bag Oxford, just Belford. But, when we go back to get Oxford we are going the Elkhead Pass route. That incline with the switchbacks on Belford kicked our tails and, although a longer hike, the Elkhead Pass route seems like it will be much easier on the body and we will probably be able to shave time off just due to a quicker pace....we'll see. Great report and great bonding time with the son. I know I have enjoyed mountain time with my kids.


Congrats to Will!
07/07/2013 22:57
When I was a lad of Will's age, Fourteeners would have been well beyond my capability. Congrats to the lad! Oh, and, by-the-way, best to loose the OU stuff. This is Buff Country! But, that aside, keep climbing!


Not bad for a couple of Okies!
07/08/2013 10:47
Elkhead Pass is a nice gentler way down and a good close up of Missouri! Get up early next time, I mean real early and get them both!


07/08/2013 13:08
has frustrated many before you! Ordinarily, I would recommend turning back for safety as well, but I think you over-estimated the time necessary to reach Oxford. The real frustration is that the only reasonable way to go back and tag Oxford is to return over, or at least near, Belford's summit! All the same, congrats to all 3 of you; Sadie looks like a great mountain dog.


Boomer Sooner!
07/08/2013 17:42
No-no! Keep the OU stuff! Good job, by the way, and thanks for the info about the Elkhead Pass descent option. I may try that out in a few weeks.


06/08/2014 01:48
We climbed Belford last summer and that climb up was INTENSE for us ...we did not attempt Oxford either and went back by way of Elkhead Pass...much more relaxing although longer in miles I think it was faster for us in the end!! We just booked our trip for this August and we have decided to hike back to Oxford. such a gorgeous hike and it will be familiar. Good to see you as well as others hiked back using Elkhead Pass!! Congrats @ 14 that's awesome!!

Ramsey Boys

07/14/2014 17:00
We hope to hike all three peaks over 2 days. Thanks for the information. We will probably use Elkshead Pass.

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