Peak(s):  Mt. Belford  -  14,197 feet
Mt. Oxford  -  14,153 feet
Date Posted:  06/05/2007
Modified:  12/03/2009
Date Climbed:   06/03/2007
Author:  doumall
 Belford and Oxford Ski Descents   

Missouri Gulch Trailhead at 9,640'
Ascent of Belford's Northwest Gully
Summit ski descent of Belford down East Slopes
Climb to Belford/Oxford saddle and over to Oxford Summit
Summit ski descent of Oxford down West Gully
Climb to Belford/Oxford Saddle and traverse to Belford Summit
Ski descent of Belford Northwest Gully

-Elevation Climbed: 6,950'
-Vert skied: 4,750'
-Mileage RT: 12.5 miles
- Round Trip Time: 8 hours 15 minutes

Route: climb blue, ski red

Climbing Belford's NW Gully:

Sunday morning, Debbie and Prakash headed to climb Columbia's Southeast ridge while I set off for the Missouri Gulch trailhead. At 5:15 am I began the climb up the steep switchbacks toward the Belford Group.

Starting the day

It had been a while since I had traveled solo and I was looking forward to the day. Although my legs were burning from the previous two days of hiking, I made nice progress to the stream crossing in the lower basin below Missouri Mountain. The summer standard route on Belford is almost exclusively dry all the way until the upper 200' of the mountain. Expecting crowds of climbers, I was pleasantly surprised to have only seen two people to this point.

Looking up at Belford from tree line in Missouri Gulch, NW gully ski route marked

Continuous snow stretches from the summit of Belford all the way down the NW gully and into the basin. This provided perfect skinning terrain all the way to the summit which I took advantage of.

Starting the skin

The snow had about 2 inches of crunchy surface crystal stuff which made for great purchase. Someone had glissaded the entire 2200 vertical from the summit making for a nice pathway. Here is a series of pics showing the condition of the gully throughout the course of my ascent.

Conditions of the NW gully to Belford's summit

In three hours and 10 minutes I was on the summit of Belford, it was 8:25 am. The east face wasn't yet corned up yet, so I hung out for a half hour to wait for optimum conditions. The snow was continuous up onto the summit block but stopped five feet short of the tip top. Trying for the exact summit descent of all the 14k peaks meant I was going to get some ski rock walking time.

Skiing Belford East Slopes:

Skiing, uh, I mean, walking off the summit of Belford.

Beginning the ski down Belford's East Face

Fortunately I satisfied the summit descent criteria by standing on snow while touching the summit with my pole. The ski down the face was really enjoyable. Fast turns commenced down the mid 30 degree slopes. A few dying cornice lips provided for a terrain park feel.

Looking back at the East Face of Belford

When the terrain mellowed out to high 20 degrees slopes I traversed over toward the low point in the Belford Oxford saddle. A few hundred feet were required to gain the ridge, then easy hiking lead to the summit of Oxford.

Traversing over to the Belford Oxford saddle

The ridgline is mostly dry. An occasional snowfield has deep troughs cutting through them from previous hikers footprints.

Skiing Oxford's West Gully:

The Belford Oxford saddle can be skied from the summit of Oxford all the way to the low point in the ridge. I am not a fan of considering a saddle ski a summit ski, it just doesn't feel right, so I chose to ski the easy northwest gully into Belford Gulch. The summit wind block had snow in it which allowed me to stand on the summit with my skis on my feet and slide 5 feet. Then I walked with my skis on 15 feet across the summit plateau (a vertical drop of 2 to 3 feet) to link the remaining continuous snowfields into the gully. Here are marked route pics of the descent. As you may be able to tell, I am trying to be as transparent as possible with my summit descents.

Oxford ski descent route from the summit of Belford

Upper section of ski descent

Access from the ridgeline into the NW gully

A nice couple took a few pics of me skiing up high. My gear is flopping all over the place...

Skiing off the summit of Oxford

Nice view of the descent on the East Face of Belford from here...

The gully wasn't in great shape corn wise due to its NW aspect but it still provided for fun turns.

Looking down the NW Gully

Looking up at the evidence of turns past

The snow led me all the way to the bottom of the basin.

Lower end of the gully

I followed grassy slopes and snowfields back to the Oxford Belford Saddle low point, then followed the ridge back to the summit of Belford. You have to cross a few snowfields near the top of the steepest section of the ridge.

Looking at the terrain ahead to get back to the Belford/Oxford ridge

The ridge back to Belford

I was back at the summit of Belford at 11:40 am. My goal was noon, so I had some time to relax and enjoy the clean cool air.

Skiing Belford's NW Gully:

This was the longest ski descent on the day and definitely the most gratifying. I had completed 5 summit descents in 3 days which put a nice happy glow on my mind as I completed the final turns of the weekend. Here is a series of photos showing the gully with better lighting than the morning shots... from the summit:

Entering the gully:

Corn feast:

Some scenic's on the way out... its spring baby!

 Comments or Questions

02/05/2011 00:22
We did the exact same line in late April, but we had snow all the way, except for the last few hundred feet from the parking lot. It's amazing what a difference a month can make! Things are looking bare there now! Wow! Yep, like you said, it's spring! You've gotten a lot of peaks done this winter/spring. Nice job! Hope to hit a few with you next season. Keep Little Bear/ Ellingwood in mind, okay?


For sure...
11/30/2010 17:28
Ya, I used your TR for beta, thanks! Luckily there was enough snow up high to still get the summit descents.

Roger that on the LB Ell group, I'd be interested in joining you on your N. Maroon reattempt too.


Your roundtrip times...
06/11/2007 04:49
boggle the mind, you sherpa of the rockies you...

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