Peak(s):  Mt. Belford  -  14,197 feet
Mt. Oxford  -  14,153 feet
Date Posted:  07/17/2008
Modified:  10/17/2008
Date Climbed:   07/16/2008
Author:  dcbates80911
 Solitude in the mountains  

Hiking Partner - Myself and I (Solo)
Distance - 11.4 RT (based on my GPS)
Trailhead - Missouri Gulch

The original plan for this week was to meet up with some local hikers to camp and climb San Luis. There was interest, but summer schedules got in the way. Moreover, my last two weeks were incredibly busy so the San Luis trip plans just did not materialize.

All day Monday, I had this urge to take a day and go do something, but what? Belford with an Oxford chaser just came to me. I liked the remoteness and felt the need for some solitude so I prepared my gear and packed the car.

Tuesday, I headed for Buena Vista right after work for the two-hour drive. Plan was to camp at the TH after dinner someplace in BV. Brad had mentioned a sub place in a previous TR so I figured I would try it out. The place is great and I highly recommend.

Anyway, I camped just west of the TH (no camping at the TH) and slept pretty well. Awoke at 4:45am for a 5:00am start, however, it was very dark and I had heard the trail is rocky. I thought about using a headlamp, but decided to wait for some natural light.

Trail Head Information

Sun beginning to hit the valley

I struggled through the switchbacks and wondered if I could do it. The switchbacks were brutal and just got harder from there as you basically head up and up with little reprieve. About two miles in, I was passed by my first contact and it gave me some motivation along with the valley's natural beauty as I broke tree-line. The wildflowers are in full bloom and couldn't believe the number of Columbine.


Cabin Ruins

Missouri appears

First shot of Belford

As I got into a rhythm, the work seemed to get easier. Still, the climb up this ridge is steep with endless switchbacks. I stopped regularly to take in the gorgeous views.

View above Missouri Gulch

La Plata

Elbert in the distance

Approaching Belford's summit

Summit Disc

The views from the top showed a pristine wilderness area surrounded by some spectacular mountains.

On top of Belford - Sorry, didn't realize it was that windy



Trouble with going alone is getting a good self-portrait

After some food and contemplation, I decided to go for Oxford. My legs were feeling pretty good, but the return trip concerned me. By this time, two other people had joined me on top. I was not ready for the day to end (just after 9:00am) so continued on to Oxford. The trail down off Belford to the saddle is steep and full of loose rock and dirt and a hard place not to slip. On the way down, I ran into my fourth person on his return from Oxford. We briefly talked and he said he was just finishing his 27th and 28th 14ers. We parted ways and I continued. The approach to Oxford wasn't too bad as it was a long steady climb.

Looking back at Belford from the Saddle

Looking back at Belford from Oxford's summit with trail clearly in view

Oxford Disc

On top of Oxford, I watched a C-130 aircraft come down the vally from Leadville and turn to enter the valley between Oxford and Harvard. It was cool to see them fly below. I stayed on top for about 15 minutes before heading back.

The trip back was tough. The approach back to Belford was straight-up. I ran into a group on the way and they gave me an excuse to take regular breaks. Once I reached Belford's summit (again), I ate some more and drank my remaining water. My next goal was to make it down to the stream at the base of Belford's ridge to filter and refill. It seemed to take forever to get to this point, but the water was well worth it.

On Belford's North West Ridge descending into Missouri Gulch

A look at the trail

I reached the TH right at 2:00pm. The trip down seemed long and understood why I felt so bad at the beginning. On the way, found a little grave associated with the nearby ghost town of Vicksburg.

Overall, it turned into a great day. I enjoy my hikes with friends and family, but this one was special because I was by myself. It gave me some much needed alone time to enjoy Colorado's best and I didn't have to worry about anything else but me.

 Comments or Questions

Good job!
02/05/2011 00:22
Congratulations Dave!!!!! What a beautiful day and you captured some beautiful sights. Thanks for sharing!


Great time
07/17/2008 18:53
Barely 3 hours from the Missouri Gulch TH to the summit? Very impressive! Congrats on a nice twofer, and thanks for the nice photos.


07/17/2008 20:18
Nice job Dave.. I‘ve been wanting to do a solo climb for a long time now.. I just don‘t know if I can handle just me and my thoughts for a whole trip... One day one day!


The next Bob Ross of
11/30/2010 17:28
First off - congratulations on a nice solo two-bagger. I'll bet you enjoyed your solo trip more than expected.

Secondly - I was cracking up at the incredibly calm & informative commentary on your videos. Reminded me of good old Bob Ross. Maybe you should look into your own show.

Thirdly - We better get a hike on the schedule before the summer is over. Lesa & I are up for a hike in August & I'll be looking at Longs for August or Sept. if you're interested.


07/26/2008 09:06
Great TR, Dave! I love Missouri Gulch, it‘s absolutely gorgeous up there! That downclimb of Belford over Peck‘s Peak is a bear though...those switchbacks feel like they‘ll never end! I‘m really looking forward to climbing with you again; it‘ll be nice to climb and be able to hear each other talk without the wind and snow!


07/15/2009 00:23
Thanks for the kind words for Jack, I will forward them on to him. Also that was a tough question to find the answer to!
You take some great photos.

Happy hiking to you and family.

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