Peak(s):  Mt. Oxford  -  14,153 feet
Mt. Belford  -  14,197 feet
Date Posted:  03/30/2009
Date Climbed:   03/29/2009
Author:  Easy Rider
 West Ridge & Missouri Gulch   


The last storm left a nice white blanket over the Sawatch. However the wind rolled in as the storm broke over the weekend, bringing the avalanche danger up. Shifting wind directions were going to make it hard to know where the snow would be loading. I chose Oxford for the safety of the ridge.

The road was passable to the Missouri Gulch TH. Starting at 4:44, I broke trail from the bridge up a familiar trail. Crossing the creek, slowed my pace, hoping the light of day would catch up before having to cross the slopes below the cabin. This area is not too bad at the bottom, above the gully, but it does ramp up to a potential starting zone at the top. I trended way left to avoid this scenario. It was still kind of dark at the 'cabin'. The wind was ripping through the trees, making it difficult to sit still and stay warm while I waited for the dawn. I yanked my base layer, going skin to the wind for a few moments, and using a poly/wool thin sweater instead, then fleece, then a big thick wooly sweater, then poly puffy jacket, and a thick shell. I put on a baclava, and a gaiter, then put my hood up, and tucked it under my helmet and goggles: the wind fortress. I was tempted to put in some earplugs, but elected to listen to the snow until Elkhead Pass.

Huge plumes of snow spun from Belford, loading the northwest gulch. The entrance off the summit was looking dry, and MO's summit looked blasted as well. So I did not have any reason to think that Oxford would be in condition from any side, but continued on anyway since MO Gulch this is one of my favorite green runs.

Eventually, I used a climbing traverse above the big ice flows to wrap around the west side, ending up finishing from the northwest side over a couple false summits to Belford. The northwest side was really dry, but there was a way off the summit to the east into Belford Gulch. It was definately getting cross loaded though, so I just walked the ridge BOOO!

Oxford was looking almost as pathetic as I had envisioned, all but the ridge was bone. I really wanted to make Oxford special by itself by riding Waverly Gulch to Clear Creak, or The west side to Pine Creek, but the views from the west were not encouraging, and as I found out at the register, Waverly does not go from the summit. But hey, the ridge still went, and Davenport used this funny little line too. I simply adopted the standard mentality that this was only a continuation of the Belford climb.

Oxford's summit register

On the line, Oxford's West Ridge.

Hoofing it back up to Belford again.

Oxford from the south shoulder of Belford

Cruising into Missouri Gulch.

This was my third trip through this basin, and I had the line of momentum planned pretty well on the way up, so other than the the Missouri Creek crossing, I rode all the way back to the Clear Creek bridge. I skipped a couple of the switchbacks for some turns, but lower down the snow had not covered the fallen timber, so stuck to the trail to the bridge. It was 2:10, and I had finally finished the Sawatch range on snowboard.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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 Comments or Questions

Nice, home stretch.
04/01/2009 15:48
I think that a deal was made in Silver Pick, not that anyone will hassle you in spring anyway. Definitely fun ones.

Hutch is in Cham right now, he would be a great partner for Cap. He may be back in a week, or may stay there for a while. Cap might be looking a lot better after this storm cycle.

Lindsey might be the only Sangre you can get without another good upslope or two.

I‘d ski Sneffels for a fourth time, for sure, it‘s just too good and easy once Yankee Boy gets plowed.

I‘ll be in the Tetons and also Rainier late April-early May, but otherwise I‘ll be skiing...


Nice read
04/02/2009 20:00
I thought the ridge off of Oxford was awesome when we did it, 2, 3,000 vert, pow so deep it was blowing my mind. Way to get the Sawatch done, I disagree with gb that the Sawatch are boring. Maybe for a skier of his great ability, but for us mere mortals a 12 mile, 5,000 foot ski provides enough exciting to last at least a week.

Only 9 left to go, way to go! I think there‘s going to be several thousand people completing the ski the fourteeners project within the next 5 years. What do you guys think? 10 years ago you hardly saw anyone out there, now it‘s the thing to do for sure. I‘m planning a new route down the north face of uncompahgre sometime in the next 5 years and am looking for strong partners to test the route first, before I commit.

Easy Rider

The Sawatch
04/05/2009 15:58
These peaks certainly have the potential for the biggest vert, but they are hard to catch for good condition. Otherwise, there are some gems, La Plata, Holy Cross, Missouri. I had some nice pow on Belford, and I enjoyed Elbert very much. But on more than a few I was bored stupid, like Princeton. I would be very suprised to see even a hundred summit finishers in the next ten years.

Easy Rider

Good Ones & Grim Ones
11/30/2010 17:28
That was summit descent # 45, so I have 9 to go.

Longs, Capitol, The Wilson Trio, and most of the Southern Sangres (Blanca, Little Bear, Lindsey, Celubra).

I've never been on Longs, but it is still out as far as I know.

The Wilsons are probably the most attractive peaks left on my list, so looking to rally a group for them. What's the deal with the access now?

I also still have Capitol, but conditions are not too good this year, not ruling it out yet; do you know Hutch?

Blanca was out earlier this year, and that is nothing new, but it may come around.

Little Bear could be getting there, and I'm still planning on getting Lindsey.

Never been on Celubra either, and need to start making arrangements soon.

Sneffels is on my repeat list to get off the summit, but that one can wait until much later in the spring. My friend Joe down in Ridgeway is always trying to get me on the Snake Couloir, but need to ride the So Side for the summit, as you know.

Thanks for the comments, I have your e mail, so I'll keep you posted.


Grim Conditions
02/05/2011 00:22
Man it‘s thin. It usually isn‘t that bad up there compared to the S Sawatch. Bummer you had no choice but the ridge descent. Must feel good to have that range done-- couple of good ones in there, but mostly boring ones.

What‘s your summit descent count at now? I would do some of the good ones again, so give a call if you need a partner.

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