Mt. Belford & Mt. Oxford Trip Report

Trail: Northwest Gulch and across connecting saddle to Mt. Oxford, Class 2, 10 miles, ~ 5900 ft elevation gain   

As a result of my upcoming trip to the Cordillera Blanca in Peru I have been making an effort to get out on at least two peaks a week.  Generally I have been alternating between steep snow trips (50-70 degrees) or technical climbs and longer slogs.  Saturday, June 2nd, 2006 marked the sixth and seventh peak I would climb in a nine day period and the first 20,000 of 50,000 vertical feet I hope to gain before leaving for Lima on the 30th of June.  

After a successful ascent of Dream Weaver on Mt. Meeker two days before I figured a good way to train, without any real technical aspect, would be to ascend Mt. Belford and Mt. Oxford in the Sawatch range.  I had previously been up Mt. Belford some years before but Jen had been up neither so, in pursuit of adding to Jen's tick list of 14ers, off we went.

Starting The Day

Jen and I left Boulder the night before and arrived at the Vicksburg trailhead around ten at night at which point we promptly went to sleep.  We awoke at four in the morning and I made up a bag of Mt. House macaroni and cheese.  We had eaten this the week before on Kit Carson and found it to be an excellent way to start the day.  After a leisurely breakfast we headed up the trail.

We arrived at the old log cabin in an hour and took a break to drink and shed some layers.  I didn't really feel like taking the tourist trail up Belford so we headed up a gully next to the standard route.

Nearing Mt. Belford's Standard West Slopes Route

The gully was in perfect, hard neve condition and we made our way up it until it gradually steepened.  Jen was feeling tired after a hectic week at her work so we took our time ascending the snow.  The snow gradually steepened to around 30 or 35 degrees at which point we took a break on some rocks for food.  It turns out there was a huge party from the University of Mexico's physics department.  Two of them ( A professor and his wife) were headed up to ski the gully while several others had taken the standard route up.  One fellow named Mike was also taking the snow but not to ski it.  

There are allot of arguments about dogs on summits and my general feeling is if the dog is OK then I am OK with it being there.  Unfortunately the skiers exhibited the classic poor control over their dogs which makes people hate dogs on summits.  Not only did they stand idly by while their dogs stuck their faces in my food and ran into me on steep icy snow but the man who owned them watched callously while his dog scrambled  above us on loose rock and knocked several rocks into the gully right over Jen who happened to be entering 40 degree icy snow.  I told him to call his dog off the loose rock but he pretended to ignore me.  Fortunately they opted to leave the snow before it really steepened and Jen and I continued up a narrower point that reached ~45 degrees.

It was Jen's first time on steeper, icy snow where I couldn't leave steps or belays for her and it unnerved her some but she pulled through to the top just fine.

Starting Up The Gully

After the snow it was a brief scramble to the summit of Mt. Belford where we settled down next to another couple and chatted with them a bit before heading over to Mt. Oxford.

Near Mt. Belford's Summit

The trail to Mt. Oxford requires you to drop ~700 feet and then of course gain 700 feet both ways.  Expect it to take about an hour each way.  

Looking Over To Mt. Oxford

We headed over to the summit and relaxed and chatted with some of the physics students and the guy named Mike we had met in the gully.  I mentioned we were going to glissade the snow and he asked if he could come with us which was fine by me.  We weren't moving too fast but fortunately the weather was beautiful so there was no real sense of urgency and we trodded back over to Belford before beginning the descent. 

The Endless Saddle

As it turned out Mike hadn't glissaded before so I spent a bit of time with him going over self arrest and control techniques before starting down.  He was hesitant until he tried it once and then jumped right into it.  The only down side was that the snow was so wet that it was hard to get much speed up and we ended up doing an awful lot of postholing before we got out of the gully.  

Once out we said our goodbyes and Jen and I headed back to the truck and from there back to Boulder.  

Heading Back To Mt. Belford

This marks Jen's 24th and 25th peak, it was ~ 10 miles and 6000 feet.  If all goes well I'm going to get Jen up the Bell Cord and across the Bells next week. I'm more enthusiastic about racking up her tick list than my own this year and we seem to have found a decent medium that allows us to climb together much more comfortably.  In the beginning I was to fixated on reaching summits and Jen was inflexible about her attitude to it.  Over the last couple years we have come to a happy medium and now can get out together quite well.  I think it has made our marriage stronger.  I think my wife and I will spend many years in the outdoors together now that we have found a way to mutually enjoy climbing/hiking as a team.

Next Wednesday will hopefully be the Super Star Couloir on James Peak.

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