August 17, 2002
After a weekend off of hiking 14ers it was time to hit it again. I decided spare myself the 3 a.m. Saturday morning ritual and drive up to the trailhead Friday night. I left Longmont around 7 p.m. and got to the Missouri Gulch Trailhead around 10 p.m. I was planning on sleeping in the surburban along the road somewhere but once I arrived at the trailhead there were several parties either sleeping in their vehicles or camping right there. There was a sign that said no overnight camping, technically sleeping in my surburban isn't camping and it didn't say no overnight parking. With that moral debate behind me, I crawled into the back of the Hilton on wheels and tucked in for the night.
I was awakened by the sounds of closing car doors and looked at the clock on my cell phone, it was 3:24 a.m. I thought somebody was awfully ambitious and layed back down waiting for the alarm to sound at 4:45. After what seemed to be a half hour, I looked at the clock again, it was still 3:24. Something is not right. I turned the phone off, turned it back and it was now showing the correct time of 4:40 a.m. Close enough so I got up, ate some breakfast while I got dressed and hit the trail around 5 a.m. There were about 5 other parties getting ready as I left the trailhead.
The trail immediately crosses a bridge over Clear Creek and begins climbing through the forest. Hiking through the forest in the dark alone used to be an eerie experience for me but I have grown quite accustomed to it lately. The trail climbs fairly steeply as it switchbacks up the hillside. It was a very warm morning and I quickly took off some layers. There was a smoke smell in the air and I hoped another big fired hadn't started somewhere. The moon and stars were out so I only used my headlamp for about 20 minutes before opting to hike in the semi-darkness. The trail remains on the west side of the creek and then at the log bridge below you cross to the east side of the creek as you proceed up into the Missouri Gulch.
Around the 11,300 foot mark Roach notes that you pass an old cabin shown in the photo below.
After passing the cabin the trees become more sparse and you get a view of Missouri Gulch. The photo below shows Mt. Belford on the left and Missouri Mountain in the distant center of the picture.
Proceed up the trail into the Gulch until you reach a sign marking the fork in the trail. If heading to Missouri Mountain take the right fork, if heading to Mt. Belford take the left. The photo below shows the fork in the trail and also the route up Belford's west slopes. Get ready, the work is about to begin.
From this point to the summit the slope remains pretty steep. The CFI trail up the west slopes of Mt. Belford switchback from 11,600 feet up to 14,000 feet topping out on Belford's west shoulder. As I climbed up the slopes the sky began to lighten and the peaks to the west began to glow in the early morning sun. Once gaining the shoulder you get some nice views of Misssouri Mountain and Huron Peak. From here proceed southeast up the ridge to Belford's summit. I arrived on the summit right at 8 a.m., 3 hours after leaving the trailhead.
I was the first one on the summit and had it to myself. A friend's dad was in the hospital in Salt Lake City after being critically injured in an accident so I decided 14,197 feet would be a good place to say a prayer for him. I snapped some photos and had a granola bar to give me some energy to get over the ridge to Mt. Oxford. The photo below shows Mt. Oxford viewed from the summit of Mt. Belford.
I took off for Mt. Oxford and the trail descends fairly steep down to the saddle at 13,500 feet between the 2 peaks. The photo below shows the route up Mt. Oxford from the saddle.
I crossed the ridge and made it to the summit of Mt. Oxford at 9 a.m., taking just about an hour. There sky was very smoky and some of the peaks farther away were hard to see. Probably the worst smoke I've seen all summer on any 14er. I snapped some pictures, ate a promax bar and decided to head back over to Mt. Belford. The photo below is on the summit of Mt. Oxford with Mt. Harvard in the background.
Crossing the saddle back to Mt. Belford I finally passed several parties heading over the ridge. The photo below shows the ridge back up to Mt. Belford from the saddle.
Going in this direction is a little more work but I managed to make it back onto the summit of Mt. Belford at 10 a.m. The weather looked great and it was early enough to head over to Missouri Mountain but I just didn't have the energy for 3 14ers, I thought 2 was good enough. If I were to head over to Missouri though I would have descended south off of Mt. Belford and climb Missouri from the south. Roach recommends descending Belford's west slopes and regaining the Missouri Gulch Trail. This way would be much longer and there appeared to be a good trail descending south off Mt. Belford.
There was about 15 people on the summit of Belford and as I descended the steep west slopes I passed another 20 people or so. One lady told me she would be doing much better if she wasn't afraid of heights. I thought she would never make it on the summit block of Sunlight if she didn't like the west slopes of Belford. Once off the west slopes and regaining the trail it was a walk in the woods back to the trailhead. I arrived back at the car a little after 12 p.m. making my hiking time just over 7 hours. Getting these 2 peaks brought my 14er total up to 21, 20 so far this summer.