#13-#15 Belford Oxford and Missouri, Friday March 11th.
A big day with lots of vertical to ski all three peaks in the Sawatch.
Started 545am, Summit Missouri 1015am, Oxford 2pm, Belford 3pm. Finish 430pm.
15 miles and 7,500′ vertical day.
I left my house around 4am to head down south and get a good jump on Missouri, Belford and Oxford on Friday. The forecast was for light winds and sunny skies so I knew that a little effort could mean getting three peaks in a day. As I drove up the dirt road to the Missouri gulch trailhead I was pleasantly surprised at how much the road to the trailhead had melted out. In January I had come up the same road by way of snowmobile to access Huron. I didn’t expect to drive through some frozen sections of snow and then dirt road and reach the summer trailhead. Wow!
It was going to save me some excellent time to be able to start from the normal trailhead.
In early morning light around 530am I got moving skinning quickly up the switchbacks and into Missouri gulch. A nice snowshoe track from folks a few days earlier allowed me to reach timberline in the basin below Belford, heading towards Missouri in a quick hour and a half. The occasional gust greeted me, and I was soon skinning up the basin and into the throes of the northeast aspect of Missouri and above 13,000’ in the sunshine. A short break to put sunscreen on and then I put my skis on my pack and booted up to the north ridge.
When I got to the ridgeline, I had nothing but about a mile of short ups and downs on a fun and windblown ridge. The sun was nice and warm, and the snow was firm, so I enjoy my stroll to the south and the views were impressive.
Near the summit there are a series of sharp points on the ridge, in the summer the trail passes to the west of them. The snow was firm enough to kick steps in the steep sideways incline, so I pushed across a short 150 yard section and was up on the summit by 1015am.
The north face couloir drops almost directly off the summit and into the elkhead basin below. After a ski cut or two, the powder conditions felt perfect, so I pulled out my camera and filmed part of my descent.
When I got to the bottom, I took an angle to the southeast and began my ascent of Belford In order to head towards Oxford.
The top of Belford was very windblown and dry. I was hoping to find a line off its west aspects later on in the day, but for the moment I bypassed the summit to the south and got my first glimpse of Oxford.
Oxford looked bad, but I did see a long line of snow from the top down to the saddle of the ridge, so I knew if I could climb up to Oxford, I would be able to ski back towards Belford and get it done.
The winds began to pick up ever so slightly, but I made good time across the long flat ridge to Oxford’s summit. Looking south Harvard and Columbia Looked very dry.
We need more snow! Fortunately I already skied Harvard in Better conditions, but the southern Sawatch peaks that I have remaining definitely concern me.
After a short rest and some food and drink, I clicked in and skied the ridge back to the saddle towards Belford. I basically went from two of the best skiing peaks of the entire project (Castle and Missouri), to the worst peaks with conditions yet (Belford and Oxford). Honestly, I just wanted to go home at this point. It was a long day, and I did enjoy it a great deal.
Then I arrived on Belford’s summit and was greeted by a Russian woman named Natalie who had climbed Missouri and had come back across the valley to bag Belford. We both agreed that the ski descent of Missouri was excellent and thought we could probably piece together a reasonable line on Belford’s west side.
We skied past some small towers and made the most of some great turns in the warm afternoon sun.
Then the fun part was cruising down the basin back towards Missouri Gulch and the trailhead above timberline on fast slopes in the creek bed.
The only thing slowing me down now is that I broke one of my bindings in deep snow in the trees on the way down…luckily I have a bit of time to get if fixed this week as this Colorado storm system moves through, plus it should help with more snow!
As I entered the trees I started to take stock of the project. Feeling amazing so far and off to an excellent start through about the first quarter of this endeavor.
I appreciate the support from many so far. I have had a handful of great partners to join me, and I’m sure there will be more on the horizon. On to the Sangres for a bit next!