Collegiate Peaks High Adventure 2011 – Day 5

Find the rest of the week’s trip reports here:


Day 5

Missouri Gulch TH – Belford summit – Oxford summit – Missouri Gulch TH (day hike)
12 miles
5800′ climb

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Today would wrap up our summer tour of the Collegiate Peaks with our longest day of the week.  We were tired, but acclimated to the workload.  We got an early start and were on the trail by 05:30, just as it was getting light enough to see without a headlamp.

Mount Belford and Mount Oxford

The trail started off climbing steeply up a forested hillside, averaging over 1,000′ of elevation gain per mile for the first several miles.

Corbin is awake, not sure about the other two

Guardian of the Gulch

Once we made it further up into the valley, we could see the rest of the route before us.  The climb to Belford was a switchbacked monster of a trail that weaved its way tightly up a ridge.

Belford is the little bump left of center

I fell in behind Malcolm as he set an excellent pace.  Slow and steady ended up catching and passing all of the faster starters ahead of us.

Up we go

Looking back down

After a few discouraging false summits, we topped out and soaked up yet another amazing view.

Old man and the boy

Mount Belford - 14,197'

It was mighty cold at 14,000′ and still early in the day.  We tried to take some shelter from the wind but eventually had to bundle up with everything we had before we got moving again.

Starting the trek to Oxford

Still quite a bit of snow around for late July

Strange looking thistles

The traverse from Belford to Oxford was a little longer and more difficult than it looked on paper, but we made it over just fine.

Had to lose a bit of elevation, then gain it all back

Soon enough we were on the summit for our fourth 14er of the week.  Job well done, guys!

Mount Oxford - 14,153'

Which way?

Say oxygen! (credit: Tyler Lofgren)

More flowers

We decided to head back via a slightly different route than we had ascended.  A little longer, but more gradual.  Plus it would give us a chance to see some new terrain.

Upper Missouri Gulch

Bees and flowers everywhere

We took our time and savored the last miles of the trip.  It was a spectacular day with no threat of storms, so we had no reason to hurry.

Getting that classic Colorado shot of a marmot next to a Marmot tent

This marmot didn't live in a tent...

Time to move on

Several stream crossings and a very steep descent were all that stood in our way now.  We passed several groups heading up the trail with huge packs on, they were not looking too happy in the afternoon heat.

A final stream crossing (credit: Tyler Lofgren)

And just like that, we were finished.

Done. Let's eat!

I was seriously impressed with our group this week.  They took on a very challenging route and made it look easy.  No big problems, drama, or meltdowns.  It was truly a pleasure to spend time in the mountains with them and observe how well they did.  I am at a bit of a loss as to what to throw at them next year.  40 miles and 17,000 feet of climbing was apparently not enough!

Posted on August 19, 2011, in stuff. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Great photos, fantastic trip.

    With the three 14ers there, I think I’ve made 5 trips to that basin in the past two years. Twice I got turned back on the way to Oxford by ridiculous winds and dark clouds. Third time was the charm, as they say.

    Love the rocks on top of Belford and Missouri. And the traverse over to Oxford is a lot of fun. That’s some of the highest runnable trail around.

    I ran most of that zig-zag ridge to Belford, but I don’t know if I’d do it again. heh. It’s a tough one.

  2. BTW – by “run” up that ridge, I mean slow-motion, deep-sea-diver running 🙂 SLOW.

  3. That ridge trail is tough! Whether hiking, crawling, or deep-sea-diver running.

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