The PlanMy son Kessler and I wanted to do a few peaks for Labor Day weekend. It was decided that Belford, Oxford, and Missouri would be a good choice. The peaks are technically easy, but lots of elevation gain (7500 feet) would give us plenty of practice for our upcoming Peru trip.
Labor Day weekend 2007 was not our first attempt to climb Mount Belford. On July 2-4 in 2005, we had attempted Belford when Kessler was three years old. (See Trip Report). Two years ago, we had to turn back at 13,750 feet, very close to the summit, due to gathering storm clouds.
This time Kessler was five and we would try a more ambitious project. We would not only attempt Mount Belford again, but attempt Mount Oxford and Missouri Mountain as well, all over 14,000 feet (4300 meters).
Friday night we packed up and were off to the trailhead and ready to climb the peaks. After dark we found a campsite and lay down for the night.
Note: See also the Trip Album for more photos of this trip.
Day 1, September 1 2007:After waking up, we noticed a problem right away when we tried to cook breakfast. The stove fuel had been left at home. Since our food required cooking for the next three days, we would have to backtrack and buy either fuel for the stove or food that didn’t require cooking.
After driving all the way to Buena Vista, we were out of luck finding Powermax fuel for the stove. It would be a no-stove and no-cooking trip this time! After loading up with several boxes of Cookie Crisp and Honey Bunches of Oats to serve for both breakfast and dinners (we already had plenty of lunch foods), we were off to the mountains (again). So much for an early start.
After a very late start, we started up the mountain. We made good time and hiked up Missouri Gulch to 12,200 feet/3717 meters before dropping the tent. We found a nice hollow in willows which would make a great sheltered place from wind, lightning, rain, hail, or snow, all of which is common in the mountains at this time of year. It was just in time too for not long after the tent was set up; it began to rain and hail. Unfortunately we found out that the tent did leak a bit (a fine mist through the ceiling), but the Walrus Arch Rival had given us great service for seven years. After the rain and hail storm, we hiked up to the Missouri Junction at 12,700 feet/3870 meters to have a good look around before returning to the tent down below.
Day 2, September 2 2007:Today we set off to Climb Mount Belford. Since last time (2005) we had climbed via the Northwest Ridge, it was decided to do a different route, just for a change in scenery that we hadn’t seen yet. We steadily made it up to Elkhead Pass where there were some wonderful views. This route isn’t used as much as the standard Northwest Ridge, so we only saw one person on the way up. A light cover of fresh snow from the previous day’s storm was noticed near the summit ridge.
At the summit, we noticed that some SP members and 14er.com members recognized Kessler. A five year old on the summit of the 14,000+ foot mountains was a dead give away I guess. We had a nice summit break and chat with the SP and 14ers.com members and headed east off to Mount Oxford.
The going is steep down to the saddle and then it is a long, but pretty gentle ridge walk to the top of Oxford. There were several huge crickets along the way that Kessler had to stop and look at.
Kessler did complain once on the traverse to Belford. He wanted to race Summitpost members whom were runners, thebeave7 and pksanders, and didn't like being passed up (because while on the summit they had just had a conversation with us on racing and the Leadville 100 ). That was the only complaint on climbing Mount Belford and Oxford.
After summiting Oxford, we were surprised that yet another person recognized and ask about Kessler. It must have been a SP and 14ers convention this week or something, hee hee.
Oxford had some nice views and after some exploring around the summit, it was time to head back. So far the weather was great, but afternoon is not the time to be on the Colorado mountains, at least not in the summer time.
The hard part about climbing Mount Oxford isn’t climbing to the peak, but returning from it. The reason being that you have to reclimb back over Mount Belford. We did so and the weather still held until we were once again over the summit of Belford. On our descent down to Elkhead Pass, it stormed again with some snow pellets and small hail.
By the time we got back to camp, it was sunny. After a dinner of Cookie Crisp (I had hoped his mother didn’t mind when we got home) we spent the late afternoon and evening exploring the upper basin and throwing small stones into the creek.
We had climbed two 14,000 foot mountains in style and we only had one left to go. It was a good day.
Day 3, September 3 2007:Unfortunately, Kessler got what I thought was the flu (later we found out it was strep throat) that night and we had to forgo climbing Missouri Mountain and had to descend down the mountain. Around 4 am he threw up in his sleeping bag and I gave him my own sleeping bag. Around 5 am he threw up there too, so we had no choice but to pack up and descend. We had no choice. I packed up in the dark and we headed down at 6am. It was slow going down to the cabin at timberline, and he had to stop several times. We met one person that knew us on the way down, but we could only stop for a brief chat. Luckily not far after the cabin, he was feeling a bit better and we descended the rest in an hour.
He had just started kindergarten the previous week and some other kids in his class got sick as well. I got a minor case the next day, so luckily both of ours was short lived.
The first thing this morning after the climb, Kessler asked me the next day is if we can go climb Missouri Mountain. Yes, of course; that will be another trip.
Despite the sickness it was a good trip and a great way to prepare for our big adventure in a couple months.
Mount Belford 14205 feet/4328 meters
Mount Oxford 14160 feet/4314 meters
Total Altitude gained:
6500 feet/1981 meters