Sunday, September 27, 2009

Saturday, 9/26/09 Belford, Oxford and Pecks

Mt. Belford, Mt. Oxford, Pecks Peak (13,270)
~11 miles
~6,000 vertical
Jeff and Allison Valliere, Dave and Emily Hale, Sharon Hale, Kevin Lund, Ken Nolan, Jean Aschenbrenner, Sierra, Shep, Kiefer and Sophie

Although Allison and I have climbed these peaks before, we decided to join Dave and Emily for Belford/Oxford, as Oxford was one of Emily’s final two Sawatch 14ers and I had not hiked with them for over 3 months. As usual, Kevin was game for anything and a last minute e-mail to Ken revealed that he and Jean were considering this combo to fulfill grid requirements. A great group formed in an instant and I was very much looking forward to catching up with good friends on a bluebird day in the high mountains.

We got started from the Missouri Gulch TH a bit before 7am and made good time to the cabin at treeline. After a short break, we continued up the trail for a few hundred feet and then left the trail to engage the steep but grassy West slopes of Pecks peak, just for something different. The slopes were mostly dry, save for a thin, but crusty and inconsequential dusting of snow higher up.

The summit of Pecks seemed very much like the insignificant bump on the ridge to Belford that it is, but was enjoyable regardless and the dogs had a blast chasing one another and wrestling in the drifted snow.

Belford still looked surprisingly high and distant, but turned out to be a quick and easy walk up steep, snowy (but solid and intermittent) talus and tundra. The summit of Belford was a bit breezy, but just ducking down a few feet on the South side made for a warm and toasty spot for another long break.

Eventually, we mustered up the motivation to get off our lazy butts and head over to Oxford. The initial descent to the saddle had a good bit of snow in spots, or at least enough to make things a bit slick. Oxford, though distant looking, comes up quick, as the terrain is mellow and the walking fast and easy.

The summit of Oxford seemed a little busy with another group of 5 and some others crossing back and forth between the two peaks, but I guess busy is relative and I found it somewhat enjoyable to see others on the trail/peaks for a change.

Ken, Allison, Dave, the dogs and I made a 2nd visit to Belford, while the remainder of the group headed down in the general direction of Elkhead Pass. They had quite the jump on us, but we boogied hard to catch them and did so easily once they plopped down for break.

The walk out the valley was surprisingly long, but incredibly scenic and enjoyable, enhanced by the perfect weather and great company. Leisure was the theme of the day and we made it back to the TH around 4pm. A perfect day in the mountains with a great group.


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