Saturday, December 31, 2011

Friday, 12/30/11 Mt. Belford 14,197

NorthWest Ridge
7 miles/4,617 vert.
4:54 Round Trip
TH:  Missouri Gulch

Partners: John "Homie" Prater, Tony Krupicka, Jeff Kunkle
Start: 8:15am
Belford Summit: 10:50am
Finish: 1:09pm

We started from the Missouri Gulch TH at 8:15am on a well packed trail, following Kunkle's tracks, as he started before us (7:15am we would later find out). It was surprisingly warm, as we were wearing just long sleeve shirts, unusual for December in the high mountains. Microspikes worked great in lieu of snowshoes, but I was carrying a well loaded pack of gear in anticipation of the predicted strong winds above and potential long day. The trail after the creek crossing became less consolidated, but still did not necessitate snowshoes and we were happy with our decision to leave them behind.

At the cabin, we took a ~5 minute break to add some layers before we stepped out of the trees.  The valley between the cabin and the NW shoulder involved some up/down and some mildly circuitous route finding to not have to post hole in the willows.

It was a little breezy at times, but nothing like I expected and was very calm compared to my attempt on Rosalie on Wednesday.  We made decent time up the hill, never pushing too hard and generally maintained a quick, but still conversational pace, with perhaps a total of 15 minutes of stops along the way for gear adjustments.  I really enjoy the NW Ridge, as it is incredibly efficient and is just the perfect climbing gradient.  With the snow and frozen tundra, we were able to bee line it directly instead of sticking to the switchbacks of the trail which I much prefer (yet would not do in the summer months).

I felt pretty good for most of the climb, until I stopped at around 13,800 feet to put on warm mittens.  I was still in the shade, getting buffeted by the now increasing winds, my fingers had gone mostly numb and the exposure to perform the swap only added to the problem, at least for the short term.  My toes were also quite cold and I regretted not wearing my insulated boots.  Leaning over to rummage around in my pack, I also noticed that I was coming down with a pretty significant headache, though I felt a bit better as I stood up and got moving again.

We made the summit at 10:50am and took a 25 minute break in the most always calm alcove (though it did not offer much protection this time).  We all added more layers before we were to head to Oxford, but as I sat there, my headache came back and I was not really able to eat or drink, even though I knew I needed it.  I waffled the entire time whether or not I was going to head over to Oxford and ultimately decided that I just simply did not feel like doing it.

I bid adieu to John and Tony as they took off to catch Kunkle who was already somewhere well on his way to Oxford, as we never caught him on the ascent.  I took my sweet time heading back down the ridge, stopping often for pictures and just to relax in the warm sun as I got lower on the mountain.  No need to hurry up and wait.

Back at the van, I relaxed and was able to eat and drink, where I immediately felt much better and was of course regretting not tagging Oxford.  Either way though, I was very satisfied with the outing and just making the summit of Belford was more than I expected going into it.

Tony made it back to the van about 20 minutes after me and Homie and Kunkle were another 15 or so minutes behind him, so they made pretty good time on the descent.

I think I did a few things wrong that contributed somewhat to me feeling a bit crappy, some things beyond my control and some within my control.

1.  I simply was not acclimated.  Aside from a short hike to ~12,200 feet on Wednesday, I have not been above 8,500 feet since the Pikes Peak Marathon in August.

2.  My fitness is really lacking right now and I am probably 3-5 lbs above my usual weight.  My "training" for lack of a better term has been minimal and sporadic at best for the past 2 months or so.  Which is fine for the most part and I am OK with a bit of downtime this time of year.

3.  For the sake of efficiency, I ate Burger King for breakfast, 2 bacony, cheesy, eggy BK wrap something or others, as I was unable to go to the store the previous night and buy some normal breakfast food.  Although it tasted great going down and I thought it was giving me good energy on the lower part of the hike (I even commented on this to Homie), it eventually was not sitting well and I had a bout of dry heaves on the descent.  I am writing this to remind myself to never do this again.

4.  I should have worn warmer shoes and thus not have to worry about my toes.

5.  I was just not into battling the wind on top of all the aforementioned reasons excuses.  Even though I regretted it later, I know I made the right choice turning around.

Gearing up at the parking lot.

Heading up the NW Ridge

Looking toward Missouri Mountain


Tony on the summit of Belford


Off they go.  I almost yelled that I would join as they were walking away, but refrained.

Mighty Harvard in the distance.

Looking SW at the vast sea of peaks.

Looking North toward Hope, Quail, Elbert, etc...

Belford Summit

Missouri, Iowa, Emerald

Looking back up Belford and the NW Ridge

Looking up valley toward Missouri

Looking down valley