Thursday, August 9, 2007

Day 6: 7/30/07: Mount Belford/Mount Oxford: 14,197/14,153


11 miles

Standard Route – NW Ridge from Missouri Gulch + exploration of technical Missouri Route

Company: Wendy Chi

Wildlife: pika, chipmunks, marmots

5800 feet

Start: 6:45 am

Summit: 10:30 am/12:15 pm

Stop: 5:00 pm


Clear/cool – 6:00 am

Partly cloudy/warm – 7:00 am

Haiku to Switchbacks

Uphill climb
Relentless pain you bring
Us closer

3 guys drinking celebratory Coors in the Missouri Gulch parking lot commented, “Oxford and Belford are supposed to be easy 14ers!”. All parties present wryly chuckled as we had spent, what seemed like, all day going uphill. Switchback by switchback. Switchbacks in the morning, switchbacks in the evening, switchbacks my ragtime gal. When the route description said “relentless”, we should’ve realized “relentless” and “easy” are not synonyms. At daybreak we toyed with the idea of adding Missouri Mountain to the “easy 14er combo” to make the day a long triple play! This idea became increasingly popular but less likely as the pair of us trudged up Missouri Gulch and slogged up Mount Belford. The popularity of the idea of the idea enlarged because we agreed re-hiking the approach to climb Missouri was as desirable as the bite of a crazed marmot (which we fended off with trekking poles on the Oxford summit).

At first, the golden furball seemed only mildly curious and he inched closer with every photo opportunity. However, like a pop star out of rehab, he could not stay away from the goods. The old adage: “too close for comfort” soon applied. While taking a self-timed summit photo, Lenny (the nickname our marmot became christened with, his full name being Relentless in honor of his behavior and the uphill battle we had endured on Belford) snuck up on us from all angles. During the self-timed photo process, Lenny – buck-toothed and steely-eyed, actually lunged out and licked the camera! Will Nikon’s warranty cover such damage? Emboldened, he approached us again, lusting after the jerky and trail mix. Slinky swagger, he managed to get within a foot of my day pack until fended off with a pole. Undaunted by pole-poking, we were forced to take up additional arms (the remaining 3 trekking poles) and flee the summit sending scuttling ptarmigan into rock outcrops willy-nilly. The Missouri Mountain summit bid fell short as did time but not without some fun reconnaissance below the technical east ridge. Hikers below asked us if we were OK; we were having so much fun (at least I was. Wendy was looking at my route-finding a tad incredulously), we waved trekking poles and whooped, “Yes!”.

We were able to pass the San Antonian who was concerned for our off-trail welfare partway down the gulch. We had met him the night before after he had hiked up to treeline with ambitions of climbing a peak. After a quick chat, we hustled down and wrangled a Coors from the happy hour boys (the same ones who laughingly reflected on the “easy” status of Belford and Oxford). When our new San Antonian friend finally arrived, we greeted him with congratulations and Colorado beer. His first 14er! Here! Here! He was dog tired after his own relentless 10 hour pursuit of Belford but beaming with the glow of accomplishment. If the switchbacks don’t kill you, they will make you tiredJ Rest well man from San Antonio – you did it!

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