Belford and Oxford Ski

After skiing the Needle on Friday, Marc was down to only four peaks left to finish his 14er project. Thanks to some photos posted a week prior, we were fairly confident that Belford and Oxford would be in shape for a descent. Early Saturday afternoon Marc sent a text to let me know he was going for it, and I agreed to join him despite still being fatigued from Friday.

It was an early drive down to Winfield, and we were moving along the trail by 5:30am. Worried that the trail would be dry for a few miles, we carried flip flops until we hit mostly-continuous snow and stashed them in a tree.

IMG_0066Marc had some trouble with a pole, but was able to retrieve it thanks to his incredibly useful whippet.

It was fairly warm and humid, without a very good freeze in the valley. Something about Missouri Gulch seems to hold clouds in, as I’ve dealt with rotten, unsupportive snow every time I’ve been up there.


We saw evidence of some pretty miserable wallowing by someone on snowshoes, and weren’t faring a whole lot better ourselves.

IMG_0072Onward and upward through the “misery trees” we went, switchbacking through trees and  breaking trail through unsupportive snow.


Once above treeline, things improved. The snow had frozen, and became quite supportive.

IMG_0081We took the main NW gully direct, going one at a time from safe-zone to safe-zone. We weren’t particularly concerned about anything coming down on us, but it’s never a bad idea to follow safe travel procedures. We were also both still feeling Friday’s effort, so the frequent breaks were welcome. After an hour or so we popped out to Belford’s summit ridge.

IMG_0083Oxford looks quite a ways away, especially after having already gained 4,600′.


We were given some advice to skirt around the summit block on the east for our first pass of Belford. This didn’t quite work out, so up and over it was.


I didn’t take any photos on the traverse over to Oxford, as we both just put our heads down and tried to keep the pace up. Roughly 80 minutes after leaving Belford, we were on top of Oxford transitioning for the ski.


After skiing to the saddle, we went back to booting up the ridge. Despite being tired, I dropped Marc pretty quickly. I wondered if he was doing alright, and stopped to take a look.


Then I heard him talking, and took a closer look. He was attending to business from roughly 14,000′.


Half an hour later, Marc was back up to the summit block of Belford, and we quickly got ready to go. We again went one at a time through the NW gully, Marc making it look much better than I. My legs were jello after the day’s 6,100′ of climbing (and over 11,000′ for the weekend) and I had one of the most exhausting easy ski descents of my life.


Back to the misery trees, we skied out as far as possible. The lower we got the worse the snow was, with near-constant submarining for both of us. Marc had a particularly rough time at this spot.


We started walking a couple miles from the car, and were able to make good time back to the flip flops. Having retrieved them, we pushed on, just carrying the flops in our hands. Marc is now two peaks away from finishing his 14er project, with only Pikes, and the true crux of the 14er ski project, Culebra to go.

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