What a fantastic long weekend we had! We had a really good 4th of July too. We started the 4th bright and early at a 5k race that David signed up for. He did really well, finishing around 30 minutes or so.
Then we relaxed at home for a bit before heading over to my in-laws to bbq and hang out for a while. I enjoy hanging out at their place so much, sometimes I miss living in their basement. 😉
We then headed to some friend’s house and watched fireworks for their roof, which was really cool! I’m not sure I’ve ever watched fireworks from a rooftop before, it was so fun!
We both went to work for a day and then decided we needed another redeeming backpacking trip after our epic fail of a trip a few weeks ago. We usually get away for a long weekend over the 4th, and for the past few years, we’ve climbed 14ers (14,000 ft. mountain…there are over 50 in CO!), so we decided to keep the tradition going and combined backpacking with 14ers…because doing one isn’t hard enough right?! Hahaha!
I’ll be the first to admit that climbing a 14,000 ft. mountain is not among my strongest abilities. David hikes with his eyes fixed on the summit. He is a strong and fast hiker that likes to get in a rhythm of hiking. I on the other hand, prefer to go slow, stop and rest, take pictures, look at the wildflowers, take water breaks and enjoy the scenery. I used to try and keep up with his pace, which often resulted in tears and empty threats of quitting. I’ve learned over the years that on a 14er, it’s often best to just let him hike ahead and I’ll meet him at the summit. While it might take me 2x as long to get up the darn thing, I can do it at my own pace and usually there are less tears. 🙂
The weather called for rain…go figure! We’ve been in a drought for weeks with record high temps and fires all over this state and it finally decides to rain. Oh well, we’re so grateful for the moisture, Lord knows our state needs it desperately! We decided to take our chances with the rain and we headed out Friday morning for the Missouri Gulch Trailhead, just outside of Leadville. From this trailhead, you can access 3 14ers: Mnt. Belford, Mnt. Oxford and Missouri Mountain.
This doesn’t even begin to show how steep the trail was! Bleh
The trail was one of the steepest I have ever climbed. We probably gained over 1,200 feet in elevation in the first mile….steep! There were at least a dozen switchbacks right out of the gate and when you’re carrying 40+ lbs. of gear…well, that’s hard. We also got caught in a hail storm on the way up, which made the switchbacks even more fun! And by fun, I mean miserable.
We finally came to a river crossing and began to ascend the gulch towards Belford and Oxford. Unfortunately, the trail didn’t really mellow out much, it stayed pretty dang steep until timberline, where we decided to stop for the day.
We found a gorgeous campsite right at timberline around 11,200 feet, next to an old rundown cabin that some crazy person must have lived in 100 years ago (I don’t know who would willingly do that hike over and over again to get in and out). One one side of our tent we had the forest and on the other, we had beautiful open views, it was gorgeous!
We were right next to a beautiful mountain stream with great views of Belford
View from inside our tent
One of Mnt. Belford’s many false summits. I think there were at least 3 false summits before you hit the real one!
We spent the afternoon laying around in the sunshine, snacking, David filtered some water, we cooked dinner, chatted with a neighbor who was hiking the entire Colorado Trail this summer and then enjoyed some quiet time in the tent, watching the clouds fly by while the sun set. You are so close to the clouds when you’re this high, they move so quickly, it’s neat to watch!
We got to bed early because we had a planned start time of 5am for our hike the next day. 5am rolled around and all you could hear was the pitter-pat of raindrops on our tent. It had been raining solid since about 11pm. Neither of us wanted to hike in the rain, so we slept for another hour to see if it would stop. Thankfully, around 6:30 it did break up a bit. We got our day packs on and headed out for Mnt. Belford. It was only about 2.5 miles to the summit of Belford, but we had about 3,300 feet in elevation to gain, so it was a slow trek for me!
We decided to split up at a fork in the trail. It started to get considerably harder at this point and I started to slow down a bit. David was planning to summit Belford and then continue on towards Oxford. To get back from Oxford, you have to re-summit Belford, so we made a plan to meet at the summit of Belford.
The weather held out for several hours on our climb up which was nice. These low lying foggy clouds would come racing up the valley and then rise and head out east. They did that over and over again, it was cool to feel like you were above the clouds!
Marmot! LOVE these pudgy little guys. I posted this picture especially for my sister who loves them just as much as me 🙂
Made it! Few things compare to the sense of accomplishment when you reach the top. It is such a neat experience to be on top of one of Colorado’s highest points!
David summited Belford at 9:30 and then Oxford at 10:45. I summited Belford around 10:15 and was able to watch him for most of his trip up Oxford. Unfortunately, the rain returned and the Oxford summit was completely socked in with rain and clouds so I couldn’t see him summit. He got back to Belford around 11:30 or so and we celebrated for a few minutes before thunder began to roll in. The absolute last thing in the world you want is to be on top of a 14,000 foot mountain in a lightening storm. Many many people have died from lightening strikes on 14ers and we know how dangerous it is, so we booked it back down to camp. Of course we got caught in another hail storm on our way. Oh well!
We made it back to camp and I discovered a little furry friend had broken into my pack, found what was supposed to be my lunch, and helped himself. He chewed through the bag and ate the center out of my sandwich. Then he got really full and decided to poop in my pack. So not cool furry friend, not cool at all.
We debated staying another night and trying to hike Missouri Mountain the next day, but we decided against it. All of the rain had soaked us to the bone. Our packs were wet, our clothes were wet, our food was wet and the temptation of a hot shower and dry clothes was too much to resist. We hiked out without any issues, just in time to avoid yet another rain storm. We picked up a pizza in Leadville and listened to Tom Petty on our way home through the mountains.
All in all, a wet but wonderful backpacking trip! I’m thankful we were able to redeem ourselves by not falling into any rivers, not getting lost and staying on the trail 😉