5.30.2005

Happy Memorial Day

I hope everyone had a great Memorial Day weekend. I was able to go and climb those peaks I had scouted out the weekend before. Unfortunately a few of the people who were interested in going had to work over the weekend, that is one of the problems of living in a resort community sometimes. George works at a hotel property in Beaver Creek, and Whitney at a shop in Vail, so they often have to work on the weekends. It ended up being just myself, Ben and Rob, who used to work at the same firm as Ben and I. We left after work on Friday and headed down toward the peaks. Along the way, we stopped for dinner in Leadville at this place called Quincy’s. It’s a steakhouse that only serves one type of steak, depending on the day. Sunday through Thursday is Filet Mignon, and Friday and Saturday are Prime Rib. They have pretty reasonable prices under this system; the 12 oz. rib goes for 12.95 and comes with a baked potato and a salad. On Filet night it starts at only 7 dollars! After dinner we continued on, and started scoping for a good place to camp as we got close to the trailhead. There are several places along the road, and we chose one about a mile past the trailhead that was along the creek. It was a nice site; there was a stone fire ring, and a lot of places to set up tents in the dirt clearing. It ended up being a chilly night, in fact the temperature in the morning was only 37, and even though I have a sleeping bag rated for 20 degrees, that doesn’t help keep your face warm so I was a bit cold. We had some breakfast, and then hit the trail at 7am. The trail is pretty straightforward, but fairly steep. The first section switches back up a steep slope to enter the basin, where it flattens out a bit near tree line. A little way up there is a junction between the main trail and the one that heads towards the peak. At this point there has been about 2,000 feet of altitude gain in just under 2 miles of hiking. The trail up the peak is also well defined, and follows a series of switchbacks an additional 2,500 feet in about a mile and half to reach the summit of Mt Belford. Mt Belford’s summit is 14,197’ above sea level, and is the 18th highest peak in Colorado. Despite this lofty perch, the amount of snow on the trail was minimal, and the summit was clear of any snow. Missouri Mountain across the valley had much more snow, mostly because the slopes on Missouri are northeast facing, meaning they get the least amount of sunlight. From the summit of Belford, we continued on to Mt Oxford, a little over a mile to the east. There is a good trail connecting the two, but you have to drop to 13,500’ at the saddle in between, then climb up to the 14,153’ summit of Mt Oxford, the 26th highest peak. There were a few light snow showers along the way as the summit temperatures are much cooler than those in the valley. The snow was really light, however, and didn’t stick at all. We returned back via Mt Belford, again having to gain back the 700’ of altitude loss from the saddle. From the top of Belford it was all down hill for the 3 1/2 miles back to the trailhead. In total, including the out and back to Oxford, there is 5,900 feet of altitude gain on this hike, equal to about 4 Sears Towers. All of that altitude gain is within the first 6 1/2 miles of the hike, so needless to say, it was a lot of work for this early in the season. The early season training Ben and I have been doing sure did pay off. Unfortunately the hike turned out to be too much for Rob, and he turned around before making either summit. With these two peaks, I now have 12 of the state’s Fourteeners, but there is still a long way to go.

Sunday and Monday saw a lot of scattered thunderstorms, and there was even some hail on Sunday afternoon. Because of the weather, I decided that another hike was probably not the wisest idea, as a summit or ridge is no place to be in a thunderstorm. I was also thinking of going on a long bike ride, but ended up nixing that idea as well, as I also would not want to be miles from home on a bike in a storm either. The rest of the weekend ended up being kind of lazy instead. Both the Cubs and Sox games were on both days, so in a way it was almost like being back at home with me watching the “local” baseball teams. Sunday night Whitney had a barbecue, but due to the rain we spent all of our time indoors except for the grillmaster of course. It was fun anyway, and instead of bocce ball and croquet we played Cranium instead. Tomorrow it’s back to work, and while I was only able to go on one hike, at least it was a good one, and the rest of the weekend was nice and relaxing. Hope you all had a good time as well!