Peak(s):  Mt. Belford  -  14,197 feet
Mt. Oxford  -  14,153 feet
Date Posted:  01/09/2019
Date Climbed:   01/05/2019
Author:  PeakSixTD
 Winter BelfOx   

On 1/5/19 Ian Wright and myself (Travis Terrell) successfully achieved our goal of summiting Mt. Belford and Mt. Oxford. I was happy to see that my off days for the week happened to align with a favorable weather forecast in the Sawatch range. Reports of the Missouri gulch trailhead being accessible solidified my plans to attempt these peaks. A quick message to Ian about my plans quickly yielded an enthusiastic response. The mission was set. A week prior we had successfully summited La Plata peak in unfavorable conditions. Low visibility, high winds, and intermittent snow showers accompanied us for the duration of our climb. This week the forecast for BelfOx was supposedly mid 20s with 15mph surface winds. A stark contrast from our prior climb.


On the summit of La Plata peak a week prior ^^^

We gathered our things and set out from my house near Lake George (No I don’t expect you to know where that is) and set out around 4am. This time we had a secret weapon to combat the cold. Hot chocolate, the ace in the sleeve of many experienced winter mountaineers. This will certainly come into play later in the story…
We arrive at the TH and are off by 630, a little later than we had anticipated. We notice another car parked next to us. No frost or any other indication that the vehicle had been there for an extended period of time. Will we have some friends today? Time will tell. We were blessed with a pretty nice trench all the way to treeline. We made great time up the 2000 feet leading to the cabin. After that the tracks faded. We chose to stick to the rocks to the left of the standard route. We saved time in certain areas but found ourselves traversing steep, unconsolidated snow and talus on others. My advice is to stay high and gain some extra elevation. Or just suck it up and break trail through the willows. We never put on our snowshoes this day but if you plan to stick with the standard route until the trail junction then definitely bring snowshoes. As every single report ever written on these peaks in the winter months mentions, the ridge up Belford is almost always wind scoured. That doesn’t mean there will not be enough snow to keep things interesting. As we gained elevation on the ridge, we realized the weather was not going to match the forecast this day. That's nothing new for winter mountaineering I suppose. Mountains always have to throw us curveballs. Its up to us to be prepared for them and react accordingly. After all, we are the ones intruding into their domain... The surface winds were no less than 25 mph with gusts of up to 40. Enough to knock us over a couple of times. Unfortunately there were almost no breaks in the wind until we were heading towards the Oxford saddle. Needless to say we didn't spend much time on the summit.



We began our descent and decided to take a quick water break at an area we thought was shielded by the wind. Out of no where a strong gust took us by surprise. The timing was quite unfortunate. Ian had one of his gloves under his arm, and within seconds it was blown all the way to southern New Mexico. Uh oh... I was pretty sure that we were going to have to descend FAST. But we came together in a calm collected fashion and decided to search our packs for a potential solution. We both had extra liners and were fortunately able to rig up a system with multiple liners and hand warmers that ended up being satisfactory. After testing our jerry rigged system, Ian said he was more than comfortable going for Oxford still. Sweet.




The slog to Oxford was time consuming, but easy going. The slopes were almost entirely bare due to the high winds that batter the mountain on a regular basis. We had pleasant conversation on the way regarding life's more existential aspects. Part of the reason I love getting out in winter is distancing myself from mundane and trivial concerns. I think that's a common denominator for most of us.


We spent all of about 35 seconds on the summit of Oxford before retreating to the saddle. We flew down this stretch, primarily because the wind decided to rejoin our adventure. Needless to say that was without invitation. It was at this moment that we saw some of the most beautiful scenery we have had the pleasure of being a part of. My obsolete 8 megapixel phone camera fails to do justice to these scenes... Then again so would a $1000 camera.



The views of the San Juan's on the horizon were pristine. An orange glow in the distance blended into a picturesque sea of clouds. Oh, and I guess the mountains were kind of neat too.

The wind regained its former fury once to the summit of Belford. No sun to accompany us this time. Before making the mad dash down the 2000 foot Belford ridge, we decided to indulge in the hot chocolate we were so eagerly awaiting. If you've never ingested a hot beverage on a cold winter slog, I cannot express how blissful it is. It warms your very bones. I chose to sip mine during the descent, Ian slammed it in about 4.3 seconds. I imagine that did the trick as well.


On our descent we spied someone trudging through the deep powder of the valley below. We decided to intersect them and make sure everything was all good. We have to look out for each other in the alpine, right? Little did we know the man was a winter 14er finisher out chasing cents today. Guess he doesn't exactly need our help... We chatted for a while but soon began to posthole up to our chests in thick class 17 willows. Our new friend quickly skirted around us and made excellent time down the mountain. We were quite impressed. The prospect of enjoying a beer and some wings gave us the determination to sail down the remainder of the route. What a marvelous day. Winter climbs are so much more rewarding. We left feeling strong and optimistic about what we can accomplish this year. As satisfactory as our victory was, this is only the beginning. Stay tuned! =]

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions
Great report!
01/11/2019 12:38
Thanks for the thorough report curious about your times up to Belford, then Oxford, and total time. I was thinking of a much earlier start Sunday 1/13 for frozen snow. We have crampons and microspikes but not floatation unless we bring the skis which sounds like more weight than its worth.

For your descent, did you work your way towards the Missouri trail to intersect the fellow climber or back up and over Belford?

Thanks again!

Thank you.
01/11/2019 16:03
Hi Cassie, our round trip time was just under 10 hours 30 minutes. With the trench in place we climbed the 2000 feet to treeline in about an hour 20. The snow wasn't consolidsted so going was slow from cabin to the slopes of Belford. The trench will probably be filled in by today's storm. I would bring skis and scope the remanents of the old trench before deciding to leave them. Crampons are probably overkill. We re summited Belford and intersected him on the standard trail near the junction. We took standard down because he busted a trench on his way up. Start early, the new snow will likely make it harder than it was when we did it.

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