Mount Belford (14,197 ft), Mount Oxford (14,153 ft) & Missouri Peak (14,067 ft) are all 14ers accessible from the Missouri Gulch Trail head. I was hoping for bagging two out of the three which of these three usually means Belford and Missouri. This time I made a plan to hike in and camp just above tree line, rather than go super light at dawn at the trailhead. My friend Jay came along and we drove straight to the trail head without any trouble. The trail gains steeply all the way till tree line thins out. I think in total the trip elevation gain and length was (Trailhead to camp & Belford & alt route back); 4,200 feet, 9 miles.
It was a super-fine weekend so we did see some other campers/hikers. Lots of short switchbacks going up the gulch. Around dusk a mile and a little more in it flattened out a bit with some ok sites to camp right off the trail. Funny how one group looked at us and asked “if your looking for campsites further up, there really aren’t any… you’d be better off taking this other spot we almost took (but obviously rejected) back over there…” Why is it that people go out of their way to hoist their experience on you as if theirs is the one that counts?
I countered “We will be fine, I’m sure we will find something we will like…”. Sure enough, another half mile or so up we found an absolutely gorgeous site. We noticed what looked like a game trail around the junipers, and seeing how there were some flat areas we checked it out. We found a couple of sweet spots hidden from the trail and passing hikers by dense Juniper-like shrubs situated overlooking Missouri Gulch and its stream. For sure discovering your own sweet camp spot as its turning dark is so much better than following on someone else’s direction. Nice fire, sounds of the water, starlit sky, slept like a rock. The sierra designs assailant tent was perfect, anything bigger wouldn’t have fit on the duff bedding. In the AM we saw a few early birds hike past but we took out time to cook and chill. My hopes for a multi-peak bagging day were dashed by the revelation that Jay needed to be back in such time that prevented us from going after some extra peaks and hiking back out int he dark, still it was a gorgeous day high up in the mountains. The trail is flatter up in this stretch until you take the left turn to go up Belford which was our choice. It steeply rises up a shoulder all the way to the top, probably equal to walking the stairwell up the Empire State Building. Awesome views and inviting vistas open up including seeing the other main routes up Missouri and Oxford. Knowing we didnt really have enough time to check some of that out was especially painful from the summit of Belford, while gazing across a seemingly short 1.5 mile connecting saddle-ridge to Oxford. We took an alternate route back down off the top toward Missouri hooking back up with the Gulch trail where you could continue on to Missouri’s summit.
Great weather, good friends and the great outdoors will a 14er thrown in… nice!