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Mt. Belford, CO "It's really steep."

Erik, Rebecca and Jeff at the campsite about .25 mile beyond the trail head
Monday, June 26, 2017 Erik and Rebecca Skogsberg and Jeff Byrd and I left the Missouri Gulch Trail Head headed for Mt. Belford and Mt. Oxford. This would be Erik and Rebecca's 2nd 14er, Jeff's first, and my 7th.  Sunday afternoon several hikers came down from the peaks saying they could only do Mt. Belford and couldn't make Mt. Oxford. They all described the trail with one phrase, "It's really steep." Of course, being optimistic and overly confident, we collectively thought they were weak and that we would easily knock out both peaks per the plan. We would eat our words for lunch on Monday.
Approaching Mt. Belford via Missouri Creek Trail
The weather was ideal, and the first leg is in the forest along the creek. The issue is that the steep part begins immediately as you cross the creek at the trail head! The 8-mile, 4500 ft. elevation gain, Class 2 Moderate trail creates a tough day for flatlanders like us. However, spring had hit the mountains and flowers of all kinds spotted the trail and gave us hope as we climbed slowly up the trail.

A look back into the valley from the shoulder leading to Mt. Belford
Mt. Belford Summit, 14,197'
Coming down via Missouri Trail
 The trail is well kept and traveled with measured switchbacks on the saddle. Above the saddle sections of loose rock make the steepness of the trail even more difficult to manage and added to the effort to reach the top. With a few stops and many calls of encouragement, we made the summit. That's why we do this, and I am grateful to the friends who work so hard to share these moments.

We were too tired to make Mt. Oxford. We ate our pride along with trail mix on the summit as we reflected on the confessions of the climbers the day before. A younger, stronger climber returned to Belford while we were there to report that it took him an hour both ways to Oxford, and the climb back to Belford almost did him in. We  had already decided we did not want to go back down the slick, steep Belford trail.  Fatigue and terrain would surely result in an injury.

We chose to go back down the Missouri Creek Trail toward Missouri Peak from the Belford summit. It was a more gradual slope and connected with the main trail above the tree line. It did have some snow packs and creek crossings that got our feet wet, but it was a better choice. The path did add hours to our day, but we were pleased with our choice in the end. It was an 11.5 hour-day but worth every step.

Next to Mt. Rainier, this was the hardest climb of a 14er for me. If I ever seek to knock off Mt. Oxford, I'd approach from the valley to preserve my legs for that summit. Until then, I'll be satisfied with the Belford summit and the great memories I share with my friends.

Climbing continues to be a metaphor of life and ministry for me. Life and ministry are hard, and there are many times along the trail you want to quit. It's not so much your will to finish that gets you to the goal as it is the fellowship and encouragement with friends and the certainty of God's call on your life to do what you do. The pain of persistence is what brings you to the summit views that you cannot see any other way. Few get to see the world from 14,000 ft., and I am blessed to be able to do it from time to time. Don't fear the heights or the pain it takes to get there. You'll see things you never dreamed of seeing!

We took a travel break on Tuesday, and Jeff and I tackled San Cristobal Trail #78 on Wednesday. You can read about that hike here

The team at the end of the trail!

Considering what to do Tuesday--We chose to break camp and go get pizza