21 July 2010

Belford. Beaten. Barely.

When I started planning my trip to Colorado way back in January, I knew that I would be powerless to resist the siren song of the 14ers.  For those who don't know, I've been hiking for a long time, and climbing for a slightly less-long time, and one of my goals is to eventually hike/climb/whatever-you-call-it all of Colorado's 14ers.  There are 54.  Since I moved to Colorado in 2003, I've hiked 30.

To be fair, I did do my best to avoid them for over a week after I landed in Denver: I walked the dog, suffered through jet lag, ate Mexican food, drank margaritas, drank other alcoholic beverages, attempted to run on my gimpy leg, went to breakfast at the Buff, got my hair done, and had a slightly drunken table dive/slip-n-slide adventure in the backyard of friends who shall remain nameless for the good of their respective careers...  In other words, all the things you do when you're in Boulder that don't involve hiking. 

Friends who shall remain nameless.


I also bought new hiking boots, broke them in religiously, hiked Mt. Sanitas once a day, and lusted after fancy new gear at REI.  Now, why would I do that?

In the end, it all got to be too much.  So, on Sunday, I dragged my husband away from the above-mentioned slip-n-slide party and we pointed our shiny silver rental Mazda towards Buena Vista for some good old-fashioned pain and suffering.  But first we stopped at K's, because a trip to BV would not be complete without a greasy burger.  Then, in dwindling light, we headed out of town to our mosquito-infested campsite (a mini-adventure in its own right) and set up camp to prepare for an early start in the morning.

The alarm was set for 4:30.  Yes, that's right.  Those who know me will appreciate how very much I must love the mountains, because usually it is a herculean effort to get me out of bed before 9.  And guess what?  That's not even the earliest I've ever woken up to hike!  Try 1:30 am!  It's almost stupid to even try to sleep at that point!  But I did!  And then woke up!

Anyway.  The snooze was hit a few times, so we didn't actually get moving until about 5:30.  The mosquitoes were still sleeping when we packed our bags, threw some food on the ground for the dog, and drove the last few bumpy miles to the trailhead.  We were on the trail by 6:30, a reasonable hour (but not, as it turned out, early enough for us to hit up our planned second peak, Oxford).  I usually like to start at 5am (or earlier) for optimal storm-avoidance.  Friends, shake your heads in awe.  I actually PLAN to wake up early on MULTIPLE occasions!  On PURPOSE!

Note the elevation gain chart on the middle left of the map.

From the parking area, we started up the Missouri Gulch trail.  This led us into the forest for about an hour or so before we hit treeline.  Along the way we had a couple of fun stream crossings, as well as the always-enjoyable switchbacks from hell.  Cody, at least, seemed ok with it.

Fun fact: this is the only known photo of the white dog without a stick in her mouth.

Near 11,300, we finally got a good glimpse of the rest of our day.  It was deceptively simple-looking.  Look, a slight bump in the ridge!  You can totally see the summit from here!

Mt. Belford in the center: you can see almost the entire route.

As it turns out, that was only the beginning of a VERY long hike for two people who, not so very long ago, had been blissfully breathing in the salt-tinged air of a sea-level Melbourne.

At around 11,600, we reached a trail junction.  The following conversation then occurred:

Me: I think we go left. 
Chris: There's a tent over there.
Me: Yeah. We should have done that instead of camping at Mosquito Hotel.
Chris: Do you think they'd care if we took a nap?
Me: Look, they're camped right next to a "No Camping sign."  Ha.
Chris: Can we take a nap?
Me: No.
Chris: I don't like nature.
Me: So do you want to turn around?
Chris: No, let's see how far we get until we black out.

We went left.

A bit farther on, past treeline, we made the acquaintance of a group of marmots.  They were pretty rude and made faces at the camera.

Cody's new friends.

After that, I pretty much blacked out for about 2,300 vertical feet.  Fortunately my camera provided evidence that we had, in fact, physically walked up the trail under our own power.

At around 13,900, we reached a (relatively) flat spot.  I took photos.  We had another conversation:

Me: I think this is the last false summit.
Chris: No.
Me: Yes.
Chris: No.
Me: If it isn't, let's turn around.  The clouds are getting bigger.
Chris: No.
Me: Can you say anything except no right now?
Chris: No.

Finally, with less than 100 vertical feet to go, we spied the REAL summit.  Joy!  Rapture!  Wheezing!

Thar she blows.

It didn't look like much at first, but it was, in fact, an amazing summit.  Know why?  Because it was the top!  14,197 feet of rock!  And we were at the top of it.

What happened next?  Well, we gave Cody some water, we gave ourselves some food, we took an obnoxious amount of photos, and Cody begged for goldfish.  Now I'm not sure, but I think she might have gotten some.

Who could resist that face?

The way down was about what you'd expect: steep, never-ending, and knee-punishing.  When we are about done with getting down a mountain, Chris and I have a game we like to play:

Me: So how much money would it take for you to turn around and climb this again?
Chris: a lot.
Me: How much?
Chris: Let us never speak of this again. 


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