Mt Belford fourteener

I thought about hiking Mt Belford in the Collegiate range several times but the weather hadn't cooperated. Today it was sunny and clear in Gunnison so I took the plunge and drove the hundred or so miles to the Missouri Gulch trailhead near Buena Vista. On the way I had to stop unexpectedly for a herd of cows to cross the road. 

The road to the trailhead was, of course, a dirt road and the last four miles were very rough. I'm sick of these dirt roads, and the ones I dare to drive on are regarded as the better ones. The trailhead car park was, of course, busy and I think I was the last person for today to embark on this hike.

The hike started in forest around ten thousand feet and climbed sharply right from the gun. There were a couple of creek crossings (on logs) and then after a while I came out of the forest into the Missouri Gulch which was lovely. It was a broad valley with the creek running through the middle and green mountain slopes all around, isolated conifers dotting the landscape and lots of columbines. I don't think Mt Belford summit could be seen at this point, or indeed for the next two hours.

This climb is known for the 105 switchbacks on the trail to the summit. People complain about these but I found the stretches of trail that went straight up to be even more irritating. For some reason I wasn't feeling the best and I struggled at several points along the climb, stopping more than usual. Looking up I could see where I had to go and it was daunting, although I made height relatively fast. There was a frozen waterfall in the gully next to the trail and the views into Missouri Gulch continued to be awesome. For a long time I could look back and see where I had come from. Parts were steep and parts were more gradual, but I knew I had to make four thousand feet of elevation gain (including the forest bit) so it wasn't going to be easy.

I made it up to a saddle and from here it wasn't so painful, even though I had some talus to scramble over. The summit ridge was short and pleasant (the summit was out of sight for a long time but it wasn't a big distance from where you could see it to where you reached it, unlike some of the other peaks I've climbed). 

There was only one other person on top and he was making a phone call so I couldn't ask for a photo. The views were great in all directions: mountains. I still can't get over the volume of mountains here in Colorado.

There were a few clouds already when I was on top and I only stayed fifteen minutes. On the descent I slipped several times but I came down fast. As I left the Gulch there were a few raindrops and also sounds of thunder. A group of hikers were discussing thunderstorms and I wanted to get off the mountain. The thunder claps, not loud, continued as I descended and I saw one streak of lightning. The rain was only light. I was relieved to get back to the car, and even more relieved to have the dirt road driving over and done. By the time I got onto the highway it was raining heavily so I think I was very lucky with my hike.


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