MT. BELFORD – 14,203' / MT. OXFORD – 14,160'

Hit the trail at 4a today – another alpine start – after just four hours of sleep. What a route. From the parking lot, the switchbacks climb nearly 1,000 feet after which the trail continues steadily up to 11,300 feet where the trees break and the basin opens up. It’s stunning. Shortly thereafter, the trail splits left where I encountered another set of steady switchbacks that took me straight to the summit. But I wasn’t done for the day just yet…

I was so close to Oxford. I couldn’t just turn around, so I pressed on. Though the elevation differential between the two peaks is less than 50 feet, I had to drop down considerably and climb back up to the Oxford summit. It was gorgeous, though a bit frustrating, especially the steep climb up on the way back to the Belford ridge. I imagine this sort of thing is par for the course, so I better go ahead and get used to it. After all, high points in Colorado only count as peaks if they rise at least 300 feet above the saddle that connects them to the nearest higher summit.

Bang, a two-fer. Three down, nearly there. I descended via Elkhead Pass, which allowed me to scout the split for Missouri Mountain. I would’ve liked to have tagged that peak as well, but I was in a time crunch.

I still can’t believe that I get paid to hike. As the Trail Projects Leader at the Colorado 14ers Initiative, I get to lead volunteer groups on over a dozen of Colorado’s illustrious fourteeners this summer. What better way to build endurance than to do heavy rock work (steps, staircases, and retaining walls) at 11,000-13,000 feet elevation for 40 hrs/week? Let’s see how many fourteeners I can get by September. So psyched.

During my jaunt today, I saw loads of wildlife, including 11 marmots, 2 ptarmigans, and 2 pikas. I know there are big horned sheep and mountain goats out here. Can’t wait to see ’em.

When I finally got back to the rig, I was certainly beat, but the altitude hasn’t rocked my world quite as hard as it had on Yale last week. It seems I’ve already begun to adapt to the thinner air by increasing my red blood cell count and lung capacity. Oh man, now we’re having fun!

First project of the summer in a few days on Missouri Mountain. Maybe I’ll hit the summit afterwards.