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On Walkabout On: Mt. Oxford via the Mt. Belford Traverse

Basic Information

  • Name: Mount Oxford
  • Where: Buena Vista, Colorado
  • Max Elevation: 14,153 feet
  • Distance: 1.5 miles (one-way from Mt. Belford)
  • Elevation Gain:  5,600 feet (combined with Mt. Belford)
  • Time: 1-2 hours (one-way)
  • Difficulty: EasyModerateHardDifficult
  • More Information: 14ers.com

Route Up Mt. Oxford from Mt. Belford

Mt Oxford Trail

Topographic Map of Missouri Gulch

Elevation Map for Missouri Gulch


Note: The first bump is Mt. Belford, the 2nd bumb is Mt. Oxford, the third bump is Mt. Belford again, and the final bump is Missouri Mountain.

Narrative

After completing my successful ascent of the 14,197 foot Mt. Belford I next began the traverse over to the 14,153 foot Mt. Oxford.  The traverse was quite steep and slippery in a few areas due to scree rock, but overall not that bad.  Here is the view looking up towards Mt. Oxford from the bottom of the saddle between the two mountains:

Picture from Mt. Belford and Mt. Oxford

Really the only difficulty I had reaching the summit of Mt. Oxford was having to scramble on some rocks in order to bypass this large snowfield:

Picture from Mt. Belford and Mt. Oxford

After about an hour of hiking from Mt. Belford I found myself on the summit of Mt. Oxford hiding behind this rock pile to get some relief from the cold wind that was blowing over the mountain:

Picture from Mt. Belford and Mt. Oxford

According to the book “A Climbing Guide to Colorado’s Fourteeners: Twentieth Anniversary Edition“; Mt. Oxford, Mt. Belford, and Missouri Mountain were first officially sighted as 14ers by the famed early Colorado climber Albert Ellingwood and his friend Stephen Hart in 1925.

Albert Ellingwood in 1925 via MuseumSyndicate.com.

Long before this time though these mountains had miners crawling up and down them that had already named Mt. Belford in honor of Colorado’s first Congressman James Belford and Missouri Mountain in honor of Missouri miners in the area and the fact James Belford came to Colorado from Missouri.  However, Oxford did not have a name when Ellingwood spotted it.  This is probably because there is nothing auspicious about the mountain.  It is just a large mound of rock much like Mt. Belford.  However, Mt. Belford had the red rock outcropping on top that made it stand out to the miners unlike Mt. Oxford thus inspiring them to name it after the red headed first Congressman of Colorado.  So it wasn’t until 1931 that John Hart, the brother of Stephen Hart, named it Mt. Oxford after the university Albert Ellingwood and Stephen Hart attended back in England.  Additionally the naming of the mountain after a prestigious university kept with the naming tradition of the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness that encompassed the area.

I do not know if Ellingwood ever climbed Mt. Oxford, but if he did I am sure he found this to be a pretty dull mountain.  Someone who did climb Mt. Oxford were members of the US Geological Survey in 1955 who install this marker on the summit:

Picture from Mt. Belford and Mt. Oxford

The summit of the mountain I found to be very wide and mostly flat which made it one of the least inspiring 14er summits I have been on:

Picture from Mt. Belford and Mt. Oxford

Here is a view of this broad summit from the opposite end looking back towards the rock pile that designates the true summit of Mt. Oxford:

Picture from Mt. Belford and Mt. Oxford

Due to how wide and exposed this summit is, this meant that the wind was blowing pretty hard on top of Mt. Oxford.  I was wearing a winter hat plus a baklava to keep my face warm from the cold wind.  I quickly walked around the summit and did my best to take pictures of the scenery despite the cold wind.  Here is the view looking North where on the far left the 14,336 foot La Plata Peak (left) and the 14,433 foot Mt. Elbert (right) were visible:

Picture from Mt. Belford and Mt. Oxford

Here is a closer look at Mt. Elbert which is the highest peak in the entire Rocky Mountains:

Picture from Mt. Belford and Mt. Oxford

To the Northeast I could see the high, rounded peaks of the Mosquito Range that were capped with an early morning cloud cover:

Picture from Mt. Belford and Mt. Oxford

The Mosquito Range has a collection of five 14ers which I have all hiked.  You can read about all of my prior hikes up these mountains at the below link:

To the East I could see the 13,326 foot Buffalo Peaks rising up across the Arkansas River Valley from Mt. Oxford:

Picture from Mt. Belford and Mt. Oxford

Further out in the distance I could see the lonely 14,115 foot Pikes Peak:

Picture from Mt. Belford and Mt. Oxford

I hike Pikes Peak every year and plan to hike it again this summer via Barr Trail.  Here is a photograph looking towards the South where the view was dominated by the 14,420 foot Mt. Harvard:

Picture from Mt. Belford and Mt. Oxford

Mt. Harvard is the third highest peak in the Rocky Mountains and looks quite impressive from the summit of Mt. Oxford.  Here is the view looking towards the Southwest where various high peaks of the Sawatch Range could be seen circling a beautiful basin down below:

Picture from Mt. Belford and Mt. Oxford

To the West the view from Mt. Oxford is dominated by the traverse back over to Mt. Belford:

Picture from Mt. Belford and Mt. Oxford

Here is a panorama I took from the summit using my iPhone 5S looking towards the South where Mt. Harvard can be seen on the far left and the true summit of Mt. Oxford on the far right:

Picture from Mt. Belford and Mt. Oxford

Here is the view looking to the North where the true summit of Mt. Oxford is visible on the far left and the Mosquito Range on the far right:

Picture from Mt. Belford and Mt. Oxford

I only spent about 15 minutes on the summit before deciding to head back over to Mt. Belford.  The cold wind was highly annoying which made the summit of Mt. Oxford not a good place to hang out for very long.  The descent from Mt. Oxford was very easy and I found myself within 20 minutes looking up at the ridgeline to Mt. Belford:

Picture from Mt. Belford and Mt. Oxford

Here the going was slow due to how steep the ridgeline was.  However, something I did enjoy while hiking back up to Mt. Belford was all the purple wildflowers that covered its ridgeline:

Picture from Mt. Belford and Mt. Oxford

The traverse also had beautiful views looking North into this very green and partially snow covered basin:

Picture from Mt. Belford and Mt. Oxford

To the south of the traverse the views were dominated by the always impressive Mt. Harvard:

Picture from Mt. Belford and Mt. Oxford

Further out in the distance I could also see the 14,196 foot Mt. Yale:

Picture from Mt. Belford and Mt. Oxford

I climbed Mt. Yale earlier in the year and my trip report from this hike can be read at the below link:

I originally planned to only hike Mt. Belford and Mt. Oxford on this day, but once I returned back over to Mt. Belford the weather had improved and my legs were still felling good despite the 5,600 feet in elevation gain I had already hiked.  I decided to walk over to the Missouri Mountain trailhead via the Elkhead Pass Trail from Mt. Belford and once at the trailhead decide if I had enough energy left to summit the snow clad Missouri Mountain:

Picture from Mt. Belford and Mt. Oxford

Conclusion

Overall I found the 1.5 mile traverse over to Mt. Oxford to be pretty easy, but the 11 mile round-trip distance and 5,600 feet of elevation gain to hike up both mountains may not be for everyone.  The cold wind probably contributed to this, but I only saw about 15 people do the traverse that morning though I could see mobs of people over on Mt. Belford.  It took me a total of 3.5 hours to get up Mt. Belford and then another hour to do the traverse over to Mt. Oxford for a total of 4.5 hours of hiking for both mountains.  For those looking to do both peaks in a day like I did make sure to get an early start because even though these peaks are not hard it is a long walk at high altitudes.  If the weather is cooperating I highly recommend taking the more round-about way back down to the trailhead via the scenic Elkhead Pass (see above topographic map).  The trail is less steep and thus easier on the knees during the descent and has fantastic views.  Plus for those that feel up to it, Elkhead Pass connects to the Missouri Mountain Trail where another 14er can be climbed.  Missouri Gulch is one of only two places, the other being the DeCaLiBron, where three 14ers can be climbed in one day.  I felt up to it and decided to hike up Missouri Mountain as well.

Next Posting: Missouri Mountain via the Missouri Gulch Trailhead

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