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There is a stream and an avalanche chute near 10,800ft, about mile 1.1. Cross a crude bridge made of plenty of large, fallen trees and continue to rise. Colorado Fourteeners Initiative has done extensive work on this area including restoring the trail, installing steps, and mitigating erosion. Thank them if you see them!
There are remains of an old cabin near 11,000ft. Not long after this the trail forks. Ultimately, this is a loop. To get directly to Belford, take the fork on the left. The trail will become increasing steep after the sign as you leave the valley and hit the face of Belford. Switchbacks abound, and Leadville will come in to view miles behind you as you gain.
Near mile 3.75/13,800ft the trail flattens out and gives astounding views of Elkhead Pass, Harvard, Columbia, and the rest of the Range. Make a short, comparatively flatter trip to the summit about a few hundred yards farther.
To continue to Oxford 1.2 miles away, drop off the summit to the southeast. You’ll be able to see Mt. Oxford and the saddle. Turn left/east about 100 yards from the summit. The ridge drops about 600ft in elevation and is straightforward to follow, though, footing can be sandy and loose. Rise about 600ft to Oxford on a gradual slope. Return back the way you came.
Climbing your first mountain or 14er is an exciting and rewarding experience! You’ll get the achievement of seeing the world from above and the feel-goods of the endorphins from the exercise. However, the mountains aren’t a walk in the park, and getting down is mandatory. Some situations require extra caution and a little know how. With a bit of preparation, you’ll be able to get to the summit and back safely.
Whether you are training for a race or simply indulging in all the wilderness has to offer, there are a variety of factors, some constant, and some changing, that are likely to have an impact on your journey. Knowing these factors can help ensure your safety and get you back to the trailhead safely.