Monday, June 28, 2010

TR: Mt. Belford and Mt. Oxford

Peak: Mount Belford and Mount Oxford
Location: Sawatch Range, Colorado, USA
Elevation: 14,197 (Belford), 14,153 (Oxford)
Route: Standard Route from Missouri Gulch (Class 2)
Distance/Elevation Gain: 11 miles RT/5800'

About that whole "not posting" thing... yeah, I've just been busy finishing up field school and climbing 14ers.

Last week, I met up with Laura, a member of the MDA forums for a primal excursion into the mountains of Colorado. Our intended destination was the Blanca massif in the southern Sangre de Cristo mountains, but due to the aftermath of a helicopter crash that occurred during a rescue operation last week, the Colorado National Guard had closed the area and we had to come up with a backup plan.

So, after several hours of driving, we ended up in the Sawatch range at the Missouri Gulch trailhead near Vicksburg, Colorado, just west of Clear Creek Reservoir. Our plan was to backpack in a little ways, camp near treeline, and then spend two days climbing the three 14ers in the region. We started backpacking up the trail at about 17:00 and camped near the ruins of an old cabin just below treeline at 11,200'. Upon reaching the campsite, we set up the tent, filtered some water, and hung the bear bag before going to sleep around 22:00. We awoke around 05:00 the following day and started up the trail to Mt. Belford and Oxford at about 05:45. It was plenty light out by that time so we didn't need headlamps. It was VERY windy.

Laura and her dog (Chewie) at our camp site

I reached the summit at about 08:00 and tried my best to stay out of the wind while I waited for Laura and the dog. At about 08:45, I started heading over to the saddle to Mt. Oxford while Laura tried to make a phone call from the summit (cell service is pretty sketchy there). I reached the summit of Mt. Oxford at 09:45 and enjoyed a hardboiled egg as a summit treat.
We returned to camp by mid-afternoon and attempted to take a nap (though the wind was really noisy and made this difficult). Around 19:00 or so, we started cooking our paleolithic camp dinner: ground beef, a sweet potato, red pepper, and avocado.

We cooked the ground beef first and then used the fat that remained in the pan to cook the sweet potato. This was much more efficient than trying to bring any sizeable quantity of healthy cooking oil would have been, and definitely a practice to consider employing to save space and weight in one's pack when doing an overnight trip. Furthermore, if you plan to do an extensive amount of actually
cooking food, I'd recommend getting a white-gas stove, such as the MSR Whisperlite. Stoves like the MSR Pocket Rocket or the Jetboil are easier to use, but they are far less fuel-efficient. A medium-sized (I think 12 oz or so) bottle of white gas fuel will easily last several days.

Night 2, cooking ground beef for dinner on my MSR Whisperlite


For snacks while hiking, we took Larabars, Kind bars, beef jerky, and bags of homemade trail mix (nuts and fruit dried without adding sugar or chemicals).

One of the important things to consider is that if you want to eat totally primal while backpacking, the food you bring is inevitably going to weigh more and take up more space in your pack. For a one, two, or even three-night trip, this shouldn't really be an issue, but it has the potential to present more challenges for longer trips.
Stay tuned for a follow-up post about this conundrum...

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