We hiked up the very steep first section of the trail about two hours, the girls leading the charge to our campsite where we took a break and set up camp near an old dilapidated log cabin around noon. After a lunch of pb&j’s on pita we all packed up our daypacks and headed further up the valley, quickly getting above treeline and into a stunning valley with a fresh blanket of pristine white snow. Our group split into smaller groups naturally as those who walked at a similar pace grouped together. Gradually folks started turning back and my group was six, then four, then finally just two of us high on a mountain ridge,
going for the summit of Mount Missouri with a quickly dropping sun, Katy’s wet feet, and with about an hour to go and a tired me, not sure of the trail as we were going to descend a different route, I called it off and down we went, trying some glissading and having a very pleasant stroll back to camp, arriving just before sundown to a yummy pasta and beef frank dinner and a roaring fire. One important note – the wind was gusting to forty miles an hour at least – so our raging fire would periodically be blown to bits, only to be enormous when the wind died down, then with each new gust shot embers deep into the snow covered woods. All night the wind gusted like that, making for quite an exciting evening for most of us, and fitful. Tents are very noisy from inside in the wind. Fortunately all held together excepting one that had only our food in it. The next morning four girls headed down immediately to the cars – availing themselves of wine and cheese and crackers at a cabin they rented for us at the Mount Princeton Hot Springs. A quote I remember was “This is the Colorado I had in mind!” All very good-natured.
The remaining nine of us headed through the still-roaring wind up the valley and hung a left to ascend the west flank of Mount Belford. Through brutal winds so bad we were often forced to stop and turn away from the gusts as snow and dirt pelted us, we continued to ascend, hour after hour, plodding more and more slowly the higher we climbed and the thinner the air became. We enjoyed a glorious bright blue sky and plenty of sunshine. After only one small false summit we were there! Six of us victorious, a successful expedition!
Then we headed down, several more hours on our feet to camp. We filled up our water bottles in the nearby stream as we were parched and straggled back into camp. Down came the tents and into the packs went the food and gear, and off down the trail we went as a team. A couple more hours of slow walking and we were down at the cars, glorious to be back to civilization. We headed off to join the others at the hot springs, where we relaxed in the pools and the river and enjoyed a nice meal together. One amazing thing happened on the drive – it was in the low sixties in the high country, and as we descended towards Denver, the temperature dropped thirty degrees in forty-five minutes! We had lunch at the delicious mexican Morrison Inn in Morrsison, then checked out Red Rocks Amphitheater, and then to Boulder and REI and the airport. Spectacular trip and the feedback everybody had a great time.