Date: September 18, 2020
In the Rocky Mountains, a mountain of 14,000 feet or higher is considered a big mountain worth climbing. Such mountains are called fourteeners and Colorado has 53 of them. We of course had to climb one of those, and the choice fell on Mount Belford which is 4,329 meters, so higher than the 4,267 meters needed for a fourteener. The highest mountain in Colorado is Mount Elbert at 4,401 meters.
We started out at about 2,950 meters of elevation. The first three kilometers of the trail were steep. We crossed an area that had been cleared by an avalanche:
Here is a chipmunk among the rocks:
The next three kilometers of trail were much steeper than the first three. Felicie is fighting her way up a section which rises 500 meters in just one kilometer direct line:
The trail had an unbelievable number of zigs and zags to make it possible to get up this section.
On the way up, we were rewarded with seeing some marmots resting on a rock:
Interestingly, marmots are members of the squirrel family even though they are much larger than your typical squirrel. They can reach 5 kg toward the end of summer like now. They gain weight to prepare for over six months of hibernation over the winter. A colony digs a deep burrow for the hibernation, insulate it with hay and hibernate together. During winter, their body temperatures can fall to 5 degrees Celsius and the heart rate falls to a sixth of the usual rate. Even then, they lose a lot of weight over the winter so during summer they are always busy eating.
More fighting in the thin air:
Finally at the top of our first fourteener:
Tough hikers can add another fourteener to the list by heading to neighboring Mount Oxford:
Maybe you can make out the trail on the ridge. We decided to start heading back instead. Rather than doing the crazy steep trail, we went down the back of Belford to Elkhead Pass and down through a nice valley.
Here is a look back at the curious orange rock that is the peak of Mount Belford:
Heading down to Elkhead Pass which is at 4,030 meters:
A nice view form Elkhead Pass:
This is Missouri Mountain which is also a fourteener that you can climb from the same trail:
Looking down the high part of the valley:
In the rocky places we often saw pikas:
This one is fiercely guarding its home:
A pika looks like a rabbit or a hare with short ears. It is neither, but closely related to both.
The river further down the valley:
A chipmunk looking for food:
Some views of aspen trees turning yellow:
The aspen turning yellow and red is a big attraction in Colorado. We were a little early for that, but still got some nice views of the yellowing leaves.