Belford Success!

John on the Summit of Mt. Belford

John on the Summit of Mt. Belford


15 months and just over 100 pounds ago I decided that I was going to climb mountains. It was a horribly unrealistic goal for an overweight asthmatic who lives at altitude zero in Houston, Texas but that was the point. I knew that I’d need a significant challenge to keep me motivated to become physically fit. Besides, I’d always wanted to climb. One of my co-workers at the time, Jermaine Gonzales, had similar goals and decided to commit himself to the challenge as well. To further ratchet up the pressure I told everyone I knew about our goals and went public with it by launching I was committed and begin training two hours, or more, almost every day.

We reached our first summit just five months later with a climb of Guadalupe Peak in West Texas. The hike to 8,751 feet is very strenuous but not difficult by climbing standards. Still, it was progress and it allowed me to turn my focus toward a significantly more difficult challenge – Colorado’s 14ers.

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Back to Belford: Tracking John & Alan

Never Stop Climbing: Mt. Belford & Mt. Oxford Climb - Colorado 14ers

Mt. Belford & Mt. Oxford Climb

I leave for Colorado Thursday morning. I’ll have a couple of days in Leadville before meeting up with Alan Arnette for an early Saturday morning attempt at Belford and Oxford.

The first attempt at these mountains, earlier this year, was a posthole nightmare that took us to only 10,600 feet before turning back. We won’t encounter snow that deep or rotten on this trip although some early snow might make the trip interesting.

I’ll update this post periodically before the climb.

Final Pre-Climb Update
The weather forecast for Saturday’s climb is excellent. We were both able to safely cut some our heaviest gear since cold and excessive snow won’t be a problem. This helps.

We probably won’t be able to communicate once the climb starts since the area is somewhat remote. However, we will be carrying a SPOT Satellite Messenger that will allow you to track our progress via the link below. The SPOT should be active by 6am when we hit the trail. Its signal may not get out at times so don’t be alarmed by whatever you see.

Thanks again to the many of you who have been supportive of this effort.

Mt. Belford – Northwest Ridge (Standard)
Mt. Oxford – From Mt. Belford (Standard)

Satellite Tracking
SPOT Messenger Updates (?)

TeamNSC – We’ll be sending periodic “OK” status updates to this Twitter account from our SPOT satellite messenger in addition to any other updates we can get out.
Johnwlittle (John Little)
Alanarnette (Alan Arnettte)

We may not be able to respond to messages during the climb but we might be able to read them so feel free to send them on. We’ll reply when we can.

Photos will be posted on Flickr

National Weather Service

Back to Belford

Life has been challenging since our return to Houston in late April. The economic nosedive created significant challenges at work for both of us and I was hit hard by flu. We’re hanging in there though. Jermaine has moved on to a new job and I’m training hard again after a longer than expected recovery period.

Our trip to Belford was a fantastic, if difficult, learning experience. You can learn a lot from falling face first in deep snow every 30 seconds for hours on end. So, the plan now is to take those lessons and return to Belford-Oxford in early October when the weather is admittedly somewhat unpredictable but likely less challenging than the conditions we faced in April.

Details are still being worked out. Jermaine might not be able to make it but Alan Arnette and Robert LeClair are apparently ready to go. The goal now is to finalize the plans by September 1. Stay tuned for updates.

We’ve moved the date up a couple of weeks so I will be heading to Colorado in September. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like Robert will be able to join us.

Back in Houston

We’re back in Houston. We made it to 10,400 feet after significant struggle with sometimes deep, almost always unstable, snow. There were a number of issues and challenges but also a lot of lessons learned. We’re mostly happy with our effort – we definitely gave it everything we had and we learned much from Alan Arnette.

I’ll post a full trip report Monday. Many thanks to all of you who followed along and offered advice and support. The adventure will continue.

“Getting to the top is optional, but getting down is mandatory. A lot of people get focused on the summit and forget that.”
- Ed Viesturs quote

Belford – Oxford – Missouri Climb: Tracking TeamNSC’s Satellite & Twitter Updates

We leave for Colorado in just a few hours. We’ll have a couple of days in Leadville before meeting up with Alan Arnette, Jim Davidson, Patrick Vall, and Robert LeClair.

Rough Timeline
Leave Houston – Tuesday – 04/21/09 – 6:00 PM
Arrive Leadville, Colorado – Wednesday 04/22/09 PM
John, Jermaine, Alan establish camp – Friday 04/24/09 – AM
Jim arrives at camp – Friday 04/24/09 – PM
John, Jermaine, Alan & Jim attempt Belford, then Oxford – Saturday 04/25/09
Robert and Patrick arrive at camp – Saturday 04/25/09 – PM
Jim may have to leave after Belford & Oxford – Saturday 04/25/09 PM
Group attempts Missouri – Sunday 04/26/09 AM
Group hikes out – Monday 04/27/09 AM

Satellite Tracking
SPOT Messenger Updates (?)

TeamNSC – We’ll be sending periodic “OK” status updates to this Twitter account from our SPOT satellite messenger in addition to any other updates we can get out.
Johnwlittle (John Little)
Jgonzales (Jermaine Gonzales)
Alanarnette (Alan Arnettte)

We may not be able to respond to messages during the climb but we might be able to read them so feel free to send them on. We’ll reply when we can.

Photo set from our arrival in Leadville
Some shots taken at sunrise on day 2.

National Weather Service

Avalanche Watches and Warnings
Colorado Avalanche Information Center

Pre-Climb Preparation Updates
Climb Announcement

Packing for the Climb

Never Stop Climbing: Photo of John Little's Backpack

The Monster

We leave in two days so final preparations are underway. I spent part of the afternoon test packing my backpack to make sure that it would hold everything we’ll need to establish our camp in Missouri Gulch. So far, so good. Here’s what’s in (or on) the pack in this photo:

Sleeping bag
Foam sleeping pad
Inflatable sleeping pad
Jetboil stove
2 heavy base layers – tops and bottoms
1 Fleece pullover
2 expedition weight wool socks
2 pairs of liner socks
Black Diamond Mercury Mitts
REI Switchback gloves
Lightweight gloves
Glacier glasses
First aid kit
Assorted personal hygiene gear
2 Nalgene bottles – 1 insulated
1 10L MSR Dromedary bag
Buff head wrap
Ice Axe
Knife, lighter, firesteel, compass, other basic survival gear
Down jacket
DSLR camera
Small flashlight
6 freeze dried meals
4 packets of tuna
5 packets of oatmeal
7 packets of energy chews
6 packets of cytomax powder
2 packets of instant potatoes
10 tea bags
5 instant coffee packets
12 Clif bars
6 powdered soup packets
1 thermos

You can see more detailed information on my gear here. Thankfully, most of this will only be on my back day one. Once we establish camp I’ll be packing a much lighter load.

John’s Climbing Gear

This is an evolving list of the more significant components of my gear collection. Much of this will be used for our April climbs. I also recommend checking out Alan Arnette’s excellent gear round-up.

Top – Marmot PreCip
Top – Mountain Hardwear Exposure II Parka
Bottom – Mountain Hardwear Exposure II Bib

Middle Layers
Top – REI Power Stretch Half-Zip

Base Layers
Top – REI Heavyweight MTS Long-Sleeve Crew
Bottom – REI Heavyweight MTS Bottoms

REI Switchback Gloves
Black Diamond Mercury Mitts

Seirus Quick Clava
Teotepec Buff

Julbo – Dolgan
Oakley Proven OTG Goggles

Liner – Smartwool Merino Liner
Heavy – REI Merino Wool Expedition Socks

Asolo AFS 8000
Vasque Breeze GTX
SuperFeet Green Insoles

OR Expedition Crocodiles

Kelty Coyote 4900 (Replacing 2009)

Black Diamond Contact Strap

Ice Tools
Black Diamond Raven Pro Ice Axe

Sleeping Bag – ALPS Mountaineering 20F Crescent Lake
Inflatable Pad – Therm-a-Rest TrailPro
Insulation – Therm-a-Rest RidgeRest

Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork
Leki Trail Makalu (broken on Mt. Belford)

Jetboil Personal Cooking System

Black Diamond Spot
Brinkmann 1 Watt L.E.D. Flashlight

MSR 10L Dromedary w/ Hydration Kit
Nalgene Water Bottles

Kelty Grand Mesa 2
4 Season to be added soon

Suunto Core

Common Foods
Twinings Teas
Mountain House freeze dried meals
Clif Bars
Cytomax drink powder
Honey Stinger Energy Chews
StarKist Albacore Tuna
Taster’s Choice Instant Coffee
Lipton Cup-a-Soup
Quaker Instant Oatmeal
Idahoan Instant Mashed Potatoes

First Aid – Hygiene
Adventure Medical Ultralight .9
Action Wipes

Also check out Jermaine’s gear.

Getting Ready for the 14ers – Status Updates

Never Stop Climbing: Three 14ers in 4 Days

Three 14ers in 4 Days

It’s almost time for our next challenge. We’ll be meeting Alan Arnette and his buddies Patrick and Robert in Colorado at the end of April for an attempt at three 14ers over four days. We’ll be updating this post as the pre-climb preparations progress. Check back for updates.

Weather Watch
Missouri Mountain | Mt. Belford | Mt. Oxford | CAIC Avalanche Information

April 19, 2009
Avalanche picture seems to be looking better. The CAIC has reduced the threat level from “high” to “moderate”. It doesn’t look like the Sawatch range got as much snow as some other areas on Saturday.

April 19, 2009
More shopping today with some of the additions, mostly minor stuff, added to John’s gear page.

April 18, 2009
Leaving in less than a week. Avalanche danger is significant thanks to recent storms and it’s sparking some discussion in the group about alternative routes – even alternative mountains. So far the consensus seems to be that warmer temps will melt or consolidate recent snowfall but we’re all keeping a close eye on conditions and possible alternatives.

April 8, 2009
Communication between all the climbers is increasing as we nail down the final details of the trip. We’re still sorting out details about plans about food and tents but it’s all coming together nicely. Jermaine’s gear shipments have arrived. More detail about his gear will be posted soon. We leave for Colorado in less than two weeks.

April 1, 2009
Gear shipments continue to arrive for both of us. All of the major purchases are in – or will be within a few days. The trip is about three weeks out and everything seems to be coming together.

March 22, 2009
A short list of some of the gear John will likely be taking on the Colorado trip has been added to the site.

March 19, 2009
John here, I’m completing most of my new gear purchases for April’s climb this weekend. This morning I picked up a Mountain Hardwear Sub Zero Jacket, Black Diamond Contact Strap Crampons, REI Switchback gloves, Julbo Dolgan glasses, REI Merino Wool Expedition socks, a JetBoil Personal Cooking System, and Outdoor Research Expedition Crocodile gaiters. This round completes most of the big purchases. I need to buy new base layers and small miscellaneous stuff and I’ll be done – for now.

March 19, 2009
Considered buying snowshoes ahead of the climb but REI rents them to members for next to nothing. Rental should cost us about $30 per pair for 4 days while buying a decent pair would run $150-$250 dollars.

March 13, 2009
We’re launching the TeamNSC Stimulus Package next weekend. Companies like Mountain Hardwear, MSR, The North Face, REI, Outdoor Research, Action Wipes, Clif Bar, Asolo, and Jetboil are all going to get a little TeamNSC love as we continue to gear up for the Colorado 14ers and beyond. It’s the least we can do.

March 7, 2009
Phone meeting with Alan Arnette to discuss gear requirements. Discussed the possibility of taking sturdy three season tents and agreed that they may be viable but will re-assess as the climb nears. Wind chill is hitting -15 to -25 currently and that’s a bit on the chilly side. However, there’s still some concern that we may see warmer than usual weather, which could trigger some instability, as the climb nears – especially on Missouri. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens.

March 4, 2009
We both ordered the Mountain Hardwear Exposure II Bibs. There’s more info on those at REI’s site.

March 1, 2009
We found Mountain Hardwear Exposure II Parkas on sale at REI and each grabbed one. Along with REI Power Stretch Fleece shirts for the middle layer.