| Bison Peak - Return to the Garden
February 10th and 11th, 2012
In Attendance: Derek and Clay (14ers.com Gathering group on the 11th)
McCurdy Mountain (Attempt) Peak Info
Bison Peak Peak Info
Trailhead: Ute Creek Trailhead Trailhead Info
Brian Thomas was putting together the 2nd annual Lost Creek Wilderness gathering on February 11th with the plan of Bison Peak. Bison has long been my favorite Colorado peak, so I was in. However, wanting to make a full weekend out of it, Clay and I decided to head up a day early and enjoy a winter camp out between Bison and McCurdy. We arrived at the Ute Creek Trailhead around 10:00 AM on Friday and headed up. The Ute Creek Trail was quite clear for the first four miles all the way up to Bison Pass. The snow got deeper from Bison Pass to treeline, and trudging through the powder with an overnight pack was a bit annoying. Once out of the trees, the snow was more manageable and we were able to gain Bison Arm without issue. We passed over Bison Arm and descended a little ways towards McCurdy Mountain on the Brookside/McCurdy Trail. (At least in the vicinity of the trail, as it was too snow-covered to find.)
We found a suitable camping spot around 11,800' and set up camp. Part of the allure of heading up the day before was to catch the sunset, so we found a nice outcropping near camp to take in the views. The perch proved a bit difficult to ascend with the snow, but we managed. After sunset, we enjoyed a nice fire before turning in.
Starting out from an empty and dry trailhead.
Beginning (and flat) portion of the Ute Creek Trail.
The infamous "tree arch".
Ute Creek Trail.
Snowcover starting around 11,000'.
Clay refueling at Bison Pass before trudging up to Bison Arm.
My legs ache just looking at it.....
Breaking treeline, the snow diminished a bit.
Clay ascending towards Bison Arm.
Bison Arm. Our uphill for the day is over.
Clay ascending the rocky point that we used as our sunset viewing perch.
View of Bison Peak from the perch.
Looking east along the Brookside/McCurdy Trail that we would use in the morning.
High tea with McCurdy.
Derek "gracefully" descending our sunset perch. Photo by Clay
Nightime view from camp.
Up by 4:45AM, we were breaking trench towards McCurdy Mountain by 5:15AM. Our plan was to hit the summit of McCurdy for sunrise. The snow was much deeper than we had planned, ranging anywhere from a couple inches to crotch high in spots. The trudging was taking a toll on me, and around the area of McBison Pass (the low point between Bison and McCurdy) we called it off. I knew that continuing on probably would have sapped my energy from joining the gathering group on Bison later in the day. The sunrise still hadn't occurred, so we watched it from various spots on the trek back to camp. The low cloud level made for some fantastic scenery.
After tearing down camp and relaxing for a bit, we strapped back on the big packs and made our way back up to Bison Arm where we planned to meet the gathering group. We dropped our overnight packs on top of the Arm, switching to daypacks for the short trip up to the summit of Bison. The first couple members of the gathering reached us just as we ditched the packs. Having been up Bison a number of times before, I decided to try a summit route variation that Roach covers in his LCW book called "Neffer's Way". This route wraps around the east side of the summit, as opposed to ascending the south slope with the standard route. This was nice, and gave us some different views. Due to track following, I believe everyone following in the gathering group was able to experience this variation route as well. After 30 or so minutes on the warm and windless summit, Clay and I headed back down to our packs, greeting other gathering members on our way down. We reached our disgustingly heavy overnight packs and started back to the trailhead. The tracks of 10-15 people made the descent much nicer than it was on the way up. We reached the trailhead by 3:00 PM, ending another great trip to one of my favorite Colorado areas.
Thanks to Brian for setting up the trip.
Starting down the Brookside/McCurdy Trail towards McCurdy Mountain. Photo by Clay
Morning glow from near McBison Pass. Photo by Clay
Sea of clouds just before sunrise.
The Sawatch looking mighty pink.
The sun poking out over McCurdy Mountain.
Quite a view.
Bison Peak from camp before packing up.
Heading back up to Bison Arm from camp.
Views from Bison Arm.
Bison Peak with the first couple members of the 14ers.com gathering group.
Traversing along "Neffer's Way".
East side of Bison Peak's summit via the Neffer's Way variation.
An amazing area that I will never tire of.
Scenes from "Bison Garden".
The summit area of Bison, with one member of the gathering group just visible on the second bump from the left.
Clay next to the giant monolith.
Heading back down to the trailhead.
Map of the trip.