| Alone on Buffalo Peaks
I've wanted to climb Buffalo Peaks for years, but there's always been some issue or higher priority. But today, three friends from work joined me and we finally did it. We left from COS at 0500 and were at the trailhead and ready to go at 0720. The road (FR 431) into the trailhead was in good shape. We followed the instructions from luckyzsquirrel’s excellent report posted in Sep 2010, starting at the same spot and trying to replicate his route.
The parking picture he posted on his report was so good that we hit the brakes the moment we saw a pattern match. Here’s the three that joined me for the day.
There’s really nothing to add to the 2010 report in terms of description for the early part of the trip—the trail is easy to find and well-marked with dead-limb-arrows and a few small cairns. I’ll just post some pictures to give you an idea.
When you break above the trees, the bushwhacking through the low willows is easy and the footing is good. After we cleared the willows, we all seemed to take slightly different routes across the open areas towards the low ridge line that runs east-west toward East Buffalo Peak (EBP).
We stayed on the south side of the ridge once we got into the rocks and moved diagonally up the south face. The rocks/boulders were fairly small and the footing was tedious—not very solid at all, with rocks constantly shifting. It wasn’t steep enough to cause any slides or loose rocks, just bothersome to climb. We saw a very healthy and chubby bighorn ewe (expecting a lamb?) but no other wildlife as we moved slowly to the west through the rocks.
We achieved the summit in about 2:20 without pushing the pace and relaxed for a little while. The views really are spectacular there and I’m not sure I’ve been anywhere in CO where you can see more 14ers. I took a panoramic series of shots but haven’t process them yet.
Luckyzsquirrel says in his report that the toughest terrain of the hike is found going from EBP to WBP. At first, we thought was a mistake because it looked so straight forward and the first few hundred meters seemed fairly simple and sure-footed. But that soon changed. It was quite difficult finding a good line through the rocks and we ended up descending probably another two hundred feet along the west side of the traverse to find good footing and a passable route.
We then started back up to the ridgeline and targeted the strangely square formations of rocks that looked to be where we could find a trail. We achieved these rocks, which separate the lower west-side rocks from the east-side sheer drop-off, hoping that once we got atop them that the route would open up to the northwest and WBP. Luckily, we were right. From there, the boulders got bigger and more stable and the hiking easier. The rocks gave way to grass/tundra and we came closer to the summit and the last few hundred meters were very pleasant.
Atop the summit of WBP, the view was even better and we took many pictures of the Sawatch, Mosquito, and other mountain ranges. The top of WBP is very broad and flat—like a mini-Bross—and we enjoyed some summit soda (New Belgium Sunshine Wheat) before beginning our descent. The winds were occasionally strong throughout the hike, but there was a cloud in the sky and the temps were quite mild.
The trip down was much easier and less rocky and unstable than the traverse between the two peaks and most of the first thousand feet down, headed generally towards the north-northeast, was over grass and tundra.
We saw a small herd of elk in the flattened meadow below and even at least 300m away, you could tell that we had surprised the elk and they began to run around haphazardly before galloping away to the north. We encountered a few patches of snow and actually did a simple, slow glissade down one of them.
From there, we tried to follow luckyzsquirrel’s advice to just continue to the northeast until we again intersected the old road on which we’ ascended. Most of the passage was as he described, through woods with minimal undergrowth but lots of deadfall timber.
We moved progressively further to the east as we did not encounter any trails. I’d say we cleared at least three (maybe four ridges) before finally crossing a small stream (Lynch Creek?) and finding a single-track path that was NOT the “old road.” The path led us more to the east and even included a few short uphills that made us worry, but in each case the trail would turn north and east again and we could tell from our topo that we were going to eventually intersect FR 431 if nothing else. That’s exactly what did happen, though not where we started. A few minutes after 1300, we made it to the road and concluded, by looking to the south at the perspective of the BPs, that we had to be west of our parking area. We soon saw the glint of a windshield almost due east in the trees and realized we were only about a quarter mile from our truck. We arrived at 1320, exactly six hours after our start an opened another beer for refreshment.
We’d all highly recommend this hike and would like to return in the Fall for some uncrowded aspen leaf viewing. I only wish that I hadn’t forgotten my GPS and had a good track to share—and know exactly how many miles we covered. My guess is that it was between 10 and 12 total, though. I guess we will have to come back and do it again for documentation purposes!
Here’s a selection of photos from the route, plus a link to ALL of the shots I took on the trip. And here's a link to a panoramo I took on EBP.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):