| McBison - A Tasty Way to Close the Year
“McBison” – Bison Peak & McCurdy Mountain
Party: Jason solo
Mileage: 18.8 (15.1 per LCW book by Gerry & Jennifer Roach)
Vertical Gain: 6995 (5341 per LCW book)
Start: 7:15 AM
Bison Peak: 9:45 AM
McCurdy Mountain: 12:15 PM
Back to Car: 3:45 PM
Ever since coming southbound over Kenosha Pass for the first time in 2001 I have enjoyed seeing South Park. There is a strong tendency to look to the southwest at the higher mountains. I have consistently found incredible beauty right along the pass and along some forested peaks to the east, in an area designated as the Lost Creek Wilderness or LCW. Fall conditions in the LCW are a pure delight, a virtual cornucopia of hiking and climbing. The primary benefits of a hike in the LCW are that both the weather and start time are a little more forgiving than say a 14er. The mileage and vertical gain do tend to be similar (and often times more) than a typical 14er, although I’ve never been sore (at least mentally) about more time spent in the mountains. As the miles wrack up the cares of the work world melt away like excess pounds.
With yesterday’s forecast looking a lot better than the weekend, a rather impromptu plan was put into motion on Thursday afternoon. It does mean some additional work over the weekend however I seriously doubt anyone on their death bed ever regretted not working that Friday in early November when snow-free trails in the high country were just around the bend. And speaking of bends, Park County Road 77 (aka Tarryall Road) offers a curvalicious view of the Tarryall Mountains, all the way from Jefferson to the Ute Creek trailhead.
Enter peace and solitude. From the moment of opening my car door until closing that same door I never saw a single person. The wind whistling through the pines, the occasional bird and awe inspiring granite formations were my only companions. Many thanks to those who heard the call to preserve this area for all to experience. My personal call for this day was for the loftiest of heights, something called McBison. This Roach classic route is a combination of Bison Peak (the highest point in the LCW) and McCurdy Mountain, a fortress of granite outcroppings.
In keeping with my personal style of not giving away all the details I will close here and offer some views from the top of the Retirement Range (the collective term for the four mountain ranges bounded within the LCW). I’m sure the conditions are certainly different even as I’m posting this report. There is some excellent photography available for this area if one cares to search this site. I will definitely go back to this special area as there are more peaks to enjoy.
Some general observations for this hike (and in general about LCW hiking):
1. Trails are very well maintained and defined, although there are no trails to the summits. One should allow time for “some exploration is required”.
2. GPS comes in very handy for knowing when to leave the trail and confirming the actual summit. McCurdy is a good example. Look for the grassy gully between two rock rib formations.
3. Even though the Roach book claims that it addresses the proper mileage and elevation (including various ups/downs) I have found the book to be off. In this case way off. I did check my GPS mileage vs. the stated distance (per the trail sign) of 4 miles from TH to Bison Pass and it was spot on, so unless something mysterious happens at 12,000 feet be advised. Note that there is a considerable amount of elevation gain on the return trip, even at lower elevations. Just something to keep in mind if attempting this in a single day. We often forget about descents made earlier in the day, which is what occurs on this trail.
4. I found it real difficult to determine the true summit of McCurdy. I ended up ascending what I thought was the correct rock formation only to find myself about 8-10 feet short. This led to my first ever “oh s**t” moment, as I got myself into the proverbial rock and hard place where I needed a rope for proper descent. I ended up making a 6-8’ horizontal leap of faith across to a nearby rock formation 8-10’ below. I’m a horrible gymnast however I managed to stick the landing. Unfortunately the landing surface was not real smooth so I hobbled way from the situation with a sprained ankle and bruised big toe (not exactly fun for 8 miles of hiking left back to the car; let alone still reaching the true summit). In defense of Roach’s book, directions to the true summit are difficult to provide – their guidance is valid once you have searched and exhausted what seems like a myriad of possibilities. A little advice - the ramp is on the northeast side of the eastern-most collection of rock formations. And it is definitely Class 2+ above the ramp, particularly after a long day of hiking. Snow/ice would make this section a little interesting.
5. The views are incredible. Go see for yourself.
Bison summit marker
The famous granite obelisk
Peering to the west from Bison summit plateau
McCurdy summit from Bison with Pikes Peak in the background
Slightly different perspective with Bison Arm in view.
Looking north to Bison summit plateau from McCurdy's western slope while on the Brookside-McCurdy trail.
As this is my final hike of the season it’s a good time to review and share some highlights of the past year.
Highlight 1. Summitted 25+ Denver area peaks with my son and younger daughter (most in the 5-8K elevation). Here is one with them on a hike to Mt Carbon.
Highlight 2: Summitted 2 13ers with my son. Here is a pic of him tackling the talus on the descent from Mt Tweto to Treasurevault Mountain.
Highlight 3: Shared a couple breathtaking traverses with long time hiking partner Adam (avs88fan). I have a separate trip report for the Arapahoe Peaks traverse. Here are some pics of our mid-August adventure doing the UN 12671-The Citadel (13294)-Hagar Mtn (13220)-Golden Bear Peak (13010)-Mt Trelease (12477) traverse.
Summit approach to The Citadel's eastern flank
Citadel to Hagar traverse
Adam ascending the gully to The Citadels' upper reaches
A unique perspective of the western portal of the Eisenhower/Johnson tunnel system, taken from the Golden Bear Peak area
In summary another great year of enjoying Colorado.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):