Starting Point: Sweet Home Mine TH (11,340’)
Peaks Climbed (in order of ascent): Loveland Mountain (13,692’), Mt. Buckskin (13,865’)
Route: SE ridge ascent and modified east ridge descent
RT Distance: 5.5 miles
Elevation Gain/Loss: 3,100 feet
The nice thing about hiking in fall is the wide weather window that allows for a start after the bankers have had their morning coffee, and so it was with this day - something that would be unthinkable during monsoon season. The Mosquito range was the chosen one today, mostly due to the forecast of benign winds and mild temperatures. I wanted to do a loop by climbing the southeast ridge of Mt. Buckskin and descending the east ridge, the ascent approach allowing for a summit of Loveland Mountain, a named but unranked 13er. The Sweet Home Mine trailhead is on private property so I parked at a wide shoulder just past the 4 mile point on the side of Kite Lake road to be as inconspicuous as possible. It is not often that you can spot the summits of interest from the starting point but Loveland’s twin summits were visible as well as most of the southeast ridge to Buckskin.
View from trailhead
There is no trail on this route and climbing the west slopes of Loveland proved to be a bushwhacking adventure through at least the first 500 feet of elevation gain.
Up the lower east slopes of Loveland
I started out trying to find the path of least resistance through the undergrowth but soon gave up, opting for an inelegant but reasonably effective brute force whack.
This part of the ascent was consequently slower than I’d hoped but treeline was near so I knew relief was at hand.
After a determined slog through the dense willows, I was suddenly out of the woods, literally and figuratively, with nothing but rocks and tundra covering the slope ahead.
Rocks and tundra abound
As I climbed the talus, I contoured southwest heading for the left of the first snow-filled gully.
Staying to the left of the snow gully
Near the top of the gully, the slope steepened but thankfully traction was not an issue on the grass.
Climbing the steep grassy slope
Behind me, Mt. Bross was an impressive sight with its steep southwest slopes reaching for the sky.
View of Bross to the northeast
In the meantime, back at the hike, the trail had now transitioned into a talus covered field and I aimed for the top of the high grassy knoll which would land me on Loveland’s east ridge just below 13,000’.
Loveland’s east ridge is a broad and gentle expanse and I arrived at this point a little over an hour into the hike, understandably slower due to the earlier bushwhack session.
Hikers making slow progress also deserve their views so I took a breather here to enjoy the views of Mt. Democrat and adjacent 14ers to the north.
Mosquito 14ers to the north
About 800 feet of elevation still separated me from Loveland’s rocky summit, so I pressed up the gentle east ridge, intent on making markedly better time on this pitch.
Final pitch to Loveland
Some twenty minutes later I was standing on Loveland’s summit and looking back at the path I’d taken. I could only see the last section of the hike up the grassy east ridge, but Kite lake road where I’d parked some 2,400 feet below was a straight shot from this vantage point.
Surveying Loveland's east ridge
A large cairn marked the south summit of Loveland to which I traversed while enjoying the beautiful views around.
Loveland's south summit
The high Sawatchers
I then surveyed the ridge route to Buckskin’s summit, rugged and somewhat narrow in spots but, as I would soon discover en route, nothing more than a class 2 hike.
Buckskin's southeast ridge
I took an approach that stayed true to the ridge for the most part, skirting rocky outcropping to the west side (hiker’s left).
Bypassing this to hiker's left
Looking back toward Loveland's summit
Just over half way, the ridge flattens as it makes the final pitch to Bucksin’s south summit which is the true summit.
The views from Buckskin's summit were also second to none.
View to the north from Buckskin
Mosquitoes with Collegiates afar
I was in no hurry so I decided to visit the north summit, especially since someone had taken the pains of adorning it with a large cairn. The ridge to the north summit is more of the same in terms of terrain.
Ridge to Buckskin's north summit
Staying on the rocky ridge
Looking back at a rocky lump
In all, I spent an hour and fifty minutes on this ridge, the views and perfect weather making it virtually impossible for me to call it a day! The next shot looks at the namesake peak of the Mosquito range, Colorado's two highest peaks forming the backdrop.
The standard descent starts from Buckskin's south summit and heads down the east ridge eventually joining Emma Lake trail before ending at the Kite Lake trailhead, about two miles and some 700 vertical feet up the road from where I’d parked. I decided to shorten this descent by taking a more direct approach.
I followed the east ridge down to 13,400’ and then contoured northeast aiming for a rocky bluff at the bottom of the ridge.
Aiming for the rocky bluff
It wasn’t clear from above what approach would be best once I got to the rocky bluff but I wanted to maintain a direct line to the trailhead.
Shuttling down by the side of the bluff
The slope to the right of the bluff was steep but manageable and dropped me into the broad valley floor.
Descent down the steep gully
Judging by the views from above I knew I would have no trouble avoiding the bushwhacking zoo that lay farther to the south. The only downside on this approach was that I discovered and followed a trail that lured me into private property with ‘No Trespassing” signs!
Watch out - this leads to private land!
It is not clear if I could've avoided the trespassing since Sweet Home Mine is basically on private land. I did speak softly and carried a big stick for what it was worth!