Peak(s):  Red Pk B  -  13,189 feet
Date Posted:  05/11/2020
Date Climbed:   04/05/2020
Author:  supranihilest
 Red Gore   

The Gore Range is an enigma to me. It's always been an intriguing but vaguely threatening range, akin both figuratively and figuratively to the hair standing up on a snarling wolf. As close as the range is to major population centers it still feels like it's far more remote than it actually is, as few plumb its craggy depths. My only other trip to the Gore thus far, to a very un-Gore-like mountain called Jacque Peak, didn't take that edge off the range as I knew Jacque was an outlier, one that I feel is part of the Gore in name only. I obviously intend to explore the Gore more, but perhaps more guerrilla style, taking down the easy peaks on the flanks, learning the weaknesses, before pressing ever deeper into the core.

One such exploration was to Red Peak B, the most southern of the 13ers I consider to be Gore peaks (Jacque notwithstanding). Red Peak is an easy peak from Silverthorne, one heavily overshadowed by its nearby, shorter neighbor Buffalo Mountain, which stands at a cool 12,777 feet. Buffalo is far more well known due to its inclusion in Fifty Classic Ski Descents of North America, a seminal work on ski mountaineering and a kind of sister work to Fifty Classic Climbs of North America. Buffalo's Silver Couloir is one of these classics, and a relatively easy one compared to many in the book. Combined with ease of access it's no wonder Buffalo is the more popular peak. But I wasn't there for Buffalo, except maybe as an addition to Red. Nay, I was there for Red first and foremost, and for knowledge second. Everything else would be icing on the cake.

Having climbed Homestake Peak the previous day I slept in my car in an undisclosed location in Summit County. I had everything I needed with me, including food, and didn't want to go home, which would require a second trip and a fillup, and with the coronavirus going around I wanted to be in public touching things as little as possible. I also figured I could get an early start on Red, far ahead of prime skiing conditions and the attendant crowds of skiers, and would be coming back long after the skiers had done their thing and gone home for the day. I left the aptly named Buffalo Mountain Trailhead shortly after 6am and headed up the trail towards - you guessed it - Buffalo Mountain. I crossed over an open slope and into a large beetle kill forest that had also caught fire at one point. These poor tress just couldn't get a break.

Buffalo Mountain. The summit trail goes up the large bowl barely visible on the left, and the Silver Couloir drops off to the right.
Eerie, dead forest.

The trail was easy to follow and almost entirely flat. I came to a trail junction and continued straight onto the South Willow Creek Trail.

Straight ahead for fun.

I was intending to go down into the South Willow Creek drainage, cross the creek, and join the Gore Range Trail, which would lead west to where I had to go. As I continued along the trail it got narrower and then began to drop steeply towards the creek. Several unmarked junctions led east but I continued on the main trail until I hit the bottom of Silver Couloir.

Looks like fun!

From here all tracks came down the couloir and went back up the way I came except for a single set of snowshoe tracks which cut straight down towards the creek. I followed these and even they stopped and went back uphill eventually. I figured I'd have to make my own trail the remainder of the way, so I kept heading towards the creek. I wasn't sure if there was an official crossing or not and didn't spend much time looking for one before just crossing on a snow covered rock hop instead.

The single log bridge on the right would have been too sketchy so I scooted down onto the snow bridge and made an awkward crossing over an open gap.

Once across I ascended steeply back up the hillside and ran into the Gore Range Trail, as expected. The trail was in great shape and easy to follow, so I figured I had missed the correct turn and thus the correct crossing before; I'd come back the other way, if I could.

A snowy Gore Range Trail.

The Gore Range trail slowly gained elevation as I took it west towards Red Buffalo Pass, my intended access point to Red Peak's south ridge. Buffalo Mountain's northern flanks towered above South Willow Creek and kept me company for the next hour or so as I snowshoed along ever less traveled trail until I was following a single cross country skier's track.

Interesting towers on Buffalo Mountain's north side.
The rock looked solid and the climbing (if you could get to it) fun.
Only one other person has gone even this far.

I was surprised by some of the terrain this skier had gone up; narrow, winding ledges with a bit of exposure, steep hillsides that required lots of side-stepping, thick, interwoven clusters of trees. The terrain did eventually open into numerous avalanche paths and accessible glades as it slowly gained elevation above the creek.

Plenty of avalanche gullies just like this one en route to Red Buffalo Pass.
More craggy terrain on Buffalo. The tower on the left is the smaller one in the photos above.

After just a mile or two the ski tracks started to fade and then eventually ended completely. It was now on me to route find and break trail. Snow conditions were alright, just a little bit of sinking, and I didn't have much trouble finding my way. I diverged from the GPX track I had made for myself and began gaining even more elevation below Red Peak's vast southern wall.

Up we go.
Yummy yummy.

As I got close to the south ridge I realized I was too high. I had to drop down and lose elevation on a couple of rollers to gain the next one. Simultaneously the south ridge came into view, as did the massive cornice that topped Red Buffalo Pass. I guess I won't be going that way. I wasn't about to give up though, and continued on in case there was a break in the cornice somewhere that I could sneak up.

South ridge closest to me. The cornice is visible in various spots.

As I got closer to the pass nothing came through there, but the Red's southern cliffs did end and a broad snow slope led up and around to the summit. I'd take those instead, thanks for the route, Red!

Red Peak's south slopes. The peak visible on the right is just slightly shorter than the true summit.
More cornice as I headed north.
Buffalo's northwest face from below the pass.

The initial terrain from below the pass was a pair of bowls that I had to dip through before hitting the sustained slopes below the summit.

The first bowl heading up Red's south slopes.
Route from the second bowl up.

The higher I got the more clear it became that there was no way I'd have been able to avoid the cornice.

More cornice.
Even more cornice.
Avalanche caused by a cornice fall.

I crossed over both bowls and began ascending the mostly uniform slope that made up the majority of the remaining climb to the summit. I didn't go straight up the middle since I didn't particularly like the slope angle, opting instead to stick to the right side near exposed rocks.

Blocky talus that was kind of a pain to hop through.

I wanted to use the rocks for the safety they offered, and cut through them then walked along the side of the talus field.

... then up.
I can see where Red Peak gets its name from!

There was a short, flat area here and then the slope continued unbroken to the summit, and I now had no choice but to ascend snow at an uncomfortable angle, despite how stable it seemed. I tried to keep the exact pace where I wouldn't stop as I ascended.

Looking down from whence I came. The cornice is visible along literally the entire ridge all the way to 12ers "Deming Mountain" (left) and "West Deming" (right).

The gain went quickly and I soon found myself below the summit block, which I went around to the right; the left would have been easier, but it was still just Class 2.

Red Peak's summit.

The views from this simple and unassuming peak were some of the best I've ever seen. So many spectacular areas and peaks leapt upward that it was hard to keep track of them all.

The Gore Range. I won't even attempt to name the multitude of peaks in this photo.
The ridge to "Pink Peak" (center) and "East East Red" (left) with a huge chunk of the Front Range Behind.
Another view of "Mount Deming" and "West Deming".
Far western Front Range (Mount Guyot and Bald Mountain A on the left) and the northern Tenmile Range.
Mount of the Holy Cross and the Holy Cross Wilderness.
Torreys and Grays Peaks.

I had one more sub-summit to go from here, teeny tiny, unranked Point 13,005. It's literally nothing but it is marked on maps and given an elevation, therefore I must climb it.

Unranked, miniscule Point 13,005.

The lefthand descent off of Red's main summit was pretty dry and rocky, and super awkward with snowshoes on, but it would have taken just as long or longer to take them off and put them back on. I picked my way down the rocks and over to the saddle where I dropped my pack. Point 13,005's snowy north face was impressive and rounded out a nice climb of the peak.

Point 13,005's north face.

From the saddle the remaining distance to the summit was pure snowy goodness.

Here, ridgy ridgy.
Red's main summit.

I quickly retreated to my pack and surveyed the long route down. Instead of retracing my full ascent route I went down to the rocks I had skirted previously and then switchbacked down the center of the snow slope, which would provide more traction than the thin, now wet snow on grass I had ascended.

Time to head back.

I made my way down without issue and discovered more cornice pieces had fallen while I was up high. The first bowl was dispatched with ease and instead of crossing the second the way I came up I took a shortcut down a shallow gully and back into the trees.

Bowl numero uno.
The second bowl with my tracks visible in center. Instead of reascending through the small tress I took a hard left and went down a more direct way.
My ascent route is off to the right but I went straight down the gully on easy snow.
Nothing to it!

This time instead of taking my tracks back, I continued down closer to the creek before swinging east again on what I thought was more gentle terrain. That way I wouldn't have to go up and down over those rollers and could sail more smoothly back. The trek back felt like it took longer than it actually did, as usual. By the time I got back to where I'd crossed the creek it was absolutely sweltering. I stuck to my earlier plans of taking the proper trail back and continued onward until I found the signs pointing the way. I still didn't cross a real bridge, but this was a lot easier than trying to go back over my earlier crossing would have been.

Some of the ledges on the way back.
I decided to check out South Willow Falls but the snow pillows were so huge I couldn't see anything.
South Willow/Buffalo trail here I come.

The remaining snowshoe back was uneventful, though the 400 (exactly, I think) feet of gain from South Willow Creek back to the trailhead were slightly irritating in the afternoon heat. The trail by now was packed smooth by numerous skiers, and I passed the last stragglers on my way back. Red Peak in these conditions was a little lengthy but a total blast to have to myself. The views of surrounding mountains really solidified my inkling that the Gore is a special place, and one I'm sure I will return to very, very soon.


Climbers: Ben Feinstein (myself)
Trailhead: Buffalo Mountain Trailhead
Total distance: 12.64 miles
Total elevation gain: 4,435 feet
Total time: 8:24:28
Peaks: One ranked thirteener

  • Red Peak B, 13,189'


Starting Location Ending Location Via Time (h:mm:ss) Cumulative Time (h:mm:ss) Rest Time (m:ss)
Buffalo Mountain Trailhead Red Peak B 4:55:04 4:55:04 8:21
Red Peak B Point 13,005¹ 0:12:43 5:16:07 0:00
Point 13,005 Buffalo Mountain Trailhead 3:08:21 8:24:28 Trip End

¹Point 13,005 only has 40ish feet of prominence so it isn't really anything but it is marked and given an elevation on Forest Service maps, so I tagged it.

My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions

The Range
05/12/2020 08:11
I have done a few there, (also kind of ticking away what I think are easier peaks- see checklist for details); and haven't found them to be too bad thus far. Steep but mostly fun. There are a few way back in the range that look a bit intimidating though!


Da Gores...
05/12/2020 08:34
Gptta love 'em. Just don't tell anyone about 'em :-)


05/12/2020 22:41
@Andrew: They certainly look fun! Reading reports of some of the scrambles in the Gore has left me drooling.

@Jay: Don't tell anyone about what? ;)


I really enjoyed this report
05/13/2020 09:48
Thanks for posting and showing off some of what the Gore has to offer

Historical Trivia
05/13/2020 19:38
The state Highway Department originally wanted to put I-70 through a tunnel under Red Buffalo Pass and down the Gore Creek drainage. I don't remember all the political drama involved, but eventually the area was declared Wilderness and the the highway was built over Vail Pass, the same route that two lane US six used. This would not only have been a disaster for the wilderness value of the Gore Range, it would have been a disaster as a highway route in the winter. It had steeper grades, higher snowfall and much more avalanche danger than Vail Pass. It was, however ten miles shorter than the Vail Pass route. Had the highway been built there, I suspect it would have been difficult to impossible to keep it open during much of the winter.

Cool pictures
05/15/2020 14:06
Thanks for the report and the memories of when I did a summertime hike to red buffalo pass.

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