Peak(s):  Bison Peak - 12,431 feet
Date Posted:  06/09/2008
Date Climbed:   06/08/2008
Author:  Aubrey

 Bison Peak  

Bison Peak, 12,431'
Highest peak in the Retirement Range and Lost Creek Wilderness.
Southwest Ridge / Ute Creek Trailhead, 8,760'

I found some conflicting beta regarding the length and overall elevation gain of this climb. I think Roach's is most accurate.

"Colorado's Lost Creek Wilderness," by Gerry Roach & Jennifer Roach:
Start: 8,760' (Finish: 12,431')
Round-trip distance: 12.2
Total Elevation Gain: 3,671' (plus about 150'+ on the return) = 3,821'+

James Dziezynski's book, "Best Summit Hikes in Colorado," says the total elevation gain (there and back) is 4,315', but I think this is a typo. At most, there couldn't have been more than 200 to 300 feet on the return (more realistically, it was 150 to 200). This book also has the round-trip distance at 11.27, whereas Roach has 12.2.

Jen and I have been wanting to climb Bison Peak for a while but we didn't feel like slogging up snow. Thanks to the people that replied to Slow Moving Fun Seeker's recent post on Bison Peak, we knew it was ripe.

At 6 a.m. on Sunday, June 8, we left our house under dreary, drizzly skies. Once again, the forecast was wrong.

By the time we made it to Bailey the weather had become really nasty. It was cloudy and raining/snowing heavily. We contemplated turning back. I‘m glad we kept going because once we made it over Kenosha Pass the skies seemed to be breaking up.

At 8 a.m. (after a 2-hour drive from Frederick; 1.5-hour drive from I-70/470) we started up the trail after crossing the footbridge over Tarryall Creek.


The trail started off gently, and it even descended a bit in a few places. This part of the hike was nice, as it paralleled a babbling stream and meandered through small aspen groves. We made good time for the first two or three miles.


There were quite a few fallen trees blocking the path, forcing us to go over, under or around.


As the trail ascended, we were afforded some views of the luscious valley.


The weather was really weird. Grapple snow fell on us, off and on (throughout the day), and one minute it was sunny and warm and the next minute it was cloudy and cool. Fortunately, the trail was completely dry.

At about 11,180‘ or so we met the McCurdy trail sign, which is where we hung a right (do not go straight here). A portion of Bison's summit area can be seen.


We continued up the easy-to-follow trail to the Bison Arm, which is a broad pass on Bison's south ridge (about 11,800'). Here's a shot, taken from a switchback, of the trail just below the Bison Arm. Not far beyond this point, where the trail fades, we started bushwhacking toward Bison's summit. (We left the faded trail toward the summit here: 39 13.776 / -105 30.303)


The views above treeline were incredible. Just about all of Colorado's backbone, the Sawatch, was in plain view. Many 14ers could be seen, though I couldn't pick them all out from this perspective, which was new to me. These shots don't even come close to doing it justice (or getting the whole 180-degree view in the frame).



Then, turning toward the terrain ahead of us, my jaw almost dropped to the ground. The eye candy gave me a permagrin.

Soon thereafter we could see the summit in the distance – upper-left point at the very edge of this photo (the point that looks higher in this pic is actually lower than the summit):


Here's a pic of a tower that a lot of people seem to photograph (Jen is at the base, to give you an idea of its size):


All the rocks were really cool. The area was kind of like a combination of Goblin Valley State Park and Garden of the Gods. Because this summit cannot be seen from any main roads or towns, you truly are rewarded for gaining this summit.


As we crossed the field with two other climbers, I noticed a couple coming down from the summit (they passed me by about 100 feet or so). The guy looked just like Astrobassman but I couldn't tell for sure, as he had a hood on. As I found out later, it was him ... in hindsight, I should've yelled to him and risked being "some crazy yelling guy" ...

As we pushed on toward the summit, we did some light scrambling over some grippy rocks. By the way, there were some small patches of snow up there, but nothing significant, and all of it could be easily bypassed.


At 11 a.m. we made the summit via some class 3 rock (which wasn't easy with clumsy mittens on). That old summit structure was smashed all over the place and there were big rusty nails poking up everywhere. The wind was howling.


McCurdy and Pikes Peak:


The wind seemed to be picking up (and it was icy cold) so we didn't stay long on the summit. It was too bad because it would've been nice to do some exploring and scrambling up there.

As we hiked back down, it was so windy on the Bison Arm that I thought I was going to be lifted up and carried away.


Our descent was Boogie Down Productions all the way. Some fast walking and occasional light jogging on the easy trail put us back at the trailhead at 1 p.m.

Overall, it was a great climb on a beautiful mountain.


Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

Cold day on Bison
02/05/2011 00:22
That‘s crazy that you noticed me up there. I remember seeing a group of 4 on our descent, but we ran into that couple with the dog...unfortunately not you guys. That was my girlfriend‘s first hike in the higher mountains. I was very proud of her...didn‘t whine too much about the wind, cold, and snow, and she was able to keep a solid pace. How did you find out it was me up there? Nice trip report.


small world
06/09/2008 17:49
We were in that ”group of 4” you saw, though I didn‘t know the other couple that was hiking up near us. Saw your post on SP this morning ...


06/09/2008 18:00
rock formations up there, very off the beaten path report Aubrey and some great views of the South Park region for sure. Some crazy weather this weekend. We had a sunny saturday night in apostle basin, slept through some hard rain and woke up to thick flake snow.


06/09/2008 18:37
Yeah I should probably modify my ”climbers log” for Bison on summitpost...that came after steaks and a few bottles of wine last night when I was drunk surfing.

Kevin Baker

far cry from mid-April!
06/10/2008 02:19
So that‘s what Bison looks like w/o a bunch of snow! It sure looks a lot different from my visit in mid-April. The LCW sure is a special place, huh! Nice report as always, Aubrey.


2 months makes a difference!
11/30/2010 17:28
Thanks, Kevin and lordhelmet and astro ...

Kevin, your TR on SP was great. What a climb! Must've been exhausting.

More (and larger) photos of my dry climb here, for those interested:

Slow Moving Fun Seeker

Deja Vu all over again
06/11/2008 13:17
Great report. We were there the day before and the weather could not have been more perfect--deepest blue in the sky I have ever seen. Spectacular rock and 360-degree views.

   Using your forum id/password. Not registered? Click Here

Caution: The information contained in this report may not be accurate and should not be the only resource used in preparation for your climb. Failure to have the necessary experience, physical conditioning, supplies or equipment can result in injury or death. and the author(s) of this report provide no warranties, either express or implied, that the information provided is accurate or reliable. By using the information provided, you agree to indemnify and hold harmless and the report author(s) with respect to any claims and demands against them, including any attorney fees and expenses. Please read the Safety and Disclaimer pages for more information.

© 2017®, 14ers Inc.