19 July 2016

Buffalo Mountain

White River National Forest

We have Tuesday morning off, so I picked another mountain to climb. A little easier than Quandary this time. This one is a couple hundred feet short of 13k instead of a couple hundred feet taller than 14k. There is trail all the way up to facilitate that climb with a time limit, but it is only 2.6 miles long. I will not have to hit the trailhead at 6AM this time. I was aiming not all that much later at 7AM, but lost a half hour somewhere. I did a looping hike around it two years ago. Now I will climb it. First to find the trailhead. The roads are not straightforward, but I hit it on the second try. Actually, the trail off the end of Royal Buffalo Drive would probably have worked too, but the parking situation is not as clear.

trail sign
Signs and kiosk at the start of the Buffalo Cabin Trail.

The start is familiar, past the clear cut of "defensible space" and into a rather dense and young forest. There are tents scattered in the trees just past the wilderness sign and then a junction. The trail is well trod and as wide as the trees will let it be.

purple flowers
The clear cut does make a bit of meadow now that it is getting old.

clear cut
Clear cut in the morning light. It is still scattered with little forlorn stumps.

Eagles Nest Wilderness
Entering Eagles Nest Wilderness.

From the sign, there is a little climb, but not too much. It is looking like a very easy peak from here. A little stream passes beside the trail for a short distance before a crossing where it is left behind. About a mile in are the ruins of a log cabin that the trail is likely named for.

stream of water
A little stream that chuckles beside the trail a short way.

logs in a square
Not much left of an old log cabin.

The climb is steeper after the cabin, but still not bad. One passing hiker swaps a long sleeve shirt for a short one saying he was not expecting it to be so hot. It really is not hot, though, it is just the work required to get up the slope. The trees thin out for views of the area.

reflected sun
The sun is bright over the Dillon Reservoir. The trail starts by the houses below. In the distance, the clouds are variously dispersing and gathering.

thinning thin trees
The thin trees are thinning as I climb.

The trail gets up close to a massive cairn at the bottom of a rock slope and then there is nothing quite so obvious as what I have been on. This is rather unexpected. No one mentioned the 500 vertical feet of bouldering. The line on the map looks so innocent as it climbs straight up the side of the mountain no matter how close the contours get. Actually, they do get quite close. A small cairn and thin path south attract me and I start that way. It is not a well used path. Eventually I just start going up on my own path until intersecing with a much better used track. Each step has made little changes to the way the rocks settle so that even across boulders, there is a trail of easier steps.

just a lot of rocks
Get started or cross over to climb a little grass before hitting the rocks, there are still a lot of rocks to climb.

Higher peaks to the south. This is where Breckenridge skies.

After a lot of boulder hopping upward, everything seems to funnel into a path that wanders into alpine grasses. It is still rocky, but it is small rocks filled in with dirt. From here, trail is easy again, except the air has gotten a little bit thin.

trail again
Back on easy street.

wicked downhill
There is some quite impressive terrain on this mountain.

Red Peak area
There is still snow up here. Looking northwest to the area of higher Red Peak.

I am suspicious it is a little past my turn around time as I head upward. How could this mountain have taken so long to climb? It is just a little thing. I am too close to turn back. Lunch will just have to be eaten quickly. Anyway, surely it will be much quicker down.

Red Peak and neighbors
Now just about to the top, there is a lot more to Red Peak and its neighbors.

trail over the pass of a long spine
A long ridge spine twists its way west and I can just make out the trail crossing Eccles Pass on it.

There is a long spine to the peak and I cross along it hoping to find the benchmark. It should be near the north end and is reported to be missing. Only an azimuth on a low south peak remains. Knowing I am eating my returning time still, I leave off one larger drop to a further of the progressively smaller peaks.

one last bump
I am sure it is great fun to go out to the very last bump, but the time is getting too late.

More important than all the little bumps is to take in the view.

To the east, I-70 passes Dillon Reservoir on its way to Denver.

A little more view to the south from the higher point.

All too soon, I head down. It is time to hurry, but not too much. The dangers in the moment are much more important than the danger of missing lunch and maybe even a talk.

Blue River
The path of the Blue River downstream to the north.

lots of rocks
Just go straight down. Carefully.

Coming down, I try to stick to the more established route, but keep picking the more direct route at the frequent choices. This is often not the fastest. The rocks seem to be out to teach me all new ways in which they can roll and shift. It took me an hour to get up this section and somehow it takes an entire hour to get down again. Once on the path, I can hurry safely to get back in time for a shower and quick lunch. There are lots of people coming up as I go down, but the only one that looks prepared to make it was the one at the bottom of the rocks. She asked if she had enough time to climb it in the two hours before the thunder is expected to start. Just barely, it would seem. The rest have no idea what is in store for them and have started way too late for peak bagging today.

©2016 Valerie Norton
Posted 16 August 2016

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