Peak(s):  Bison Peak - 12,431 feet
Post Date:  02/14/2012
Date Climbed:   02/10/2012
Posted By:  Derek
Additional Members:   Claybird

 Bison Peak - Return to the Garden  

February 10th and 11th, 2012

Lost Creek Wilderness

In Attendance: Derek and Clay ( Gathering group on the 11th)
McCurdy Mountain (Attempt) Peak Info
Bison Peak Peak Info
Trailhead: Ute Creek Trailhead Trailhead Info
15 Miles
4,550' Elevation

February 10th

Brian Thomas was putting together the 2nd annual Lost Creek Wilderness gathering on February 11th with the plan of Bison Peak. Bison has long been my favorite Colorado peak, so I was in. However, wanting to make a full weekend out of it, Clay and I decided to head up a day early and enjoy a winter camp out between Bison and McCurdy. We arrived at the Ute Creek Trailhead around 10:00 AM on Friday and headed up. The Ute Creek Trail was quite clear for the first four miles all the way up to Bison Pass. The snow got deeper from Bison Pass to treeline, and trudging through the powder with an overnight pack was a bit annoying. Once out of the trees, the snow was more manageable and we were able to gain Bison Arm without issue. We passed over Bison Arm and descended a little ways towards McCurdy Mountain on the Brookside/McCurdy Trail. (At least in the vicinity of the trail, as it was too snow-covered to find.)

We found a suitable camping spot around 11,800' and set up camp. Part of the allure of heading up the day before was to catch the sunset, so we found a nice outcropping near camp to take in the views. The perch proved a bit difficult to ascend with the snow, but we managed. After sunset, we enjoyed a nice fire before turning in.

Starting out from an empty and dry trailhead.

Beginning (and flat) portion of the Ute Creek Trail.

The infamous "tree arch".

Ute Creek Trail.

Snowcover starting around 11,000'.

Bison Pass.

Clay refueling at Bison Pass before trudging up to Bison Arm.

My legs ache just looking at it.....

Breaking treeline, the snow diminished a bit.

Clay ascending towards Bison Arm.

Bison Arm. Our uphill for the day is over.

Clay ascending the rocky point that we used as our sunset viewing perch.

View of Bison Peak from the perch.

Looking east along the Brookside/McCurdy Trail that we would use in the morning.

High tea with McCurdy.


Derek "gracefully" descending our sunset perch. Photo by Clay

Nightime view from camp.

February 11th
Up by 4:45AM, we were breaking trench towards McCurdy Mountain by 5:15AM. Our plan was to hit the summit of McCurdy for sunrise. The snow was much deeper than we had planned, ranging anywhere from a couple inches to crotch high in spots. The trudging was taking a toll on me, and around the area of McBison Pass (the low point between Bison and McCurdy) we called it off. I knew that continuing on probably would have sapped my energy from joining the gathering group on Bison later in the day. The sunrise still hadn't occurred, so we watched it from various spots on the trek back to camp. The low cloud level made for some fantastic scenery.

After tearing down camp and relaxing for a bit, we strapped back on the big packs and made our way back up to Bison Arm where we planned to meet the gathering group. We dropped our overnight packs on top of the Arm, switching to daypacks for the short trip up to the summit of Bison. The first couple members of the gathering reached us just as we ditched the packs. Having been up Bison a number of times before, I decided to try a summit route variation that Roach covers in his LCW book called "Neffer's Way". This route wraps around the east side of the summit, as opposed to ascending the south slope with the standard route. This was nice, and gave us some different views. Due to track following, I believe everyone following in the gathering group was able to experience this variation route as well. After 30 or so minutes on the warm and windless summit, Clay and I headed back down to our packs, greeting other gathering members on our way down. We reached our disgustingly heavy overnight packs and started back to the trailhead. The tracks of 10-15 people made the descent much nicer than it was on the way up. We reached the trailhead by 3:00 PM, ending another great trip to one of my favorite Colorado areas.

Thanks to Brian for setting up the trip.

Starting down the Brookside/McCurdy Trail towards McCurdy Mountain. Photo by Clay

Morning glow from near McBison Pass. Photo by Clay

Sea of clouds just before sunrise.

The Sawatch looking mighty pink.

The sun poking out over McCurdy Mountain.

Quite a view.

Bison Peak from camp before packing up.

Heading back up to Bison Arm from camp.

Views from Bison Arm.

Bison Peak with the first couple members of the gathering group.

Traversing along "Neffer's Way".

East side of Bison Peak's summit via the Neffer's Way variation.

Summit views.

An amazing area that I will never tire of.

Scenes from "Bison Garden".

The summit area of Bison, with one member of the gathering group just visible on the second bump from the left.

Clay next to the giant monolith.

Heading back down to the trailhead.

Almost home.

Map of the trip.

  • Comments or Questions

02/14/2012 14:25
A great report, Derek - looks like you had a great time! Bison is one of my favorites as well.


02/14/2012 15:15
The sea of clouds photo with the sunrise is stunning. Wish I would have been there to see it with y'all.


what jeff said
02/14/2012 15:22
Derek that picture in the clouds is bad ass. Well done report. I like the rock formations. Hopefully see ya'll and join you out there again soon.

Brian Thomas

great photos and writeup
02/14/2012 16:28
Us daytrippers certainly appreciated the trench/postholes going up on Saturday. Sorry our paths didn't cross since we were ascending and descending opposite sides of Bison's summit.

”Wish I would have been there to see it with y'all”

On a 12er? You can't be serious...


Nice Report Derek
02/14/2012 17:12
If Bison was a 14er, i can't even imagine its popularity. Great peak, outstanding photos.


Great stuff Derek
02/14/2012 18:06
Thanks for sharing, love the rock near the summit! Hopefully see you guys out there soon.


Good Stuff D
02/14/2012 19:40
Man, that ”graceful descent” seems a bit sketch with that ice flow. LCW looks like an incredible area. Thanks for the report.


I really like this TR
02/14/2012 20:16
Great photos, both of you! Cloud inversions are always good news. Derek, lemme know if you wanna hit some Jeffco stuff soon.


02/15/2012 03:08
Wow! Great report, Derek! One of the things I love about reading TR's is discovering new places to go! What a fabulous area! LOVE image #14 and the ”Bison Garden!” I gotta get there sometime! Thanks for posting!


02/15/2012 16:31
Been meaning to check out the LCW (and Bison in particular) since I moved here 5 years ago... your report makes me realize I've really been missing out. A truly unique area.

Great report, Derek. Looks like a good time was had by all. Thanks for posting!

Slow Moving Fun Seeker

Fabulous Fotos!
02/18/2012 05:55
Wonder pics, Derek!


Thanks for the comments everyone
02/28/2012 03:40
LCW is a great place, and being able to spend the night among the tops of the Tarryalls was quite a treat. Can't wait to get back.


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