| Spring Travels in the North Indian Peaks
April 21st/22nd, 2012
In Attendance: Derek and Kimo
Red Deer Mountain 12,391’ - Peak Info
Coney Island 11,580’ - Peak Info
Trailhead: Beaver Reservoir
Routes: Red Deer- South Slope Attempt, SE Gully/Couloir Success. Coney Island- East Ridge
This is a delayed report, and the last of my “transfers” from 14erworld over here to 14ers.com. Hopefully someone will be able to make use of this report, as information on this area in winter/snow conditions is very scarce. In fact, Kimo and I headed out without even having a set plan for an ascent route of Red Deer. I guess it just added to the adventure of the weekend!
Anxious to get back to the IPW after spending most of the winter in the Mount Evans Wilderness, I decided to head up to the Buchanan Pass area. Kimo was interested, so we met at the Beaver Reservoir TH Saturday morning. There isn’t a sign marking the turnoff to Beaver Reservoir (Co Rd 96) so we were both able to completely miss the turn on our way in. Follow Co Rd 96 2.7 miles west as it wraps around the north side of the reservoir. Just as the road begins to angle SW at the north end of the reservoir, you’ll see the 4x4 road to Coney Flats on your right. There is room at this intersection to park. In the summer, this road is open and many drive the rough 4x4 road an additional 4 miles to Coney Flats. This time of year, the road is gated off.
After strapping on the packs, we started up the 4x4 road. The road was primarily snow covered, anywhere from dry to 6 foot drifts. The snow was solid enough to walk on, so the ascent went smoothly. After 1.5 miles, there is a hiker shortcut that continues west while the road heads southwest. Eventually, the shortcut meets back up with the road about .5 miles before Coney Flats. From Coney Flats, we continued west along the Beaver Creek trail. After a short distance the snow became too deep to follow the trail, but we stayed close to where we believed it was. We found a nice spot for camp around 10,250’ along the Beaver Creek Trail (about a 1.5 miles west of Coney Flats) and dropped off our overnight gear before continuing on west.
Signed shortcut intersection after 1.5 miles. Hikers go straight, the road goes left.
Coney Flats, 4 miles in. Coney Island (left), Sawtooth (center), and Red Deer (right) in the distance.
Derek headed west from Coney Flats with Sawtooth and Red Deer standing large. Photo By Kimo
Trail past Coney Flats. Photo By Kimo
Quick toss-down of camp before continuing west.
We were unsure about the conditions of Buchanan Pass, as there is only so much you can tell from far away views. We decided to head up anyway and see if we could find a manageable way up. If we were able to reach the true pass, it would allow for easy ascents of Red Deer and Sawtooth Mountains. We did not follow the true summer trail near the pass, as it lay in dangerous avalanche terrain. By sticking with mellow or snow free slopes, we worked our way to almost the 12,000’ mark on the Red Deer side of the pass. With only 30 or so feet to go to the ridge, we decided to fall back. The last section we had to cross in order to reach the ridge was very steep and covered in wet, late day snow that neither of us felt comfortable with. (We didn’t feel that we would have been able to safely arrest if we needed to.) Grudgingly, we headed back down. We kept our eyes on the SE side of Red Deer, looking for any feasible ascent option. We both thought that a nice gully/couloir rising in a northern direction looked like a doable alternative. It appeared that it would drop us just a few hundred feet from the true summit. We had not heard of any information (winter or summer) of ascending this way, but figured if we were going to make the summit, this may be our only option. We stayed to the left edge of the couloir for the first half, then crossed over to the right half for the remainder. The top of the gully was clear of snow, and left us with only a short, easy walk to the summit of Red Deer. This gully route worked perfectly, and despite being a bit steep, it would probably make for a good route any time Buchanan Pass was impassable.
We reached the summit of Red Deer around 2:30ish, and I sat and rested while Kimo scurried over to UN12277. UN12277 lies about a mile NW of Red Deer. It was enjoyable watching him work his way over from my perch. It sounds like (Kimo- feel free to correct me if I speak wrong) that the traverse has a couple class three sections, both near Red Deer’s summit, but eventually eases into a slope walk towards UN12277. After his return, we descended our ascent route of Red Deer back to camp just as evening was setting in.
Westward bearing towards Red Deer. (center)
Buchanan Pass from the lower east.
Closing in on Buchanan Pass. We are aiming for the rocky section seen in the center that appears to reach all the way to the ridge. (It does not, however.)
Photo from the next day. Red was our first attempt and turn-around, blue was the SE gully and successful option.
Looking up the SE gully after our retreat of the Buchanan Pass option.
Kimo crossing the gully half way up.
Derek looking back at Sawtooth from the ascent to Red Deer. Photo By Kimo
Derek ascending, Buchanan Pass on the left. Photo By Kimo
Views to the west on the ascent.
Nearing the exit.
Above the exit, Kimo on the final short stroll to the summit.
UN12277 (foreground) and Elk Tooth (background) from the summit of Red Deer.
Longs and co. from the summit of Red Deer.
Relaxing to some great summit views.
Descending our ascent route back to camp.
Sawtooth and Buchanan Pass.
Final views of Red Deer on the decent. Photo By Kimo
We bivied for the night, hoping to catch the meteor shower that was supposed to occur. We didn’t see a single darn one.
The next morning, we got up (thanks to Kimo chucking snowballs at me sound asleep in my bivy) and took off due south looking to gain the long east ridge of Coney Island. There are a few willowy areas to traverse, but we made it to the ridge without much of an issue. The ridge from where we gained it was around .75 miles and 600’ to the true summit. Most of the ridge is medium sized talus which made the going a bit slow, but the views that surrounded us during the trek were spectacular. We hit the summit around 8:45 and took in the views of the surrounding Indian Peaks. Most intriguing were the views of Paiute Peak to the SW and Sawtooth Mountain to the NW. After a 10 minute stay, I headed back down while Kimo spent a few minutes photo taking before starting down himself. We descended our ascent path all the way back to camp.
Sawtooth watching in the distance while we traverse west across clean snow to the east ridge of Coney Island.
Kimo topping out on the east ridge of Coney Island. Camp is just in the trees on the lower left.
Coney Island’s east ridge.
Derek on the final, gentle portion of the ridge. Paiute Peak in the background.Photo By Kimo
Paiute Peak from the summit.
Mount Audubon from the summit of Coney Island.
Sawtooth Mountain and its OWN east ridge on our descent.
Back to camp, Coney Island’s ridge seen in the background.
Kimo taking one last photo op from Coney Flats on the way out.
After packing up, the trek from camp to the TH was ridiculously difficult. Up and down, over and around, falling through previously frozen snowbanks….it sucked. Tired and sweating, we finally reached the our vehicles determined that we would never walk that road in spring conditions again. Yeesh.
Minus the return trek, this turned out to be a fun trip to some nice peaks that were new for both of us. For those looking to make this hike, in the summer (especially starting from Coney Flats) these peaks can easily be done as a dayhike. In winter/spring conditions, a camp would be well advised.