Red Pk (13189’)
13 miles, 4300’ gain
February 16, 2013
Participants: Sarah Strattan, Ryan Marsters, Pete Krzanowsky, Dominic & Sarah Meiser, Kevin Baker
My 13er list has been neglected in pursuit of some of the more difficult 14ers this dry winter season. Very few of my remaining 13ers are accessible as day hikes in winter, but Red Peak in the Gores caught my eye as a possibility since the area is still well below normal snowpack at around 70% of average. The Gores are a fortress in winter as the steep, long approaches are riddled with avy prone terrain. It would be the first time for me to try something above treeline in the Gores in calendar winter. The shortest approach for Red is via the South Willow Creek drainage from Silverthorne to the east by way of the Gore Range trail to Red Buffalo Pass. The unmarked Buffalo Cabin trail from the end of Wildernest Road in Ryan Gulch provides a reasonable starting point in winter. I send out a few invites and get 5 winter warriors signup for a long day of trail breaking!
We set out from the Buffalo Cabin trailhead at 9860’ a bit after 6am. It’s a brisk 10 degrees and we’re pleased to find a track in place despite a recent storm that dropped over a foot of snow up high. We quickly climb to 10K’, then we lose all we gain and more as the trail drops into the South Willow Creek drainage to meet the Gore Range trail at 9600’. This is the drawback of the route, but it seems to be heavily used trail by the locals in winter. I was hoping some snowshoe fairies came by and laid a track for us. It was a ski track, but we'll take it! The new snow has blown over the track in spots higher up, but we’re able to find it again when we lose it. We’re making quicker progress than I expected! The views open up and it appears there will be some spindrift to deal with up high, but nothing beats a crisp winter morning with new snow!
The north face of 12er Buffalo
Red pops into view
Spindrift off the north ridge of Buffalo
We rotate trail breaking and the effort is far less than I thought it would be. We lose the track completely around 10800’, but the postholing isn’t too bad.
Beauty of a track!
The key to a safe line on Red is to hit the south ridge via Red Buffalo Pass using the mellowest line, but the pass itself is well guarded with cornices in a normal winter. We swing a bit too far south as I see Eccles Pass and mistake it for Red Buffalo. Sarah S points us in the right direction and we’re soon angling northeast at the edge of the trees for Red Buffalo Pass. Sarah will keep you out of trouble in the Gores as she has all the peaks, passes, and lakes memorized since it’s her playground. We choose a line to hit the ridge just north of the actual pass. There is one section where a true cornice hasn’t quite developed yet and we aim for it.
Sarah M breaking trail to the south ridge
Hitting the south ridge with 12er Demming in background.
The views southward to Deming are exquisite. I’m not sure the pass could be accessed safely this late in a normal winter as there may be a formidable cornice all the way across. We continue to leave the snowshoes on for a ways up the ridge as there is a huge drift to surmount. Dominic and I tag team it and a posthole ladder is installed. No Nazarene cuss words are needed to surmount this bad boy!
Dominic gets the job done on a huge drift
Remaining route up the south ridge
The banshees make an appearance as expected, but they’re not blowing more than 30 mph on the way up, enough to make for some cool spindrift shots and make it fell like this is really winter.
A little spindrift action
It’s a good thing the wind is manageable as we still have over a mile to go with a false summit. The ridge is easy and fun with some dramatic views along the way.
Sarah M and Pete scale another drift
Sarah S and Dominic
Lots of wide cornices on the ridge.
Summit in view at last as the ridge bends right at false summit.
Pete along the ridge.
Sweet views on the ridge.
Pete nears the summit amidst the glory of the Gores.
We top out around 1pm and find a nice wind shadow for a nice break to refuel. The views from the summit are worth the price of admission in the Gores, and that price is a little cheaper today with the strong team we had. Red is a repeat for everybody except for Ryan and myself. I must say there is no such thing as a dud 13er in the Gores. Even the easy ones have a lot of character, and Red does not disappoint. It is a place that inspires new adventures! I look forward to exploring the range even more in the coming years.
Northward views towards Mt Silverthorne
Heading back across the ridge.
Sarah S on what I call the "Red Peak Step."
Another nice view of Deming.
Descending the ridge is a bit tedious with the snowy talus and the winds pick up a bit. We enjoy our well groomed trench on the way out and we’re back at the cars at 5:30. It’s an awesome outing with a great group of friends and a sweet way to get my first winter Gore alpine summit!