| Mt Buckskin in early March
Loveland Mtn, Mt. Buckskin
TH: FS 192
RT: ~10.7 mi (GPS)
elevation: ~3700 ft (GPS)
1. There is minimal parking along FS 192 (two small, plowed pullouts), which is a labelled, left-hand turn just past the Buckskin Cemetery on Kite Lake Road. *I parked at the lower pullout, as there were faint tracks in the snow past the plowing of the upper pullout. I was glad I did, as snowmobiles use the road.*
2. There is currently a nicely groomed snowmobile track to follow to treeline (wasn't there in the morning, but I was happy to follow it back).
3. Below treeline, the slopes are wind-loaded. I was surprised by the depth of the snow in the trees. Given the sensitivity of the snowpack, I'd suggest following the snowmobile track to treeline and heading up the western edge of the southeast-facing slope (less snow and there are some bare patches). There are trade-offs for both choices, and I'll describe both below.
I've been enjoying my solo winter outings so far and decided to give Mt. Buckskin a try. I pulled up some trip reports for Buckskin, and the Southeast Ridge looked like a good choice. I'm all about minimizing avalanche danger on my solo ventures.
The route initially follows a road, but you are soon confronted with the decision of how to get above treeline. On the way up, I tried what appeared to be a fairly direct route up the eastern side of the southeast ridge (orange line on the topo below). I headed up the knee-deep snow through the trees and was pretty happy with the very mellow angle of the slope until I heard the first "Whumph!" (approximate location shown by the yellow dot on the topo below). I didn't see any cracking and didn't want to go back down the slope I had just come up (which was apparently not as stable as I had hoped and went directly beneath where the snow had settled), so I took two steps over to the nearest trees. Hmm. Still below treeline, where the snow has really piled up--I angled across the slope, slowly gaining elevation while staying more in the trees (as opposed to the more open slopes below treeline). I considered turning back, but knew that the snow depth would soon get shallower as I went up (thanks to my windy and cold attempt on Thursday). As I went, I constantly re-evaluated the snow conditions and consulted my GPS to find the lowest slope angle. It was slow going, and I breathed a sigh of relief when I got high enough to no longer need snowshoes.
I took pictures of the slope on my way down:
In the picture above, the arrow shows the approximate location of the "Whumph!" (surrounded by trees, on a low-angle slope); I basically followed the ridge along the skyline.
Arrow points to location of a cornice just below the highest stand of trees.
On the way down, I followed the periwinkle line in Image 1. Although the snow extended further up the slope on this side of the ridge, the snow depth was lower (I didn't need snowshoes on the way down, as I could walk on top of the snow). I could also aim for various patches of bare grass. Looking back up at the slope I descended:
Photo taken from the same spot as Image 2.
I really liked the wind patterns on the snow. My descent route was to the left-hand side of this photo (avoiding the steep slopes):
Once I got to the relatively bare upper slopes, the wind began to make itself known. Well, it wasn't as strong as Thursday, and the temperature was warmer. At least I could maintain a pace uphill without being blown back every step.
Looking back down the slope--Pikes looks so far away!
As I kept moving uphill, the views got better and better:
Elbert and Massive in the background;London and Mosquito Peak in the foreground.
Okay, so I really want to see the Cross Couloir--unfortunately, I'm near-sighted and my phone doesn't zoom in.
I almost hiked past Loveland Mtn's summit, but I pulled out the GPS in time and hiked up to the summit (which was not nearly as impressive-looking as Buckskin's summit(s)). It was windy enough to keep skin covered but not too bad for a winter ascent. After what seemed like (and was) a long time, I was finally approaching Buckskin's summit:
I liked the looks of the Northwest summit, but given the time I just went to the true summit.
My dog seemed drawn to the cornices (my best guess is that it was easier for him to hike along the hard surface of the wind-blown snow instead of encountering obstacles and softer snow on the trail). I kept telling him to get off the cornice (hence, the confused look on his face in the photo below):
Get off that snow!
He came back to me each time, but after taking a look at the final summit pitch, I decided he could stay below and tied him to my pack. The final summit pitch (photo taken from just below the summit; maybe 15-20 vertical feet to go):
It kind of reminded me of cake frosting. I went up the middle (the snow had a solid crust) and thought "light as a feather."
Somehow, there was minimal wind on the summit, which was a pleasant surprise. Given the lateness of the hour, I didn't continue to the Northwest summit:
Might have to try that ridge to Tweto in the summer...
I wondered if anyone was attempting the DeCaliBron:
Democrat has some nice-looking ridges; might have to return some day:
I did my best to assess Tweto, et al. from afar, as I'm considering attempting them in the not-too-distant future:
Tweto and Treasurevault looked okay--the question is, how far could I drive the road?
Road doesn't look promising.
Pennsylvania to the far left; Sherman, Gemini, Dyer, Evans B in the background; London in the foreground.
All too soon, I turned around and headed back down the ridge:
"Wonder how it gets so free of snow?" I thought, as I leaned sideways and let the wind support me.
Still a long ways to go.
Little did I know that I would see plentiful wildlife on the way back. First, we found a bighorn herd. The bighorn were kind enough to stop each time we stopped so that I could take a picture:
I really need to start carrying a camera with a zoom on these trips!
Next, we saw a snowshoe hare; unfortunately, it did not pause for a photo. Boy was I glad that I had remembered the bribes! The dog was quite happy to sit and wait for me instead of chasing wildlife. Apparently, a guaranteed dog treat or two is better than trying to catch something that runs much faster than you do (my dog is not very fast, but he can hike for miles).
I carefully consulted my GPS as I approached the final slope above treeline. We made it down without incident, and I was happy when we found the road:
Still love Silverheels!
The photo above is a bit misleading in that the road is only this clear and obvious in certain places. I was quite glad to find the snowmobile tracks further down and follow them back to where I parked. The snow is quite soft, and even though I followed the snowmobile track, I found it easier to wear snowshoes (I'm not a fan of post-holing). So glad to get back to the car while it was still light!
Following the snowmobile track out.
Thanks for reading!
Complete trip track (Thanks, Ben!):
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):