10.24.2006

A few more peaks before ski season!

Sorry, I guess I missed posting an update last week! That weekend it was looking like Saturday was the day to climb, but with recent snows I decided to stay a little lower in elevation and closer to home. I headed over Vail Pass to Frisco to climb two 12ers in the southern Gore Range - Deming Mountain (12,902') and Eccles Peak (12,313'). While theses peaks are much lower than my usual climbs, they also start at a lower elevation of only 9150'. So despite their lower stature they still required 4000' of climbing and a route that was nearly 12 miles round trip. There was definitely less snow though, and I was able to quickly make my way up the 5 mile trail to 11,900' Eccles Pass to start the route. These peaks are fairly gentle, and after a quick hike along the snow crested ridge I was at the top of Deming enjoying its commanding view of the surrounding (and much more rugged) Gore Range peaks:



Unfortunately the weather man was wrong once again, at 11.30am on my way over to Eccles Peak it started to snow on me. It was light and I was able to summit both peaks, but as I headed back down along the trail the snow started to pick up a little bit. As I started to get closer to the trailhead the air temperature warmed up just enough to change it over to a cold steady rain. Luckily I was prepared and had proper rain gear, but it was a chilly end to what I had hoped was going to be a nice fall day. Oh well, the snow actually made it quite tranquil hiking down. There were a few other people out on the trail as well, including a couple climbing Eccles that I passed on my way down. After my hike I headed to Frisco for some lunch at the BBQ place before going to Target and Borders to spend some of that hard earned overtime pay!

The week went pretty smoothly, but not without our share of some more snow during the week. We actually got around 4-6 inches in town the end part of the week, but its all melted off now. The good news is the ski slopes are looking well covered and with a few more blasts of fall snow should have a nice jump start on snowmaking season. The local resorts don't open for another month, but Arapahoe Basin and Loveland are already open! I won't go until I get my season pass, but I know a few people who have already been up. While they had fun, they said it was crowded and not really worth the money. Still, its kind of cool to say you went skiing in October!

This past weekend the sun came back out and Sunday I went for another peak excursion. This time I went south to escape the heavier hit areas from the prior week's snow. The area outside of Buena Vista only have about 6-12 inches of snow in the mountains and a good portion of that was being blown off the windward slopes of the mountains. No snowshoes needed! I climbed West and East Buffalo Peaks in the small wilderness area of the same name. There were a few other hikers here too, but they only went up the trail not the peaks. Above treeline the winds were whipping pretty good and it was chilly day for sure. I was wearing the right jacket, so only my face had to deal with the chill. I climbed the wind scoured slopes of the western summit first, which is the higher of the two at 13,326'. From there its a fun traverse, exposed at times but not too difficult, for roughly a half mile to the 13,300' eastern summit. The ridge connecting the two drops nearly 500', which I would have had to reclimb facing the wind! Instead, I decided to drop the gully between the two after consulting the map and realizing there is a creek down there that feeds back to the main trail. This saved some time and kept me warm, but the off trail hiking had its fair share of untracked snow (about 1 foot deep) and fallen trees to hike around. Not the most ideal place to hike, but it beat being pelted in the face with windblown snow the whole way down so I accepted the trade off! The views from the summits of the Buffalo Peaks are incredible. They are located just across the Arkansas River from the Sawatch Range and the views include all of the major peaks in that range, a stretch of some 150 plus miles! To the east are the vast expanses of South Park (yes its a real place!) and Pikes Peak. The view below shows some of the Collegiate Peaks that can be seen from the slopes of West Buffalo: