At Long Last- Schwacking Buffalo’s Back

Buffalo’s hulking figure was the first defining feature I learned upon moving here a year ago. A point by which to orient. Every day, through my commutes to various jobs from different houses; coming back over the Divide from Denver, there he stood. As the good Dr. pointed out, “we begin by coveting what we see every day.”

I skirted along the bowls behind Buffalo last Summer on my way down the Gore Trail; noticed a fine spine which seemed to offer an easier peak access than the imposing front. It was a passing thought. For the time being, I was happy just to learn his various faces and play in the pleats of the domed peak.

A bit imposing and rude from down here. But it makes for great waterfalls on down the trail!

The wider and more widely recognized East Face.

Okay, so he’s a little bit rocky all the way around…

Naturally when MLE & Reeves came to visit last fall and said they were open to climbing something, I picked Buffalo. I mean, he’s right there. As I recall it, I started us out by hiking up down the wrong trail. I can now say we made it up the worst of it on that first attempt. Through interminable trees. Last year at least I had them with me to hold sane.

This time around, well, it goes like this:

I opened my eyes at 10 am and something was amiss. Turns out, it was the power to my room. No clock, no alarm, it was a sign; today would be a Tardy Sunday. With an open schedule, I sat up, put my boots on, filled some water bottles and walked out my front door and up the hill. The hill turned into Buffalo where the road U turns back down and Buffalo Cabin Trail begins.

Though a beautiful weekend day, I saw no one, probably to do with my late start. Then all I had were the interminable trees. You try thinking the word ‘interminable’ times untold while trudging up a track and tell me you don’t forget how it is pronounced. Interminable.Interminimable.Interminimable.Intermable.Interimable.EnterI’mInABall.

Anyway, the steep dirt track and trees opened into a steep boulder field. I ate lunch and decided the water had probably chosen the best track down, so I’d follow it up, “path of least resistance” and all that. After about 3 minutes of scrambling, I recalled Logic Tutorials in compound statements and Material Implication. “If this is the course of least resistance for water coming down, Then this is the course of greatest resistance for Fidgits going up.”

Taking it one step further, Buffalo is a popular climb ∴ there is a discernible trail. Also there are cairns every 5-16 ft; built by children waiting for their parents to catch up, no doubt.

Buffalo Victory

Boulder field gives way to alpine pebbles and a saddle which you will think is the top. Which it is not. But just a quick jaunt further up the ridge and there you stand at 12,777 ft. A red dot on the map declares this the top.

But to the South, on the other side of an unseen ridge, there was an actual rounded knob. It looked higher than where I was. One guy shared some Berry Craisins with me; Delicious! I asked of the 3 other Peakers if anyone had a map. The bow toting, camo wearing fellow had one. I peered at it for a more interesting alternate route down as he scoped the valleys and bowls to the west with binos.

Turns out, he was currently in the same situation as I had been last year… Guilty of bringing a friend out on a more Advanced than intended adventure.

As we all always justify these things we told ourselves, “it’ll get easier from here. I’m past the worst of it.” Turns out they were two army boys out for the first day of Elk bow hunting season They had 60 lb packs, full and heavy clothes, and had just climbed a serious mountain. They too were planning on dropping off the back spine to camp in the fingers below and do hunting man stuff. I was just out for a day hike.

What from below looks like a big hilarious butt-crack, is actually quite scary from above…

The nearly class 4 scramble along the rocky ridge to that other rounded knob challenged all of us. “Glad not to be doing this alone,” I thought as a foothold crumbled out from under me and rocks careened down the massive scree funnel below.

I scouted the route as the boys were moving more slowly due to their loads. Helping pass the bows safely down the more demanding crags, I felt an immense respect for the dangers involved with carrying weapons in the back country. Makes me nervous.

I assume they mark the earlier ridge as the peak to keep too many people from scrambling over here because it is definitely higher and allowed me the perspective to route a way through a massive scree field to the spine which reaches out west. I bid the gents adieu and raced afternoon clouds down.

I recalled a few trails back here with some confidence and so continued a cross-country schwack logic, dropping over the rise to the left-most side in the above photo. Stopping there for one last effort to look over, review, and lock in the terrain, I accidentally fell asleep under the hypnotic circling of three (3) hawks.

Down into the trees. I was thrilled to intercept Meadow Creek Trail before having to contend with the swamp a beaver had made out of Meadow Creek.
Confident and sore footed (stupid boots) it was yet a couple miles to the trail head. I left the Wilderness and ended the trail at about 6pm.

1/2 mile dirt road walk, right on the bridge over I-70. First right to the Frisco transfer station and straight on to turkey tacos at home.

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