After hearing Kane rave about Bison Peak, I knew I had to get down there and see all the crazy rock formations for myself. Following several days of new snow I wasn't sure of where to go on my days off and settled on LCW's Bison Peak because of the lower elevation and Southwest facing standard route, the Southwest Ridge that starts at the Ute Creek Trailhead.
The forecast was for snow and high winds but my wife and I decided to head down anyway. We arrived around 1PM with the intentions of hiking up the trail until we found a nice campsite. While signing in at the register I noticed that only two people had signed in over the past month and a half with one of them being none other than Gerry Roach himself, the author of the Lost Creek Wilderness guide.
Only a few inches of snow covered the trail as we quickly covered the first 2.5 miles. There wasn't very much vertical gain over this distance and the weather had been just great despite the weather forecast. As the trail began to climb I knew we had better take advantage of the next suitable site or we'd have to keep going to Bison Pass at 11,180 feet which was a little further than I wanted to go. At around 10,200 feet I spotted a nice site just big enough for the tent that turned out to have some wonderful views back down the valley. After the sun set it didn't take us long to hit the tent as it grew cold very fast.
We didn't rush out of the tent the next morning and awaited sunrise before getting around. We started out on the trail once again and still didn't need our snowshoes but took them anyway. And am I glad we did.
We made good time up to Bison Pass with the snow getting increasingly deeper as we went. By the time we reached the pass we had put on our snowshoes and STILL ended up wollowing up to our knees from Bison Pass to Bison Arm. There was a ton of snow in the trees and I'm not sure we ever acutally found the trail to Bison Arm. It helped that you can see the rock outcroppings from the pass and we just made the best way we could.
Upon arriving at Bison Arm, I immediately saw what all the fuss was about. There were all these wierd towering rock formations everywhere. The view out over the summit plateau was absolutely breathtaking. The weather was crystal clear with high winds and we could see mountains from Grays/Torreys to Pikes and beyond. Despite the high winds, the summit hike was very pleasent. We made our way down to the very obvious monolith and at that point decided to make the tour a little longer by taking Neffer's Way to the summit which stays hard right after the monolith goind around the obvious rock out croppings to the right instead of the left. This gave us great views of Pikes and McCurdy.
By the time we got to the summit, the wind was really kicking but the views were still great. We descended straight from the summit to the monolith and saw the most amazing towers in en route. We made our way back up to Bison Arm at which point we decided, with all the deep snow below treeline, we would save McCurdy for another trip.
This is a winter trip that I would recommend for anyone wanting to knock the winter rust off. It is long and physically demanding but it doesn't hold the dangers that other high peaks might have during winter. Camping and making two days our of it made the trip that much more enjoyable.
Also, for anyone coming from Denver to the Lost Creek Wilderness Area, I highly recommend stopping in Conifer and eating at the Chinese restaurant next to the Safeway. We had a pile of great food for less than 5 bucks.