IntroductionThis is a short photo trip report on the Buckeye Peak trip which took place Thanksgiving Weekend November 26-28 2009
Since people have expressed interest in a “winter practice” mountaineering trip, I thought it would be a good idea to organize a trip over Thanksgiving. Not as many people expressed interest as I thought there would be, but we still had a good group.
The destination was chosen to be Buckeye Peak (12,867 feet/3922 meters) because it should have low avalanche danger and would be an exciting, but not too difficult ascent. We could also spend the night in the Froelicher Cabin which would allow those without winter camping to join us.
Erin, Ryan and Jeff joined Kessler (my seven year old son), Shaylee (my five year old daughter), Kimberly (my wife) and I for the climb.
November 26After a 9 am start we headed up towards the Froelicher Cabin. The first 1/3 of the route had mostly shallow or patchy snow before we turned off into the West Fork of Buckeye Gulch. Shortly after we all put on our snowshoes and continued up the mountain. The snow was powdery with some strenuous trailbreaking. Up high and closer to the hut the snow became patchy and tedious with scattered powdery snow, mud and rocky ground. Ryan and Jeff reached the cabin first and waited for the rest of us to arrive. It had taken us just under five hours to reach the cabin, but we knew it would be much faster on the route out with a packed trail.
After arriving at the cabin, Ryan and Jeff quickly found out that the combination we were given to the hut was incorrect. Luckily they had a screwdriver and we were able to get in. Kessler, Shaylee, Kimberly and I cooked a Thanksgiving dinner of ham and turkey which the others ate noodles, potatoes and other goodies.
November 27The next morning, Kessler, Ryan, Jeff, Erin and I headed off towards Buckeye Peak. Expecting hard snow above timberline, we had made a mistake in leaving the snowshoes at the cabin. Our mistake was quickly apparent as we post-holed up to the ridge between peaks 12,156 and 12,254. We skirted around peak 12,254 and to the ridge towards Buckeye Peak hoping it would be more windblown and the snow would be harder. The snow alternated between soft and hard and we slowly made our way up the ridge.
The crux of the route turned out to be 12,400 to 12,600 feet. We had to scramble up some rocks and traverse left across the slope to avoid some big cornices. After the crux section (which was still not difficult), it was smooth sailing to the summit with a steady not-too-steep uphill grind. Kessler was tired (much of probably due to two nights in a row of playing late into the night instead of going to bed), but we met the others on the summit in time to eat a short lunch. The weather on top was somewhat cold and windy, but the weather was clear and warm the rest of the time and it doesn’t get any better than this in late November.
After summiting the peak, we all headed down the mountain to near the top of the crux section. Ryan and Jeff split from Erin, Kessler and I to try an alternate route down while the rest of us descended the same route that we took on the ascent. We met back with each other at the broad saddle between peaks 12,156 and 12,254. Erin headed down to look for some good snow to snowboard while Kessler, Ryan, Jeff and I discussed what to do next. It was about 1:30 pm. We discussed climbing over to Mount Zion, but after looking at the map, it would be a pretty long haul, especially since we ditched our snowshoes back at the cabin. In the end we decided not to go for Mount Zion and instead climbed Point 12,156 before heading back to the cabin. Ryan and Jeff took a nap while the rest of us played games , talked and did various other activities. Six other people joined us at the hut that night.
November 28In the morning it was cloudy, but the sunrise was really great. Unfortunately I missed it, but Erin got some photos. We packed up and headed quickly down the mountain. This time with a packed trail, the trip down was uneventful and fast. We made it down the 3.5 miles in 2.5 hours (twice as fast as the ascent) before eating lunch in Leadville and heading our separate ways.
It was a great trip with great company.