Loveland Mtn 13692' and Mt Buckskin 13865'
10.1 miles RT, 3600' gain
Tour de Buckskin via s.e. slopes w/n.e. slopes descent
My friend Layne Bracy and I decided to bag a centennial this week with forecast calling for calm skies and temps in the 20's. We decided on Buckskin after reading Bob Dawson and his groups successful summit despite a lot of fresh snow. Layne and I met across the road from the Kite Lake turnoff in Alma at 6:30am. As I was waiting for Layne, I noticed the temp was a balmy 25 degrees! This could be a good day.
I have a silly personal goal of getting 3K' gross elevation gain for 14'ers and centennials, so we decided to try our own route near the Buckskin Joe mine. We turned left off the main road onto a road that was marked as a jeep road on the quad. We later found out there was a house up the road. We began our hike at 7am at the 10750' mark. We headed up the road and were greeted by 3 dogs who didn't want us there. We passed by the house and donned our snowshoes as we were greeted with quite a bit of snow on the road. The dogs decided they liked us and hiked with us for quite a ways. One made it up to around 12K' before we lost track of him. Hope he found his way home. Both of us had not been above treeline for awhile, so our progress was pretty slow, although the snow was in pretty decent shape early on. We didn't posthole too much early in the day, but the snow would later come back to haunt us. We ascended the long, broad southeast slope of Loveland Mtn with hopes of joining the ridge leading to Buckskin. This slope was not very steep but tantalized us for what seemed like forever. Many times we thought we had crested the ridge, only to find out we still had quite a ways to go.
At around 12K' or so, we decided to take off the snowshoes as the snow was fairly solid and not too deep. We finally gained the ridge of Loveland Mtn, bypassed the false summit to the left, and summited Loveland at 11:05, a turtle pace of 4 hr, 5 min. We were both pretty worn out already, so we decided to eat our lunch on Loveland despite the lack of a stone shelter. We sat on the leeward side of the summit behind some drifts and enjoyed the views of Lincoln, Bross, Cameron and Democrat. It was a rather warm 20 degrees with moderate westerly winds. Kite Lake seemed to blend into the snow as we couldn't really spot it. We could see quite a few 14'ers from this vantage point. After a 30 min break, we headed .9 miles north on the rocky ridge to Buckskin. I felt a little better after getting some nourishment, but was not looking forward to losing elevation. We found a trail quite a bit of the way over to Buckskin, but it still was slow going with the snow. The last 10-15' to the summit was a steep snow pitch that had us on our hands and knees begging that this was indeed the summit. I saw some cairns on top and knew this was it, arriving at 12:30. We both collapsed and could not believe how hard Buckskin turned out to be. Throw in some snow and even the easiest peaks can be brutal.
Our plan was to descend the n.e. slopes as long as the snow looked stable. We knew there would not be any av danger because there were rocks poking through the snow. We stayed on the ridge until it started climbing again, at which point we headed for the Buckskin basin. The snow for the most part was still not very consolidated, which made it difficult to glissade very far. It took us 1 hr to descend 1000', and we still had another 1000' to go. We finally made it down to the basin, but were promptly greeted by the willows from hell. We bashed our way through eventually, plunging through the creek a couple times, and staggered onto the road. Exhausted from the effort, we hiked the final 2 1/2 mile death march down to our cars. A great effort and another fine day to be in the mountains despite the effort!
You're right about my comment there. That hike was two years ago, and I have since learned that an avalanche can easily occur in that situation. If I remember right, I don't think there was enough continuous snow for a slide to occur.