Via Gem Lake and North Buck. Intermittent trail, but tons of elk trail to follow where needed. Registers on both summits.
With Peterson Ridge & 7825.
August 9-11: Buck Mountain-North and South
Kimberly had to work the weekend, so Kessler, Shaylee and I decided to climb Buck Mountain. The main reason for climbing it was that it was thought to offer the best view of the Sawtooth Range.
In the early evening, we set off from the trailhead. The trail was confused by many sheep trails and we came upon a sheep herd. We went around the sheep as best we could and tried to stay away, but we could hear the sheep dogs barking from a distance. It sprinkled a little rain, but otherwise it was good weather. It must have rained hard earlier in the day though because there was lots of mud. There were lots of huge mushrooms along the way.
We made 4.8 miles along the Main Fork Trail. It was getting late and we found a marginal campsite. There weren’t too many good campsites in the area, but the kids wanted to camp before it got dark.
We awoke to a fairly mild 38F (3C) and clear skies. We made our way to Encampment Meadows on a good trail, but the trail became really wet and boggy for quite a distance. Our feet were soaked! We located the trail up to Gem Lake and followed it to the lake before taking a rest.
We expected a rough scramble to the pass south of Buck Mountain North, but upon reaching the steepest part we were surprise to find and old constructed trail. It must date to the peak sheep grazing days many decades ago. We followed the trail up to the pass and found that it was frequented by elk as well.
We scrambled up to the summit and found that the resister was signed by four parties (including a solo climber) in the past six years. After enjoying the summit and eating lunch, we followed the long ridge south and reached the summit of Buck Mountain South.
The weather was overcast, cold, and windy, and spit a few snow pellets and snowflakes, but there wasn’t a thunderstorm. We didn’t find a register on top, so we left one before quickly heading down the ridge. The weather quickly improved so we climbed and additional peak before descending to Lake Diana, seeing a marmot along the way
An old abandoned trail leads from Lake Diana back to the Continental Divide at Encampment Meadows, but we didn’t find it from the lake. We headed down the mountain without it, but eventually found it and followed it back down to the meadows.
From there we headed back to camp, meeting three other hikers and a dog, the only people we met along the hike.
The kids were tired by the time we reached camp and since we had enough food we spent another night.
In the morning, we ate a leisurely breakfast before packing up camp and heading back to the trailhead. We made the hike rather quickly and were glad that the sheep herd was gone.