Choosing the Route
Buckley Mountain is the tallest and southernmost mountain in a string of mountains that run north to south, and just west of the taller peaks such as Cascade, Shingle Mill Peak, Freedom Peak, Provo Peak, and Corral Mountain. From north to south, these lesser peaks and mountains start with Buffalo Peak, Squaw Peak, Y Mountain, and Maple Mountain, with the last being Buckley Mountain, which is situated due east of south Provo and north Springville.
I'd had my eye on Buckley Mountain for some time due to the fact that it had rarely been hiked and how it was rather isolated, piqued my interest. There were a couple of different options I had in choosing a route to the top.
Here on SP, I'd read the climber's logs of the attempts of climbing Buckley. The Slate Canyon route, which is north of Buckley was an option, as well as Little Rock Canyon, which is south of Buckley, as well as Buckley Draw, which is a drainage that leads directly to the summit, are all approaches that start on the valley floor and work themselves either straight up the west face or east around to the back of Buckley and then up. All sounded like a huge elevation gain, 7+ miles RT, and not to mention, a bushwhacking for the ages in any direction.
A friend, peachey
, a year and a half earlier had hiked Buckley via the Kolob Basin Overlook, which is a very promising route if you have a high clearance vehicle and the patience to drive for nearly two hours from Squaw Peak turnoff from Provo Canyon. From the Kolob Basin Overlook, hiking Buckley is due just west up and over Horse Mountain and then up the east ridge, clearly the most direct and shortest hiking distance. However, the Squaw Peak Road, or Squaw Peak Trail as it is called after passing Rock Canyon Campground is very rough to the Provo Peak parking area and then extremely rough and rugged past that with the 'trail' deteriorating more and more the farther south it heads toward Hobble Creek Canyon. While Kolob Basin Overlook sounded the most appealing, just getting there was going to be the biggest obstacle.
This is pretty much what the road looks like getting to Kolob Basin Overlook. The picture just doesn't do it justice, but it was very rough.
Adam vs. Buckley....Round 1... Point Buckley.
While I have an all wheel drive vehicle, it's not a high clearance vehicle. I'd already gotten enough stares and head shakes when I would drive to the Dry Fork TH in my A6, and going past that in it was nearly suicidal. So, on Pioneer Day, I was in my work vehicle, which just happens to be a high clearance, 4 wheel drive van. It was a slow day and I had a long lunch break, so I decided to take advantage of it and drive the entire Squaw Peak Road/Trail from Hobble Creek to Provo Canyon. I figured if I made good time, I'd size up Kolob Basin, and possibly tackle Buckley.
The Squaw Peak Trail turnoff from Hobble Creek is very non-descript, and is easily missed. It looks almost like a glorified rancher's driveway. The entire trip from Hobble Creek to Kolob Basin took over two and a half hours, and involved driving nearly impassable roads, even in my high clearance vehicle. Once I got out of the foothills north of the Hobble Creek, the views started opening up which made the drive more enjoyable. After bouncing my way to the Kolob Basin Overlook, I had the chance to size up Buckley from the southeast, a view I'd never had before. I finally made it to Kolob Basin, and saw that if I pushed it, I could possibly hit the summit, and then head straight back, and still make it back to work.
One thing I noticed as soon as I got out, was the over abundance of flies, large and small. They were all over the place, and they liked to bite as well. I sized up Horse Mountain, which is little more than a little bump just east of Buckley, decided to hit the crest there and then routefind up to the Buckley summit. It looked pretty tame. It didn't take long to realize I was over my head and was unprepared. Upon reaching Horse Mountain, I opted to just routefind straight up. Bad idea. First of all, by this time, the flies were really bothersome. I ended up killing 52 biting flies, some two at a time, they were so thick. My next mistake was that it looked like I chose the route with the most thick underbrush, scrub oak, and in general, the crappiest, most miserable way up the mountain. I was just in shorts, and I got tore to shreds. After bushwhacking brush and flies for about an hour, and without my GPS, I made it to what I was hoping was the summit, but turned out to be the saddle between the lower southern Buckley peak and the actual Buckley summit. Looking at my watch, I knew I didn't have time to hit the summit and make it back, and go the rest of the way north on the Squaw Peak Rd/Trail and still make it back to work. So... 200 feet short of the summit and I resorted to bushwhacking it back down, which was worse than going up. I got back to my van, bitten, bruised and bloody... Buckley had won this round. But I was not going to be denied. I now was on a mission.
This is the route of my failed attempt at reaching the top of Buckley Mountain on Pioneer Day. Not recommended. Here is the route I took my 2nd time on Buckley. You avoid all the aspens, and it mostly routefinding through mint and yellow flowers. I encourage anyone hiking this in the summer to take this approach.
Adam vs. Buckley... Round 2
After three weeks of letting my wounds and my pride heal, I was determined to stick it to Buckley. Kolob Basin was clearly the best way to summit the mountain, but the road was impassable with any vehicle of mine, other than the four wheel drive work vehicle, which I didn't have the luxury of joyriding with any time I wanted.
I had decide to tackle some of the other peaks north of Buckley before returning to the scene of the crime. In the three weeks after my Buckley debacle, I had reached the all the summits Cascade, the summit of Shingle Mill Peak, and Provo Peak. Provo Peak gave me a great perspective of Buckley. From the summit, I formed a new attack plan. Also, I had perhaps even better news... on the way to Provo Peak with my buddy, we saw that a bulldozer had been through and leveled out the low points and most of the huge rocks that prohibited a passenger vehicle from making it to at least Provo Peak, and maybe beyond. The day after Provo Peak, I decided to take my little Ford Escort (Pepe) that I've had since returning from my LDS mission some 11 years before on the trek of a lifetime. While the road was still extremely rough, the bulldozer had done it's job. I managed to go from the Squaw Peak turnoff to Kolob Basin Overlook in 1 hour and 45 minutes, without bottoming out once! That was a good omen. After arriving at the KBO parking lot at 845am, I basically dipped myself in a vat of insect repellent, donned a thick pair of blue jeans, my Camelbak, and my GPS. Bring it on Buckley, let's see what ya got...
Looking up toward the saddle. I veered to the right of the aspens, just to the right of the two pine trees. Looking down from where I came. I parked at Kolob Basin Overlook in the top of the picture.
Adam with the Round 2 KO
After seeing Buckley from Provo Peak, I found that on my first ascent, I had been a little too aggressive to go for the Buckley knockout punch by trying to go straight up to the summit through two thick groves of aspens. This time, instead of hit the crest of Horse Mountain, turning north about 200 yards and bushwhacking straight up, I opted to skirt south of Horse Mountain, and follow some terrace rows that led me about 300 yards south of my starting position three weeks ago. It worked like a charm. I bypassed all the thick scrub oak and aspens, and found myself just routefinding, not bushwhacking up the top. During points of my ascent I did come across game trail which made the hike even easier. After a mere 30 minutes of hiking I was on the saddle. From there it was just small rocks and grass tufts to the south, lower point of Buckley, and after less than an 5 or 6 minutes jog I was on the south peak, but I pretty much turned around as soon as I arrived and jogged back up to the summit. Once on the saddle, this mountain was gravy. I made it to the north and actual summit of Buckley less than 55 minutes after leaving the parking area. On the way, I found a pair of hunter's sunglasses inside a fuzzy camo pouch. Upon reaching the summit, I found that some one had erected a small rock wall next to the summit cairn.
The summit cairn and a small rock wall on Buckley.
I found a summit registry in the cairn in a clear plastic bottle. After reading the contents, I discovered that I was the first one to sign the register since April 28, 2008, when fellow SPer Bruce Christensen
hiked Buckley via Little Rock Canyon. Unfortunately, the clear water bottle had allowed the sun to bleach out and fade many of the names on the registry. And there was no writing utensil. However, I came prepared. I had three sheets of notebook paper and one of my FedEx pens which I left up there to replenish the registry for future hikers. I also put the bottle in the dark camo sunglasses cover to prevent the names from fading more and then partially concealed the bottle from the sun, wind, etc, in the summit cairn. So, when you reach the summit, check the cairn.
The registry (FedEx pen included) is found in a clear plastic bottle in this fuzzy camo pouch in the summit cairn.
After snapping some photos and doing a small victory dance, I descended. The views were outstanding in all directions, but especially south, toward the mouth of Spanish Fork Canyon and Mt. Nebo. After following my GPS, I descended the same way I came up and made it back to the car in 40 minutes. I found it humorous that it took me longer to drive to the TH than it took me to hike Buckley, but it was totally worth it! Note to those routefinding up or down Buckley... I had the most success and easiest route when I would follow the yellow patches of flowers. Sounds silly, but you'll know what I mean. The made for such a great path up and down.
As I made it to the car, I felt triumphant, more so than many of the other higher peaks I've climbed, probably because this was the first time I had been denied on reaching a summit. Victory was sweet, and Buckley was down for the count!
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