Colorado’s spectacular but barely known Gore Range is host to many alpine summits over 13,000-ft and many more summits over 12,000-ft. In the relatively short stretch from Gore Pass in the north to Tenmile Creek in the south, the Gore range is densely populated with 50 some mountains over 12,000-ft. The Gores, rather then consisting of large isolated mountains rising from the timber or tundra, consist instead of dramatic serrated ridges, with the summits being ridge junctions or highpoints. These dramatic ridges are riddled with gnarled, tooth-like spires that have mesmerized many world-class climbers. Many of these high and wild ridges actually have names like, The Zodiac Spires, Ripsaw Ridge, and The Grand Traverse.
Geologicaly the Gore Range is a fault-block mountain range. Similiar to the Sangre de Cristos of Colorado and the Tetons of Wyoming in that these ranges are bounded by faults that broke and shifted, thrusting up the mountains while downdropping the valleys. Although the rock is similiar to the Idaho Springs Formation of the Front Range, the rugged Gore's contrasting orogensis makes these mountains look quite different from the glaciated folded anticline that makes up the Front Range. Glaciers played an extensive role in carving the cirques and spires that abound in the Gores. Many of the drainages are choked by large terminal morraines at their lower reaches and cut by successive headwalls higher up. Many headwalls are graced with gorgeous waterfalls.
The Gore Range is almost completely encompassed by the Eagles Nest Wilderness. This 133,325 acre Wilderness Area was established in 1976. It is popular (especialy the Vail side) but wilderness protection has granted a lasting pristene quality that is palpable. Despite the network of access trails, many drainages (the upper reaches in particular) remain trail-less. Wilderness regulations do apply; please follow them as this area is a real treasure.
Only 60 miles at its closest point from Denver, the Gore Range as a whole is relatively unknown. Due to the lack of mining roads that criss-cross more popular mountain ranges the interior of the Gore Range can be difficult to reach. Of the summits of the Gore Range none attain the magic 14,000-ft mark, which accounts for some of the ranges obscurity. The monarch of the Gore Range is the 13,534-ft. Mount Powell at the north end of the range. Overall, the west side of the Gore Range is more accessible than the east. If approaching from the east, expect long, tedious, bushwhacking adventures with difficult route finding.
A result of the Gore Range's obscurity is that few of the summits are officialy named. The Colorado Mountain Club and enterprising climbers have often bestowed their own names. These unofficial designations often are the "alphabet" designations of the early CMC trips (relics of the 1930's) or the more inspired names that came latter on (The Spider, Mount Solitude, etc). A list of these names and their elevations can be found at Gerry and Jennifer Roach's wonderful website. The process educating one's self about these mountains is quite rewarding. Hand label your maps.
Those of us that are determined to spend some time climbing the Gores should own updated U.S. Geological survey topography maps and brush up on their compass skills. Precise planning and execution are of paramount importance when selecting routes in this range. With solid route finding, many of these quiet summits can be climbed without a rope. Major faces and long jagged ridges provide unlimited technical climbing opportunities as well. An ice axe is highly recommended on any early season climbs.
Please do your own research and homework for the Gores because this mountain range lacks any current guidebook exposure. After developing strong map reading skills, go and discover for yourself the Gore Range magic you occasionally hear about.
Please see Theron Welch's excellent page on the Gore Range for more information. His photos and descriptions are inspiring and informative. Thank you Mr. Welch.
Text graciously provided by Kane with some elaboration by myself.
Buffalo Mountain is the massive sleeping guardian on the south east edge of the Gore Mountains. It is situated to guard the wild environs to the north from the eyes of civilization, yet Buffalo's slopes are spied by millions along the I-70 corridor. Indeed it is the first Gore Range summit visable when descending I-70 west from the Eisenhower Tunnel. For this reason Buffalo may be the most well known Gore Range summit. Buffalo Mountain rises spectacularly above the communities of Silverthorne, Dillon, and Frisco. In the winter time this mountain is graced with two very prominent avalache paths that are visable for many miles.
Buffalo Mountain may resemble a sleeping version of its namesake but it does have some serious aspects.The north face rises dramaticaly above Willow Creek and this side may indeed have Buffalo's horns. The main summit region is a rolling talus tossed tundra. Just to the south of the true highpoint the ridge narrows and becomes a very short, sporty scramble to the southern sub-summit Sacred Buffalo. This high ridge is unexpected and well worth investigating, being suspended like a draw bridge between two gentle summits.
Buffalo Mountain has recently been installed with a very pleasant trail constructed in July of 2004. This well designed path allows for an easy ascent of what would otherwise be a tedious talus field. This 3.6 mile long trail offers a great vantage to preview the more rugged Gores further north.
While the vantage of the Gores and nearby Tenmile Mountains is undeniably grand one unique aspect of being on Buffalo Mountain is looking down on the tiny little sail boats on Lake Dillon. This visual dichotomy of surf and turf makes for some interesting eye candy.
The dramatic quarter mile wide, two-thirds of a mile long, avalanche scar on the north eastern face of Buffalo Mountain is the result of a 1986 Avalanche. On febuary 22, after a week of 5 feet of fresh snowfall a slab avalache gave way near the summit and rushed down the mountainside leveling 200 year old trees and generating 100 mile an hour winds down valley.
Ryan Gulch Trailhead:
The Ryan Gulch Trailhead is the primary acess point on Buffalo Mountain. To get the take the Silverthorne exit off of I-70. Go north on Highway 9 to the first light and take a left. This becomes the Ryan Gulch Road. Follow this about 3.5 miles as it switchbacks up the slopespast condos and mountain homes. The parking for the trailhead is on the southside of the road. The Ryan Gulch Trail is found to the right (east) of the parking lot. This is not to be confused with the Lilly Pad Lake Trail which is found to the left on the west side of the parking area.