Mount Buckskin (13,865′) | CO Rank: 76/637
Loveland Mountain (13,692′) | CO Rank: Unranked
via Kite Lake | Mosquito Range | Pike National Forest | Alma, CO
08/15/19 | 4.86 miles | 2,420′ gain | Class 2
What to do on a Thursday? Oh yeah, solo summit snaggin’! (Technically, Bob the blue heeler was with me, but I was solo in the human person department.)
I’ve had a slow year when it comes to summits, so if I could snag two for the price of one, I was game. Well we set out from the Kite Lake Trailhead armed only with a gpx file. (Who needs pictures and route descriptions? Oh, me apparently.)
The route is actually really straightforward if you pay attention to what the 14ers.com route description tells you. Watch where everyone else is heading up the DeCaLiBron (group of 4 14ers that you can do in 1 day!) and head in the opposite direction. (This is where your pre-planning will help you! Gpx file, screenshots, take it all!) This is a great trail that ultimately heads to Lake Emma, but you don’t want to go there unless you really like lakes. (But we’re here for peaks, not lakes.)
The trail is NOT marked, so you’ll want to know where you’re going beforehand. (Pre-planning!)
Anyways, we followed the trail up for a ways, wondering how we’re going to get through the willows, when I saw a friendly cairn down the way. The cairn said “Come this way! It’s the route!” Cairns mark routes, right?
This cairn’s sole purpose is to lure unsuspecting inexperienced mountain climbers into a slow willowy death. It would have made the most sense to look for an alternate route (or even read the route description BEFORE I LEFT) but of course, we plunged into the willows. Bob is short, so Bob traveled through the willows like a little jungle animal, but I…struggled? I think anger and pure terror at getting sucked into a willowy death were the only things that propelled me to the other side.
The moral of this story is to follow the trail until you’re above the willows, and THEN cut over. Logic! (We returned this way on the way down. Can confirm, much better than willows.)
Now that we were done with our unnecessary willow adventure, the next step was to climb up and up and…well, you get it. It was steep grass with the occasional talus band the entire way up Buckskin. I zigged and zagged, trying to avoid the steepest sections, and I stayed on grass where I could. The slope can be broken into three parts, the first being a steep section where you want to head to a specific power pole with 3 legs. (It’s the only one with 3 legs, so you can’t mess it up.)
The little flat-ish area after the power pole was greatly appreciated before the final push to the summit.
I’m not sure exactly how long it took me to climb up this slope, but I think my speed falls into the glacial category.
I was relieved to finally crest the ridge, and the remaining route looked pretty darn easy compared to what I’d already done!
Once on the ridge, summiting Buckskin was easy, and we popped on over in no time.
The descent down to the Buckskin/Loveland saddle was a little steep, but it was short, and the rest of the way was nice and gradual. I can even say I made good time without anyone laughing at me!
Well apparently there are two summit bumps on Loveland too, but again, the first one is the tallest (though barely).
We didn’t stay long on the summit, we’d already been walking about twice as long as I had anticipated the hike taking and we still needed to get back down. The ridge walk went by quickly, and the descent off the slopes of Buckskin once again took forever. But at least we kept above the willows this time! So the lower portions of the route flew by.
Somehow, we missed the crossing of Buckskin Creek when in the willows, so I did have to jump across the narrowest spot I could find on the descent. I think I was just walking on willow branches 5 feet in the air?
The wildflowers alone were worth coming this way, if the willows aren’t enough to deter you!