East Buffalo Peak (13,300′) | CO Rank: 399/637
West Buffalo Peak (13,326′) | CO Rank: 372/637
Mosquito Range | Buffalo Peaks Wilderness | Buena Vista, CO
08/18/19 | 11.01 miles | 3,408′ gain | Class 2
I’m really glad that I met Allie. We hike well together, which is really important, and she gets me to do things I wouldn’t normally think to do, like the Buffalo Peaks.
These had been on Allie’s list for a while, but then the Buffalo Peaks Road was closed due to a wildfire, and then it was still closed for unknown reasons afterwards. I’d read a report that the road was finally open, so we quickly made plans to check it out. We downloaded the 14ers.com route description, pictures, and gpx file, and boy were we glad we did!
There was one other car at the “trailhead” (aka small pull-off) at 7:20 when we arrived, but they kindly left us plenty of room to park next to them. We set off down the old road at a quick pace, as the ascent was gradual and the route finding easy…for now at least.
We were soon treated to our first view of the Buffalo Peaks, and while my picture is crap, the actual view was not. There was colored flagging marking the road through the forest, and when we reached an intersection, we decided to follow the flagging instead of the gpx file. The flagging HAS to mean something, right!?
We ended up down the wrong old road, but thankfully, armed with our map, we bushwhacked our way back to the correct old road. It might have been a shortcut, but it would have been faster to just stay on the correct route.
Back on track, we were starting to get more than just glimpses of our destinations. And once above treeline, I don’t think either of us could stop staring. This truly is a special area!
The old road eventually petered out and became a faint trail, which we were more or less able to follow till treeline. It was easy to see our route across the tundra, even without a trail, so we just kept keepin’ on. We saw a small group of people (from the car parked at the trailhead). They looked like they were scouting for the upcoming hunting season, and we didn’t see them (or anyone else) again all day. Their car was gone by the time we got back.
We decided to traverse East to West Buffalo, so we headed up the grassy shoulder of East B to the broad saddle.
From the saddle, we ascended steep-ish but mostly solid talus to the left of the rugged ridge. We kept below the cliffs and rock features on Class 2 terrain.
Allie is super fast on talus, but I have to use all 4 limbs to maintain any semblance of balance. I probably don’t need to tell you that it took me forever to summit (ha!)
The summit is broad and flat, and mostly grassy. A nice spot for a break!
Our next task was to traverse the mile or so from East Buffalo to West. We actually found really good trail fragments to follow through here that helped us navigate the talus. I don’t remember anything being particular loose, but we were “on trail” the whole time.
There was one opportunity for a Class 3 move that we took since it wasn’t difficult at all (and I need the practice, bad!) It was more like an Easy Class 3 since it was so short and not at all exposed.
After another steep section of talus, we finally summited West Buffalo. This summit isn’t nearly so cozy, with only sharp talus to sit on.
But the views to the Sawatch were neat and there was a summit shelter so we hung out for a bit anyways.
We descended the north slopes of West Buffalo and angled towards the forest. We expected to pick up a trail through the trees but had no such luck. Instead, we bushwhacked our way back to the old road (thank goodness for gpx files!) We’d come across old game trails, thinking they were going to lead us out, but they always ended just as soon as they started. Even though we were mostly just contouring through the forest, route finding still took quite a long time.
We traversed a few meadows, gawking at the beauty around us. This really is a neat area, so far away from anything else!
We eventually made our way back to the old road, and with 2.5 miles left to go to the car, we booked it as fast as we could now that the route finding was over.
We followed the proper route back to the car, instead of attempting a shortcut like we had earlier. It was a little bit farther of a walk, but it sure beats bushwhacking.