Route: NE Face Trailhead: Kite Lake/Sweet Home Mine
I climbed Mount Buckskin (13865 ft) on Sunday, 27 June 1999 via the Northeast Face. I started from just above the Sweet Home Mine which is about a half-mile before Buckskin Creek on the Kite Lake road. For those unfamiliar, this is customary trailhead for Democrat, Lincoln and Bross. The road was snowed in at the big switchback, right where East fork of Buckskin Creek crosses the road. I started by hiking up to that point and then heading off directly west across the basin toward Mount Buckskin.
There was still a considerable amount of snow on the Northeast face of Buckskin basin I was fortunate enough to climb snow almost non-stop to the summit ridge with a couple of short talus sections. The face is fairly steep (the upper half near 40deg according to my map trigonometry). The snow was quite firm toward the bottom and crampons were usefull for an occasional icy patch, but not essential. The snow toward the top of the ridge was not so firm and I did a fair amount of post-holing. I started out on the snow at about 0730, but I think it would have been much better if I would have started before 0600 to 0630 due to eastern exposure. The ridge from Buckskin to Loveland still had a pretty decent cornince most of the way.
There are two summits on Buckskin with large cairns, but no summit register so I hit each one. After Buckskin I headed over to Loveland Mountain (13692 ft) which is an easy 1-1/4 mile ridge walk. Loveland has a huge cairn on itand "mini Stonehenge" replica near the summit (I did my best to prop up a few stones!). I descended by traversing back under the Loveland-Bucksin ridge and hitting the patches of snow where I could. The best glissades were farther down where the snow was firmer.
Overall the weather was fantastic (hardly a cloud in the sky) except for the oppressive wind near the summit of Buckskin and on the Buckskin-Loveland ridge. I estimate it was was steady 50mph with gusts past 60mph (it actually knocked me to the ground a couple of times). There was practically no wind at all on the Southeast side until I got closer to the road. A quick dash across a snow-bridge covering Buckskin Creek and I was back at the car!
The trailhead was lined with cars, but from the time I left the road until I got back to my car I did not see or hear a single person. I guess you still can get *some* solitude in Colorado if you are lucky and know where to look.
Equipment/Safety Notes: Crampons are not really necessary, but might be usefull if you get a really early start. An ice axe is essential, if you are going to climb the snow. There are a few narrow spots between the two summits of Buckskin, where a slip on the snow could be bad news, but other than that, the ridge is a breeze (pardon the pun). I suspect the snow will be gone soon, so HURRY!
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