Buckskin Benchmark 13370
(A Wonderful View of the Elk Range)

29 Jul 2006 - by T Colorado

My husband and I left Denver on Friday night, had a nice dinner at Independence Pass and found a pull out to crash for the remainder of the night. About 4:00 in the morning, we woke up and drove the remainder of the way to the Maroon Bells day parking lot and trailhead for many beautiful climbs. Michael was going to climb Buckskin Benchmark (the only peak, of all the peaks we've climbed, that I had climbed, but he hadn't ... until this trip).

Unfortunately, I was not going to be joining him as I broke my foot in a stupid "tripping in the store parking lot" accident about 2 weeks ago. Sometimes, I think I'm safer on a mountain than I am on flat ground in the city (hehehe). So, I spent the day in the day parking lot enjoying the views of the Bells, and the constant parade of families, climbers, bicyclists and forest service personnel that encompass this popular trailhead on a Saturday in the summer. (Plus, I finished a wonderful book by John Roskelley).

This brief report comes from my husband. He left the trailhead at 6:30 a.m. following the popular trail to the turnoff for Minnehaha Gulch and the beautiful Buckskin Pass. He saw three deer (all females) and two grouse before leaving the trees. The wildflowers in the high basin are in full bloom and everything is very green. He soon passed the turnoff for Willow Pass/Willow Lake and, within 30 minutes, was at the top of the pass. Once at the pass, try to pull your gaze from the jaw-dropping views of Pyramid, the Bells, Snowmass (very little snow left on this peak), Clark Peak and Capitol. Turn right (when facing Snowmass) and walk up the grassy ridge past several easy ridge points to the top. (He made it in about 3-1/2 hours from car to summit.) There were two mountain goats that were very curious about Michael (and he saw no one else on top). There was no register on top, but there was a summit cairn. After descending back to Buckskin Pass, he contoured (staying as high as possible) and intersected the Willow Pass trail and headed up to Willow Pass for awhile. All that remained was the hike down to the hot, buggy and crowded -- BUT BEAUTIFUL -- valley. Happy Trails!

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