King Mountain P1K
Buffalo Mountain P300

Thu, Aug 25, 2022

With: Eric Smith
Ingrid Dockersmith
Christian Giardina

Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 GPX Profile


King Mountain

King Mtn is a P1K in the southernmost reaches of Routt County, about an hour's drive from Steamboat Springs on SR131. It lies on a large parcel of BLM land primarily used by hunters in season. We had stopped at the east side TH off the highway the day before to check it out. The TH map showed a whole selection of foot trails that we would find later were mostly fictional, perhaps someone's wishful thinking. Unlike the previous day's outings that were mostly Jeep efforts on rough roads, this one starts from the highway and is considerably more work on foot. There was little information that we could find online - a single TR by Luke Plumley of a winter ascent on snowshoes that would be of little use to our summer effort. John Kirk had climbed it a few years ago in September, but all that was posted was his GPX track, not much different from one Luke had used in winter. We would use this as our basis for getting to the summit, but would find an entirely different route on the way back since the ascent route was pretty crappy.

With afternoon weather forecast, we got to the East King Mtn TH early and were ready to head out by 6:30a. We started on a very good trail that gave out before we had gotten a quarter mile from the TH. This was our first indication that the trails depicted on the map at the TH were not what they seemed. As sunrise came, we found ourselves climbing an open slope with tall grasses and shrubs. It was steep until we reached the ridgeline above, then an easier gradient as we turned southwest to follow the tracks the others had used before us. The clearing gave out as we entered an aspen forest with easy travel for a short while. We went over a fenceline (BLM land on both sides) and soon encountered the first of the heavy downfall sections. We were around the 9,200-foot level when Eric called for a pause. He was concerned that too much downfall would not play well with his back, and after some consultation with the map and seeing how far we had to go (a loong way), decided to turn back. It was a good choice, because the downfall did not relent as the three of us continued. We worked our way up past Pt. 9,695ft, eventually finding a dirt road on the north side of Grimes Brooks Reservoir.

It was nice to have a break from the downfall, even if it was short-lived. The road was in decent shape, but blocked to the public by private landowners on the east side where it starts from SR131. It would cut the 4mi+ distance to the summit in half, if permissable. We followed the road a short distance to the west, leaving it again once the road starts to turn north. The downfall became more pronounced in this part of the forest dominated by conifers. Christian and I would generally be out front, looking for the least painful ways around and over the stuff that littered the forest floor. Our paths diverged regularly, eventually rejoining somewhere again upslope. Ingrid was content to follow one or the other of us. I was muttering curses under my breath, sometimes out loud as I got poked by unseen sticks or had to crawl under or over something in my way. When she was behind me, I could hear her in a sing-song voice talking to herself like she was having the best time in the world. Her positive attitude was remarkable and to be envied, but it did not rub off on me. I preferred cursing though it did little to improve my mood. As we got near to the summit, it flattened considerably and we had no way of telling which point was higher than the others. We decided to use the GPSr to find the point LoJ identifies as the highpoint and call it good. In doing so, we discovered a small cairn with a register left by Bob Martin in 2005. Ours was the 5th party to sign in since then. It seems likely there were others who did not find the register. There are no views at all, surrounded by thick forest with downed trees littering the ground everywhere.

We began looking at other ways back that might be easier. The topo map shows a couple of roads about a mile to the north. If these were usable, we might be able to string together a collection of such roads to get us back. The mileage would be more, but the cross-country far less. At least on paper, anyway. We decided to give it a go. We headed northeast off the summit, the going initially as slow as the ascent had been from the east. A short section of open meadow gave us some respite, but most of it was through heavy forest with the usual downfall. We crossed over another barbed-wire fence that may or may not have been the continuation of the one we'd gone over hours earlier. After about 40min we came upon the remains of one of the old roads shown on the topo. Long abandoned, it was very overgrown and difficult to follow in places, but it fared better than the cross-country. For half an hour we plied this bad road, sometimes moving cross-country across talus or forest to the side when the road was too thick with trees or brush. At the end of the half hour, we came upon the better road heading north - this was the road from the reservoir we'd found earlier. Unfortunately, the topo shows this road going north and then west when we needed to go north and east. The road was heading north on the west side of the Sutton Creek drainage which we would need to cross, so we left the road, dropped down to the creek and then up the other side. Only ten minutes after leaving the good road, we found ourselves on the east side of the drainage, crossing an open meadow that showed heavy use by cattle. From this point on, things got easier and we were able to enjoy the rest of the return. We followed cow trails heading north past a small, unnamed lake, eventually reaching an old road heading east. This road is no longer driven, but it has not been abandoned as long as the previous one, and is now one of the trails marked on the map at the TH. We had to regain about 300ft of elevation to get us back to the original ridgeline we'd started on. There is a telecom installation on the ridge here where the road turns to the northeast. We left the road to drop down towards the highway to the east. It was 11:45a before we returned to the Jeep, a bit worn out from the effort. We found Eric reading his book and let him know that the route did not improve after he'd turned back. This made him feel better about his decision. We piled into the Jeep, opened some beers and chips, and headed back to Steamboat Springs.

Buffalo Mountain

Christian had to be back in Steamboat for work which is why we returned after King Mtn. Buffalo Mtn, a minor summit, is located northeast of Steamboat, about an hour's drive for a short hike. Ingrid and Eric had visited it previously, so I thought I'd use the afternoon to do so myself. I thought I'd be going by myself, but was pleasantly surprised when they both expressed interest. So off we went. From the north end of Steamboat, we took county road 38 up towards Bufalo Pass, turning off onto lesser roads when we were north of Buffalo Mtn. With the Jeep, I was able to drive the sometimes rough road further up the hill than they had managed previously. The cross-country route we followed was open, green slopes and easy forest, none of the downfall we'd had in the morning. The mountain has several bike trails running across its slopes though we saw no bikes while we were there. It would take less than 25min to make our way to the top. The summit is partially forest, leaving some views. The best is to the south, looking across the Fish Creek drainage to higher summits on the opposite side. We hung out for a short while, enjoying the views and nice weather before starting back. We were back to the Jeep by 2:45p, having taken a little under an hour for the outing.


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