Jefferson County Highpoint Trip Report

Buffalo Peak via Stoney Pass (11,589 ft)

Date: August 3, 2005
Author: Adam Helman

Note: All NAD27 UTM coordinates are in zone 13S.

There is no easy way up Buffalo Peak. I elected a complete bushwhack from the northeast, starting from Stoney Pass, since it would be of shorter duration than the mainly trail-based route described in Dave Covill and John Mitchler's guidebook.

This effort was part of a larger journey collecting Colorado county highpoints in late July and early August 2005.


David Covill and John Mitchler's guidebook describes access to Stoney Pass. I approached from the north via FR560 and Wellington Lake.

Stoney Pass is at UTM (471233 E, 4349621 N) and 8,562 feet elevation. There is a fire pit and a space to park one vehicle at exactly the geometrically-defined saddle between higher ground to the northeast and southwest, and lower ground along the northwest-southeast oriented road.


From the pass a view southwest reveals peak 9,957 on the horizon and 1,400 feet above. You want to strike out directly for this peak at UTM (470313 E, 4348570 N). However do not climb over the peak since the top 200 vertical feet is nothing but large boulders festooned with deadfall. Instead, contour around the north side of this peak at perhaps the 9,700 foot level, care taken to not accidentally drop down the north drainage. Deadfall is a major issue commencing some 200-300 feet above Stoney Pass, and continuing more or less unabated, until the final rock scrambling at the very top of Buffalo Peak.

The next goal is also located southwest - point 10,778 and the gently sloping ridgeline to its left (southeast). I struck out for this ridge, as the point's southeast shoulder, at some 10,750 feet and at UTM (469618 E, 4347736 N).

Here a slight drop brings one to a level area that could make a decent campsite. Buffalo Peak, and the ridge leading to it, are now visible for the first time on the climb. I recommend accessing the ridge's eastern base by traveling southwest and uphill, to about the 11,000 foot contour; and then hiking up the ridge itself to just under 11,400 feet at UTM (468815 E, 4347167 N).

Once there the lay of the land suggests traveling west-northwest up the gradient to a false summit which can either be accidentally climbed, as I did, or bypassed in favor of the true summit about one hundred yards farther west at UTM (468302 E, 4347208 N). The easiest route is Class 2+.

I consumed three hours elapsed for the ascent.

When descending be very careful to start trending northeast, down the ridge, at the appropriate point. Otherwise you will end up descending steep terrain on the southeast slopes of Buffalo Peak, and, worse still, you will be far off-course and will waste much energy getting back on-route.

The entire effort consumed six hours plus a forty minute summit siesta.


This climb was quite frankly unenjoyable - it featured deadfall for virtually the entire duration. It is quite annoying to constantly climb over fallen tree branches and full-size tree trunks, the physical effort multiplied well beyond what the net elevation gain suggests.