Peak(s):  Buckskin BM  -  13,370 feet
PT 13,039  -  13,039 feet
Date Posted:  05/30/2022
Modified:  05/31/2022
Date Climbed:   05/29/2022
Author:  Camden7
 A Little Drizzle but no Sizzle   

After a somewhat long outing the day before and a suspect forecast (5-7 inches new snow + some thunder), we wanted something easy and noncomitting. For us that was Buckskin Benchmark, a 13er about a mile north of Buckskin Pass, one of the passes on the popular 4-pass loop. We set our alarms for 2:45 and rolled up Maroon Creek Road around 3. The stars were out and the forecasters seemed to have been wrong. Once again, the baby foxes were frolicking in the middle of the road. this time we knew to expect them so didn't nearly flatten them. We started hiking at 3:30. There were no stars. We immediately knew it was gonna be a long day. We were both tired from the previous day, somehow already hungry, and breathing way harder than we had been at 13k the day before. It started raining. We pushed on. Right turn at Crater lake. at 10,400, the rain turned to snow, a relief because it is much drier. Around 10,500 we entered heavy fog. It was so thick that our headlamps were rendered near useless, just illuminating fog rather than our surroundings. The blackness was so complete that your could reach out and touch it. We passed the turnoff for North Maroon and switchbacked up to the bench at 11,000 feet. This bench is heavily forested and was still covered in 4 foot deep snow. The towering pines, deep snow, and thick fog made first light very memorable. Nothing was visible except for huge trees that disappeared into the sky and snow all around, everything bathed in a matte silver. As we continued the snow really ramped up.

Snow at dawn. Looks like the forecasters were right?

A short break between squalls. This was taken with iPhone 11 night mode, it is actually much darker.

Crossing Minnehaha Creek would have been interesting. But we had fully waterproof mountaineering boots so we just walked right through it.

La Sportiva's Nepal GTX Cube leather boots are fully waterproof to 7.5 inches, more when wearing gators.

A window in the fog reveals the lower cliffs of North Maroon (which is now ranked and fully prominent!?)

At around 11,600, we experienced an incredible phenomenon, and the exact same thing as we had on North Maroon; predawn rain/snow, heavy fog, sudden drop and burn off of fog allowing for spectacular views of Pyramid. We are now 2 for 2 on fog-dropping sunrises from Minnehaha gulch.

Thunder Pyramid and North Maroon
The Pyramids

The views continued to improve as first light hit Pyramid. Pyramid is the Ama Dablam of the West; arm chair shaped with a rugged summit of rock and ice.

Terrible and unimpressive photo of one of the prettiest things I have ever seen, (not as pretty as last time we saw Pyramid above the fog...)
Last year on North Maroon.

At least the backgrounds nice in this one...

Just love it.

Posing with Ama Dablam, I meant Pyramid.

North maroon and the Sleeping Sexton

The last 600 vertical into Buckskin Pass were far from summer condition: firm 35* snow guarded by a cornice on top.

Buckskin pass as seen from 11,900.

Climbing towards the pass.
Pieces of an old cornice collapse made cool capstone hoodoos.

One of my favorites from the trip, Cornice collapse hoodoos with Pyramid and North Maroon.

About to punch through the cornice. A traverse to the north would have avoided the worst of it, but where's the fun in that? The sky is starting to match the forecast.

In the pass. 4.8 miles and 3,100 vertical from the trailhead. Snowmass might be somewhere out there in that picture. Why do they call it that, anyway?

My tools: a lightweight Summit Evo that I got for Rainier and a trusty Black Prophet, passed onto me from an older climbing friend who had an untimely passing. I will take his tool to Peru this summer and climb some of the peaks he climbed there nearly 20 years ago using the same tool. Thinking about you, Lee.

The ridge from Buckskin pass to BBM is about a mile long and 1,100 vertical. Our feet were dragging so it was about 8:20 when we summited,

Me with the BM at my feet, the wind was not kind, and the weather was moving in.

Caption Here

Sending Mom a GPS note "safely on top"

This show the really unique view of the Bells you get from BBM. The climb is worth it just for this. The lower peak to the right is UN 13,039.

After returning to the pass, we took one look at the weather (terrible), one look at the short ridge up to the summit of UN 13,039, and said, "ehh, it's worth a shot, we'll never be closer".

Green = class 2 Pink = class 3 Orange = class 4 Yellow= Possible better route in dry conditions.

I researched afterwords; un 13,039 is supposed to be class 2/2+ via the north ridge. Maybe I am just stupid or incompetent, or more likely the fresh snow made it worse, but that was not my experience. The ridgeline up to 12,700 was easy class 1+ snow plodding. The rock band looked intimidating but easy to skirt on the west side. We dropped packs and tried the west route. It very quickly became easy 3rd class on bad rock, covered in two inches of fresh graupel making everything crazy slick, and meanwhile this was in complete no-fall terrain. To quote @mojah we "Took the Nope Train to F*ckthatville" and retreated to the relative safety of our packs. We tried again, climbing directly up to the cliff band on loose class 3, than following an exposed ledge to the west, and doing a couple moves of class 4. Maybe there is an easier way to the west, but with the conditions present, this certainly felt a lot safer. Above the cliff band it was loose class 2+ with exposure and a couple moves of 3rd class to reach the false summit, then some slightly more exposed 3rd to reach the true summit. I would personally consider this route in these conditions to be a serious technical undertaking fit for only scramblers who are comfortable on slick rock and snow with exposure. On the way down we found some cairns leading directly to the crux, making me wonder if this was the class 2+ route and it just felt really hard under 2 inches of fresh snow and graupel. The rock was really interesting, completely different than that on the bells, but quite possibly worse. It was like conglomerate except with clean fractures and square rocks embedded.

Neat rock. UN 13,039 is made of nothing but this.

Coincidentally, we met a geologist that I have seen on my ride to school on our hike out, and we asked her about this rock. She said it was Breccia, meaning Rubble in Italian. It is like conglomerate but it forms in hillsides instead of stream beds, so the embedded rocks don't get smooth from the water. Geology lesson for the day.

Summit shot, just like BBM, no register that I could find.

In these conditions, this peak would be best ascended via the 55& couloir on the southeast face, or the 65* couloir on the northeast face, because the slippery rock was not good. On our descent, we found cairns leading to the very route we took, making me wonder if it is the standard route and the west side class 2 is a Unicorn. After reuniting with our packs, we descended the 45-50* couloir dropping off the east side of the ridge. It was good to practice descending steepish snow, and the whole time I was thing about how nice of a ski it would be. Avalanche conditions were stable yet the fresh snow made the surface soft. The couloir was wide and easy so it wouldn't be hard, but it was about 1,000 vertical so seemed like it would be pretty fun.

Top of couloir

Middle of couloir with Pyramid.

the rest of the hike out was uneventful aside from a heavy wave of graupel and hail that moved in and covered the ground in 2 inches of the stuff in the space of 25 minutes. On the drive down the road, it was once again sunny, and what did we see? None other than a Momma fox and her two pups, frolicking at the roadside. they were so cute oh my god. we watched for about 5 minutes as there wrestled, suckled, then wrested again. they were so fast and just far enough away that photography was a challenge. here is the best of what I got:

Wrestling, completely unconcerned about us.

can't see behind bush but suckling.

It was a great trip with 4 summits (or I guess 3), plenty of steep snow and fun to see the wildlife. We really got luck with the weather… “a little drizzle but no sizzle” - written in Lightning Pyramid summit register. We headed home, hit the pillows early, then the next day began zipping up our duffels to fly out to Peru in what? 3 days now... just squeezed in a great weekend. Would highly recamment these peaks, a lot of fun.

My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions
06/01/2022 13:03
My friends & I all felt that class 3 (fun when dry) was the appropriate rating for 13,039. If there is a class 2 or 2+ we didn't find it. Funny to think that your 2 days getting these 4 peaks was spread out over 4 days (of several years) for me. The advantage of having these peaks in my back yard! Great write up on your adventures!

Not class 2
06/02/2022 14:38
Agreed that 13,039 isn't class 2/2+. We found a couple unavoidable class 3 sections and maybe a step or two of class 4 depending on line. Enjoyed your reports from the weekend!

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