The Buffalo Peaks are the twin southern sentinels of the relaxed Mosquito Mountains. As such they are the last grand hurrah of the "Greater Park Range". This long mountain chain, although not possesed of a single official nomenclature, is geographicaly contiguous, yet split by two major drainages and a theoretical line of distinction, into several smaller, "official", ranges. The "Greater Park Range" begins in northern Colorado as the rugged Park Range proper, near Mount Zyrkel, which terminates where the Colorado River bisects the range at Gore Canyon. The cordillera continues on south after Gore Canyon as the mighty and majestic Gore Range. It suffers another break at Tenmile Canyon and continues south as the Tenmile Range. Where the Tenmile Range is cut on the perpendicular by the Continental Divide this great range takes on the name of the Mosquitos. Thus East Buffalo Peak, at 13,300 feet, and its higher counterpart, West Buffalo Peak, 13,326 feet, mark the southern terminus of the "Greater Park Range". They rise as two distictive domes visable from both South Park and Buena Vista. Traveling north on 285 I know I am nearing familiar terrain when I spot these friendly mountains. South of the Buffalo Peaks the terrain plunges below timberline and marches off into the amorphus junction of the Sawatch and Sangre de Cristos near Poncha Pass.
As the end of a great range the Buffalo Peaks are a bittersweet farewell to the greatness further north. Yet they stand on their own. They are a distinctive set of domed summits guarded by some handsome cliffs. In marked contrast to the other nearby Mosquitos (or any other summits of the "Greater Park Range") the Buffalo Peaks are volcanic in origin. Twenty five to thirty million years ago a volcanic episode associated with the orogengy that created the Rocky Mountains flooded a prehistoric valley with a deep layer of molten lava (the volcanic vents were likely on the east side of South Park in the Elevenmile Volcanic Field). This valley deposit became a hard layer of basalt. Later the valley deposit was inverted as the continuation of the orogeny hoisted what was once a valley to the heights, along with the long anticline that birthed the Mosquito/Tenmile Mountains. The erosion resistant cap of basalt then protected the Buffalo Peaks as water and ice tore down what the earth had thrust skyward. The Buffalo Peaks of today are the lagacy of this geologic dance.
As befits their volcanic origin the Buffalo Peaks are composed of rock that is both looser and more colorful then the other nearby Mosquitos. The basalt while not necasarily columnated, is distinctive. On closer inspection many interesting hydrothermal mineral deposits can be found. Opaline chert is common in the area. I have found a nice opal on the summit of East Buffalo Peak gleaming in the sun like a piece of irradescent glass.
The Buffalo Peaks are also home to a healthy herd of bighorn sheep. The traverse between the two summits gives many opportunities to view these animals. Below the summits elk, mule deer, and beaver are common. This is a good place to view wildlife in a less stressed setting than the more popular wildernesses.
For climbers the Buffalo Peaks offer a chance to get away from crowds and enjoy something distinctive yet different. Both mountains are but a healthy hike but the hike is memorable. Traversing between the peaks is an ideal juant. The views from the summits of both the Buffalos offers superb views into the heart of the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness and along the crest of the Mosquito Mountains. Fourteen miles north lies the other jewel of the Mosquito Mountains: Horseshoe Mountain. Beyond lies the Mosquito fourteeners: Mount Sherman, Mount Democrat, Mount Bross, and Mount Lincoln.
In recognition of the distinct wilderness qualities of the Buffalo Peaks Congress designated the Buffalo Peaks Wilderness in 1993. This petite wilderness of 43,410 acres is the only designated wilderness in the Mosquito Mountains. Its gentle lower slopes, replete with meadows and beaver damns, makes it a pleasant addition to the wilderness system. The Buffalo Meadows are a sweet series of alpine meadows resplendant with flowers and small beaver damns to the north and west of the high mountains. However the summits the Buffalo Peaks are the wilderness's name de etre and they are worth the climb. They can offer a glimpse of the sublime in a region not known for such transendance.
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