The trailhead for Loveland Mountain at the "Home Sweet Home Mine" is four miles up the Kite Lake Road from the tiny town of Alma, Colorado, elevation 10,578', the highest incorporated municipality in the United States with permanent residents. I arrived at 11:30 A.M. and immediately thought, What am doing? Do I really want to do this? The temperature was 26 degrees F and the wind was gusting about 30 MPH. Well, I thought, I was here, so I might as well make a go at it.
Gerry Roach's guide book, "Colorado's Thirteeners" says to start at the "Home Sweet Home Mine" 4.0 miles from Alma. When I got there I was somewhat taken aback to see "No Trespassing" signs all around, and at first it appeared they meant no trespassing past that point on the Kite Lake Road. I remembered some controversy a few years ago, when access to some fourteeners from Kite Lake was blocked by curmugeonly mining claim owners, but I thought that had been cleared up. The last time I was up here was in 1998, when I ran up and down the three fourteeners by 10 AM and went on to climb Mount Sherman in the afternoon.
There were some parking spots, but they were marked "tow zone" and were clearly on the section of private property, so I reversed and parked below the private property signage, though I highly doubt anyone would be patrolling the area on this cold windy day in late November.
Chewy the Dog and I hiked up the road through the private property, which only went a few hundred yards, before turning west towards the mountains. Turns out there was a good parking spot on public land right up there, but I wasn't going to turn around to get the car now.
The first order of business called for crossing the creek and making our way through a thicket of willows. As I plunged up my knees in the soft snow I remembered that I had forgotten to bring gators. Snow was getting down my boots. It was difficult going both for me and for Chewy.
Finally we came on a jeep road, which we followed for a while before turning back up slopes towards the ridge.
Above the treeline now, the terrain became more windswept and the climbing was easier with the sparse snow cover.
The wind was strong at times and the wind chill probably close to 0 degrees F.
Hiking the ridge to Loveland's summit was no picnic as the wind exposure became greater. When we reached the top Chewy the dog started whining: dogs don't like wind in their eyes.
Shortly before reaching the summit of Loveland my iPhone battery quit because of the cold. No more pictures for the duration of this climb. When I reached what I had thought was the summit I looked back and saw a large cairn to my left. It didn't look any higher than where I was presently standing, so I checked my elevation on my Suunto watch before heading over to the cairn. Turns out that the cairn marked a spot 10 feet higher on the ridge line. I continued along the ridge now in the direction of Mount Buckskin. We dropped about 300 feet before ascending gradually mostly on trail to Buckskin's summit. We reached the top in about an hour and a half from our starting point. It would take another two hours before we got back to the car. That doesn't seem right, but there you have it. Faster ascent then descent.
We went directly down from Buckskin on talus towards Kite Lake. It was slow going with the snow and loose rock. Aiming lower down the road closer to the car I came on a sign stating "Danger, Keep out." Well, always the curious one I proceeded intrepidly past the sign before coming on cliffs and far below the wreckage of a former mining operation. Okay. I gave up and traversed left to some power lines where the going was easier.
Once more the dreaded willow hell and deep snow was the right of passage to reach the road. I had two miles of walking on the road from here. A couple trucks with hunters passed by as we strolled down the road. I made an incredible error of stepping on solid ice and went down hard, striking my hip and elbow on hard ice. Ow, Ow, Ow. My hip still is a smarting the next day.