This was not a pleasant hike. If you want
to climb a Buffalo Hump, I recommend going in from Hump Lake,
possibly with the aid of an ORV. We went from Wildhorse
campground, and while the routes we took were pretty bad, there
didn't appear to be anything better out there.
Fortunately, I was hiking with four very good natured people,
and we're still friends. This might be a good hike to take
with your girlfriend or boyfriend if you want to dump her or
him. Any underlying tensions are bound to present
As I said, we started at the Wildhorse campground, about 10
miles from the hamlet of Orogrande. The road from
Orogrande calls for a high-clearance vehicle. Mosquitoes
were bad - the worst I've experienced in Idaho, although they
did go away at night. The trail to North Pole is easy and
pleasant. It really sets you up for what is to follow.
From North Pole you have two choices. You can follow the
trail that eventually takes you to Crystal Lake, and lose 1000
ft of altitude and gain back 500, or you can take the ridge
south to point 8441, and then head west to where the
aforementioned trail crosses the saddle between 8441 and
8553. From the saddle you head for 8553 and from there, or
near there, follow the ridge or slightly left of it south to
We chose the latter route along the ridge, and the talus,
deadfall, and underbrush made the hike quite tedious. It
took us well over 2 hours to get to the saddle, although we had
to give a little first aid to Braxon, who hurt his foot.
He was a trooper, though, and was happy to keep going.
Once at the saddle we all agreed that we would go back via the
trail, no one wanted to deal with that ridge again.
From the saddle there is a little more hiking like the ridge
before you get straight talus. The talus was relatively
large and stable, but with my poor balance talus is always
trouble. I powered up it as best I could, but Michael
still got to the top a half hour before I did. At the top,
we met a group of ORVers who had come up from Hump Lake.
They had taken their machines pretty high up on the mountainside
before dismounting and hiking to the top. The top gives
good views of the Seven Devils, the rest of the Gospel Hump, the
Salmon River Mountains, and other ranges I could not recognize
from that vantage point.
Michael started down from the top first, because he wanted to
get home that night, which meant getting to the detour around
the Great Rockslide of 2020 by 9pm, when it closed. He
finished after 10 hours, which included some time waiting for
the group on the way up. Tom and I went down together
after we weren't sure Steve and Chris were going to go for the
summit. I told Tom to go ahead, because I have such
trouble downclimbing on talus. In fact Steve and Chris
were planning to make the top, but they were going to try a
different route back, avoiding this ridge entirely and going
down to Hump Lake, and then Crystal Lake and back to the saddle,
so I continued to follow Tom.
Tom was out of sight long before I got to the saddle, and from
there I had some trouble finding the trail. I really
shouldn't have been there by myself, without a GPS or even a
map, but at least Abby was a good companion. She has
greatly improved her climbing technique since her outing on Wet
and Invisible. I managed to find the trail with Tom and
Michael's footprints, at least as far as an avalanche slide that
obliterated everything. Here a GPS, or a phone app like
Avenza or Gaia would have been helpful, but Tom assured me that
the trail wasn't much better than bushwhacking. I went up
the hillside more or less pointing towards North Pole, and when
I saw what looked like a tailing pile I aimed for the top of
that. Sure enough, there was a mine there, presumably one
of the ones marked on the map.
From the mine I continued up and across, pointing at North Pole
(which happened to be pretty close to due north), until finally
I found the trail again, maybe 100 yards past where we had left
it that morning. From there I thought about tagging North
Pole, which we had not done in the morning, but my feet were in
such pain that I just hobbled back to camp. The hike took
me a little less than 13 hours, Tom a little less than 12 hours.
It was already past my bedtime by the time I got to my tent, and
in the worst case I wasn't going to go out in the dark to try to
find Steve and Chris, so I went to bed. I woke up at 3:30
in the morning to Braxon sniffing outside the tent, which got
Abby very excited. I unzipped the tent enough so that they
could sniff and lick each other, and fortunately they were both
tired enough that things calmed down quickly. Steve and
Chris had been out for 20 hours, but they did manage to get