Buffalo Hump and North Pole

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 themselves.

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.

Tom and Steve

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 Buffalo Hump.

Crystal Lake

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.

Point 8553

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 and Tom on top 

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.

Hump lake

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 North Pole.