Grand Teton National Park, where Buck Mountain is located, has an average elevation of about 6,800 feet (2,072 meters). This is considered high elevation. At almost 12,000 feet (3,658 meters), the summit of Buck Mountain is at the extreme top end of what most consider “high” altitude. As such, basic altitude awareness and certain specialized gear are necessary if you’re planning to hike to the top.
According to the CDC, day trips to high altitude followed by a return to low altitude are much less stressful on the body than sleeping at high altitude. Unless you're planning to camp at altitudes above 9,000 feet (2,743 meters), you probably won’t have to worry about altitude sickness while hiking Buck Mountain. Nevertheless, expect to be affected by shortness of breath. Nausea and headaches can be early warning signs of altitude sickness; stop for a couple of hours to acclimate if you begin to feel these symptoms. If they persist, consider returning to a lower elevation.
In addition to standard day hiking gear (a backpack, sturdy hiking boots, layered clothing, water, sunscreen, etc.), you’ll also need to bring some specialized gear when you’re hiking a peak like Buck Mountain. The amount and type of gear you’ll need will depend on which summit route you plan to take. Fit hikers traveling the East Face trail may only need to add an extra layer of cold-weather gear for the wind and weather they’ll encounter at the summit. Rope will also come in handy. On the other hand, climbers who’ve summited via the more challenging routes recommend specialized rock climbing gear, including nuts, cams, aliens, slings and runners. If that sounds like Greek to you, then you’ll probably want to stick to the East Face trail.
No matter which trail you choose, you’ll need an ice axe, crampons and snow gear if you’re summiting in any season other than summer. Most Buck Mountain hikes can be completed in a single day. However, camping on the mountain, or lodging in Grand Teton National Park itself, can add an even more exciting dimension to your hiking experience.