Cow Benchmark is sequenced with Darley Mountain and UN 13,132. One-way mileage and elevation gain is measured from the summit of UN 13,132. Round-trip mileage and elevation gain assume completion of the sequence.
To get to Cow Benchmark from UN 13,132, walk back down the same ESE ridge of UN 13,132, turn north and cross to a very broad, grassy saddle just below 12,600 ft. From the saddle, walk north along another broad ridge that gradually narrows to a long, rocky stretch that gradually heads westward. Near the western end of this ridge, but before reaching Pt. 12,835, contour below a higher section of the ridge north to another saddle just below 12,600 ft. again. From this saddle, gain about 200 feet to another ridge that heads NW with easy walking. When you come to a rocky, cliff section in about 2/3rds mile, (Pt. 12,976) bypass on the east side by contouring below the cliffs. For a while, we contoured below the ridge crest to avoid some other rocky outcrops. (By the time we reached this point clouds were swirling all around us, obscuring our summit and views of the valleys far below. As we paused on one section of the ridge to see what we could of what may lie ahead, about 50 yards in front of us, the clouds broke for just a minute and we could see at another saddle, three bull elk with their magnificent racks trying to discern our position. Then the clouds moved just a little more and a fourth elk appeared just briefly. After about a minute of us staring at each other, the clouds closed in and they disappeared. We continued over to their saddle and searched the slopes below us to the west, but never saw them again. We also add that on our trip over to this summit, we saw a couple groups of ptarmigan. )
Continued on to the summit and negotiate the last few hundred feet on steep tundra with deeply imbedded rocks. The view into the Ouray Amphitheater below to the west and of the town of Ouray, a good vertical mile below, is a spectacular view and made us feel as though we were hovering right over the town. By the time you reach this summit, you'll probably want some lunch, so enjoy the view and relax if weather permits. For the return trip, basically go back as you came. If weather deteriorates, as it did for us with clouds obscuring our view, be very careful to keep track of where you are lest you end up going the wrong way amid all the vast tundra terrain. The main goal is to get back to the broad tundra saddle NE of UN 13,132. From there, drop down to the east to pick up the American Flats Trail and complete the tundra trudge back to your vehicle. When we did this hike, weather moved in and it rained on us all the way back across the flats. There is no place to escape the weather up here.
Links to other information, routes & trip reports for this peak that may be helpful.