Mount Antero is the 10th highest mountain in Colorado at 14,269 feet.
Number 30 on the 14er list under the belt, finally past the halfway point of the Colorado 14ers, the goal is to put at least 10 more down this season on my way to number 58.
Hopefully by then I’ve gotten old enough or smart enough to find simpler and easier things to enjoy. There’s a WHOLE lot of suck involved with this, but there’s definitely something amazing about pushing yourself past your limits and seeing what your body can do when you can get your mind to agree.
Since Colette is with family over the holiday weekend, I figured I’d catch up on a few 14ers and maybe bag a few Centennials (top 100 highest peaks in Colorado) as well. Mother Nature didn’t agree with my amazing plans, so a single 14er must do.
Usually peakbaggers wait until summer conditions to drive a 4WD vehicle high up the Mount Antero mountainside and bag the peak without much fanfare.
Not so much when winter hasn’t given up.
Last week’s snow blew in multiple feet of snow on the peaks, which obliterated the route and any tracks from previous peakbaggers. The normal Class 2 (hiking with some scrambling) route turns into Class 3+ (Class 3 is where hiking turns to climbing) when there’s no route and snow and ice cover much of the upper route. Crappy blah hike turns to fun!
So many people’s reviews say that the trail is crappy, 4WD vehicles spitting up dust, no views, blah, blah blah. Other than the rocky road between the creek crossing and heavy snow, I think the trail is fantastic. Pine forest, rushing water, complete silence. Once you’re above treeline it’s view, view, view. People just need to put on their big-boy/big-girl/big-whatever pants and do this in the right season.
A Beautiful Start
With AWD and decent clearance I debated picking my way up the 4WD trail to save my body some serious wear and tear. But after the ear-beating I took from a door dent from a previous oops (wasn’t my fault), my sense of self-preservation and want of no-ear-beatings outweighed my sense of ‘this is going to suck carrying a 42lb pack up the next 3.5 miles’ and I wisely started at the bottom. All. The. Way. At. The. Bottom.
I’m going to get a far worse ear-beating from posting this, so let me repeat in case my body is found in a landfill. All. The. Way. At. The. Bottom. Which is exactly where my body will be in that landfill.
Even with some beetle kill pines this is a typical Colorado photo with forest and white-capped mountain peaks. I think that’s Mount Princeton in the background, but too lazy to validate. This is what a cell phone (Samsung Galaxy S10e) looks like here – Colorado really is this beautiful for people who are willing to put forth the effort to see it.
The slog up from the 2WD trailhead is 15.5 miles roundtrip with 5,200 feet of elevation gain. All uphill, then all downhill. It’s not the distance that gets you, it’s the vertical. By comparison, the most popular 14er Quandary Peak is 6.75 miles and 3,450 feet and is all Class 1 hiking.
A standard clearance 4WD can easily make it to the 4WD trailhead at 10,900 feet in good conditions, and serious offroad vehicles can make it to a small spot at 13,800 feet which makes this a 14er that the masses can easily bag in the summer months.
The water crossing at Baldwin Creek at 10,900 isn’t much fun with fast running water and a heavy pack, it’s step step step – test that rock – step step step. Falling in the drink would start the weekend on a really sour note.
After dragging all of my camping gear up to 11,300 feet, I found a decent spot that was level enough to sleep on and a tree nearby to hang my food sack to keep the bears from enjoying all of the calories I brought along. This gets 3.5 miles and roughly 1,800 feet out of the way, then hit the sack and get an early morning start.
Once you’re settled in at camp, you quickly forget about the hike up, the water crossing, the heavy pack, and you sit back and watch the stars with only the sound of running water and the wind in the tops of the pines. A warm dinner in your belly, a cup of hot cocoa, and fast asleep by 830pm.
Home Sweet Home
0400 comes early though – make oatmeal and coffee, double-check the gear, do a bit of dawdling, and boots on the trail before 0500. Since I’m old, fat, and slow, this would be late alpine start in the summer. This early in the season though, afternoon storms shouldn’t be a concern.
The road below camp had some snow covering, but above camp the snow was unavoidable.
One of the nice things about peakbagging during the off season is complete solitude. Hit Longs Peak or Mount Antero during prime time and it’s complete amateur hour. Not so much when it requires work, proper gear, and experience. I was lucky to get Longs to myself, and I got lucky again with Antero.
Shav and Tab
Mount White middle left, Jones Peak or Unnamed 13712 above it, Mount Shavano above Jones, Tabeguache Peak in the center, and I believe that is Carbonate Mountain hidden off to the right.
I read an old saying somewhere – ‘You carry your worries in your pack’. I had microspikes (Kahtoolas), crampons (Black Diamond Sabretooth), and ascent-focused snowshoes (MSR Lightning Ascent) with me. I spiked up on the road, but since I really don’t care about beating the crap out of my gear and just replacing it, I really could have used the crampons from the start. At 11,900 there’s a gully that someone on 14ers.com had mentioned was solid enough to ascend to skip a couple miles of switchbacks, and this proved to be true. Switching to snowshoes, flip the Televators up, and blast out about 1000 feet of vertical without the distance. Tough on the quads, but good on the time and the distance. Speaking of quads – my body repeatedly told me time and time again that I’m too old and fat and slow to be out here playing in the mountains by myself. I should have started this stupidity 20 years ago. My consolation is that with the Garmin InReach, if I croak they’ll find my frozen carcass pretty quickly and I’ll look amazing in a casket before they cremate me and spread my ashes across the mountains and the ocean.
This Is Going To Suck
The ridge from Point 13,800 to the Mount Antero summit ridgeline is the only Class 2 section of the hike, and this is Class 3+ in winter conditions. I missed a spot on the ridge and wrapped around the left side to some ‘spicy’ Class 4 climbing, but again – training, comfort level, and an honest assessment of the situation, your skill level, and conditions. 14ers.com says stay right of the ridge, but without any boot prints to follow it’s really just a fun case of roll-your-own. Without lots of training, proper gear, and experience on steep slopes, I would have called it and returned another day. Training equals money well spent, and what would have been terror turns into pure fun. Kickstep, axe, kickstep, test for footing, axe, kickstep. Terribly slow, but way more fun than anything Disney has to offer. I dropped my snowshoes at the start and switched to the crampons and axe. Maybe overkill, but within my comfort zone and experience level. The axe spent a whole lot of useful time finding rock edges and holes, I have zero shame bringing a gun to a knife fight.
The final ridge to the peak is an ankle twister, but nothing exciting. The peak itself is much the same, nothing exciting except for the amazing panoramic views. I think there’s probably a summit register to sign your name in, but it’s buried underneath feet of snow.
Summit 360 from Mount Antero
The Final Push
Walk the Edge
This is Colorado
Hiking poles, or flying poles?
The wind was blowing so hard, I threw snowballs straight up to watch the wind whip them away
Weather over Cronin
Wise old saying – the peak is only the halfway point.
The descent down the ridge from Mount Antero is terrible due to the loose rock and footing. It takes longer to go down than it does to come up. The ridgeline is much, much faster though – despite the snow turning to slush, I have my previous bootpack to follow. This cuts the return time down by 50% easily.
I had watched weather moving in fast to the south, and decided to find somewhere that I could glissade down to save some time down the upper switchbacks. Nothing contiguous, but some intermittent spots to get me to the road on the Browns Creek side of Mount Antero, then once I got back to the gully I came up I was able to put on my "Glissade Gear" (aka – contractor garbage bag with holes cutout for legs – this saves icy wear and tear on expensive softshell and hardshell pants) and slide down about 1000 feet of vertical. AKA – sledding for adults. This sounds goofy, but is huge when you’re saving your legs and your energy after a long day.
Back to camp and pack it up – then another 3.5 miles with a heavy pack filled with camping gear back to the car.
A little bit of Baldwin Creek on the descent
I had planned on bagging Humboldt Peak this weekend too, but with the wind, rain, and reviews on 14ers.com I decided to bag the rest of the weekend and return home. The mountains aren’t going anywhere, and I can return to see what the world looks like from the top of them when the weather agrees.