| Mt Antero: Easter Basket variation
West Slopes - Easter Basket variation
Appx 12 miles RT and 5000' elevation gain
Ever since I first read the description of the west slopes route on Mt Antero and saw that there was a popular 4WD road to over 13k on the mountain, I decided this was a peak reserved for a full moon or off-season. I'm not the only one who feels this way, and on Easter Sunday my friends Tracy (gurlyclimber) and Ben joined me on what would turn out to be a surprisingly enjoyable day.
We met up in Buena Vista and drove down to the Baldwin Gulch trailhead together. Once there, the road looked pretty clear at the bottom and we decided to try and drive up and see if we could cut some miles. Not a half mile up we came across a snow patch that I decided was not worth trying to negotiate, and we backed down (the road was too narrow to turn around) to the base and started from there. Even if the snow was melted, the road had a large tree fallen across it from above that would require a chainsaw to remove. We crawled through its branches and continued up the increasingly snowy and icy road to the junction to Baldwin Lake. From here the snow got deeper, but early in the morning it was well solidified and did not cause us to posthole (too much anyway). Nearing treeline the road was covered in a good 3-4 feet of snow.
General Conditions of the road near treeline:
As we neared treeline we ended up on a morraine that continued into a very pleasing looking grass and talus slope. We started up this slope, which eventually joined the road several switchbacks up. From here we continued on the road as it rounded a scree covered ridge and headed towards a snow filled gully. This gully extended up to the top of the switchbacks and provided a speedy and enjoyable ascent. On the way back down this slope also gave us a really nice glissade.
Tracy and I climbing the gully:
Above this point we rejoined the road as it contours across the peak. We came upon another snow gully, and left the road once again to ascend on snow. Near the top of the snow we left and headed up steep talus directly to the top of Point 13800. We lucked out as the rock in this section was really good, I guess the snow was covering all of the loose scree that this slope is known for.
Once on the ridge proper, rather than following the trail (which was completely covered in snow) we opted to stay as close to the ridge crest as we could. We had to drop below in a couole of places to avoid low class 5 terrain, but were able to get some enjoyable light scrambling in.
Ben and Tracy at the end of the scramble sections:
From here the remaining way to the summit was straightforward, just 400' straight up the ridge:
The views from the summit were spectacular, and the day was incredibly clear. We could see high peaks in the San Juans and Sangre de Cristo ranges as well as a good look at the Sawatch peaks.
View north from summit (Princeton visible on right):
On the way back down we followed the road a little more closely at the top, then glissaded the entire snow gully at the top of the switchbacks all the way back to the basin below. Well, it wasn't steep enough to glissade the whole way, we had to walk parts of it. The road softened a lot during the day and we postholed like crazy for the next hour or so. Snowshoes would not necessarily have helped, we still would have postholed as the snow was the consistency of a snow cone. Once back on the main road below the split the going got much easier, and we made it back to the car around 8.30. Just under 12 hours round trip. It was a wonderful way to experience this mountain, considering we all were sort of shunning this peak, we actually really enjoyed it! We decided to name this variation the Easter Basket, seeing as it was Easter and we we had a variety of mixed climbing styles from hiking, to snow climbing, to ridge scrambline. If you want to climb Antero and not have to deal with traffic, do it soon! The snow filled gullies are in great shape and save a lot of mileage.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):