| Antero - standard
Once again the alarm goes off at 3:00 am. It never gets any easier, but I'm up and getting ready and….meh.
Now I'm up and moving. Out of the house, stop for gas, stop for Sausage McMuffin with egg. Now I realize you're not going to get the top of the line folks at 4:00 am, but 10 minutes for a couple of McMuffins – and no coffee? WTF? Anyway, I'm finally out of Denver and rolling up the canyon, over the pass, through South Park, down the pass, over the river and a left turn, followed by a right turn on the county road. At 12.0 miles by my odometer I spot the Baldwin Gulch Jeep road and hang a left. Road doesn't look bad at all, don't even need 4-wheel. I'll just cruise on up 3 miles the trails head and
Holy Sh** I'm sliding backwards!
On closer inspection, my headlights show the road is completely covered with meltwater ice for at least 50 feet up the hill. I think about, decide I can probably keep two wheels on the right side on dirt, put the X in 4 wheel low and start up very very slowly; things go ok for a about 10 feet, then my right front wheel loses traction and the whole truck starts to rotate to the left, slowly at first, then picking up speed as the back wheel loses traction, now I'm slowly spinning while sliding backwards and heading towards the edge of the road. I had absolutely no idea what to do, other than just hold on and hope. Thankfully, the truck stops when the front wheels make it below the ice shield and before they went over the edge. I veeeeerrrryyy carefully back up a bit, then head back down the hill; one try was enough for me.
On the way I run into Billygoat, tell him about the ice, he decides to see for himself. At the bottom of the road, I park and decide what to do. Wasn't counting on the extra 3 miles and 2000', but finally I decide I might as well get a hike in and see how I feel. Tied the plastic boots to my pack and started up. At the great ice shield, Billygoat is shoveling dirt onto the ice – BRILIANT!
(note to self: email Bill at 14ers.com and tell him to add 30# of kitty litter to standard winter 14er kit list).
I decide I'm not going to risk my truck again, wish Billygoat luck and make my way very slowly and carefully past the ice. After a few more, smaller ice fields, I make good time up the road. Billygoat drives past, offers a lift, but I figure I'm just out for some exercise at this point and decline. Catch Billygoat at the upper trailhead, chat for a bit and cross the stream by island hopping about 100' below the road.
From that point on, it's pretty much just putting one foot in front of the other. There are a fair amount of dead end mining roads, but the correct path heads pretty much straight toward the mountain to treeline.
After changing into plastic boots and gaiters and deciding it's no longer just a work out, but a summit attempt, I head up above treeline and up the road, switching back and forth across the face. The snow on the road varies from non-existent to a hard sun crust to deep unconsolidated post holing. I think I make good time up the road, but since I forgot my watch I have no idea.
Things start to get tough on the final left to right crossing of the face. The snow is now deeper, drifted and unconsolidated. There's a bunch of the worst post holing; when there's a crust just strong enough to hold your weight as you stand, then it breaks and you plunge knee to thigh deep. Then, stand up all the way again, then plunge. Satan's Stairmaster. Also the wind picks up and put on my shell, hat and expedition mittens. But I wasn't quite quick enough and end up with a slightly frostbitten earlobe. I hear that peculiar sound a strap make when it vibrates in a 40+ mph wind for the first time in almost 3 years.
Rather than take the 14ers.com route up and over the subpeak, I cut over the top of the ridge and to the other side to avoid the wind. By now, moving very slowly, I continue on the road with great views, from the Arkansas valley back to the west. Eventually, I clip on the crampons for the final switchbacks up to the notch before the ridge, but I know I'm done. It's late, I'm tired, so I make my latest new goal the little saddle with a view of the summit.
From my turnaround at 13,800' to the summit and back would have been 2 – 3 hours and likely completely exhausted me and made the 5+ miles back to the truck an absolute death march. Instead, I head for home. Back down the road, over the ridge and into the wind, which is now hurling gropple up the slope and into my face. Ahh - good times.
Hit the top of the gully that's on the left side of the face, check the snow, looks good, and plunge step straight down to treeline. From there, it's just a matter of walking out, down the road, avoid the ice, stare disbelievingly at the idiot who abandoned a subaru at the one place calculated to block the road, rather than 10 feet up the road where he turned around and could have been completely out of the way of traffic.
Some people's children.
Reach the bottom of the road, towel off, change and head for home…
So, things learned:
Don't count on the road being passable even if there's not much snow.
Snowshoes might have been helpful, but because of the drifting the would need to have good side slope stability and would have gotten beaten up on the snow free sections (unless you keep taking them off and putting them on)
Remember your balaclava or have your face punished by flying ice.
That day, the snow in the gully was shallow and good. But some parts were forming a wind/snow crust and with additional snow it could easily be an avalanche trap. Knowing that now, I probably would have been better off heading straight up the gully, rather than post holing on the road.
Also note in the photo looking at the summit, it appears there‘s a cornice forming where the ridge hits the final summit slopes. Don‘t know if that‘s typical for this peak, but it could make the route more dangerous as the season goes on.
Overall. Disapointed that I didn't summit, but happy that I turned around when I did, rather than have a death march in the dark out and limp around for the next week or two. The mountain will be there next week for another try.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):