| Mt. Antero on an Unlikely Day
2010/06/13 Mt. Antero
Baldwin Gulch Trailhead
James L., Jeff P., Rob S.
3429 Vertical feet
All week long the weather forecast is oscillating between dismal and horrendous. To climb or not to climb? Hey, why not give it a go? Maybe the weatherman will be wrong.
I meet James and Jeff in Lakewood at the unholy hour of 3:00 a.m. and we begin what seems more like a cruise in a submarine then a drive on a highway due to consistent and oftentimes heavy rain. Frequently we make sardonic comments like "well-adjusted people don't get up at 2:30 a.m. to drive 3 hours in the rain only to turn around and go home," and "What the heck are we doing?"
Pit stop in Buena Vista: the unnaturally-cheery-at-5:00-a.m. gal at the register informs us that the latest forecast she heard was calling for snow in BV. Ugh.
Heading up Chaffee County 162 toward Baldwin Gulch we find the road closed with a detour sign. Apparently heavy snowmelt + heavy rain = road washed out. At least we are able to continue.
We reach the 4x4 road up Baldwin Gulch and Jeff's Chevy does a great job delivering us in style to the first creek crossing (as opposed to hiking). A strange thing begins to happen as we are jostled to and fro by the rough road: sky begins to appear. Probably just messing with us, it will resume snowing shortly. All precipitation stops. No way. We gear up and a few snowflakes fall, but that's it. It really is clearing up. Could it be?
At the trailhead
Up the road we hike. At the next creek crossing only 66.7% of us manage to soak our boots, which means 33.3 % of stayed dry. Not a bad percentage if you're a major league baseball player. At tree line we encounter last night's snowfall. Here it is just a dusting, be we accurately assume it will be deeper up higher. The sun is rising illuminating peaks all around us. Occasional stray clouds still linger in the valleys. Photo opportunities abound.
The snow on the road becomes deeper as we ascend, but only 2-3 inches. We round the bend of the road at 12,500 feet to be met by a breeze that will linger with us off and on all the way up. Out come the heavy hats and gloves. Rime ice has formed on the windward side of weeds, grass, rocks, etc.
Uh oh. Clouds to the west. I knew it! They were just messing with us. They were waiting until they knew we'd face the dilemma of turning back versus continuing up. The snow starts to fall. The wind picks up. The hard shells come out. Do I go for full winter regalia of windpants and goggles? No, keeping holding out hope it won't last long (yah, like the 3 hours of driving through rain to get here?).
I'm too close to the summit to turn back, and these conditions are still bearable. I'm going, unless it gets a lot worse. I've climbed in a lot worse and in winter; it is June 13th, right? 30 minutes of head bent down, back shrugging off the wind and flying snow. The snow is now about 6 inches deep, some places deeper. I lose track of Jeff and James, they're somewhere behind me.
No way. The sky is lightening to the West. Could it be? Holy cow, the storm is moving past and clear sky and sun are following. I'll stop here a bit and wait for the other guys. It really is clearing!
Aftern the storm
We make it to the saddle and start the traverse. The ridge provides shelter from the wind and it grows hot between the sun and the reflection of the snow. Nothing challenging here, just some snow-covered talus.
We chat with a group of four descending from the summit. Jeff disappears – apparently a sock-ectomy-transplant was in order. I pick my way up through the talus to the summit; fourteener #40 for me. James tops out shortly after. We soak up the views, eat, sign the summit register, and take lots of pictures. Jeff arrives a bit later and we are joined by a couple of other groups who tag the summit. It's getting chilly, time to head down.
On the summit
Shavano and Tabeguache
We stop at the windbreak provided by the ridge, enjoy a leisurely snack and soak up some warm sun. Time to put on the sunhat and an extra layer of sunscreen. We descend quickly, but the sun has come out in all its ferocity. Our eyes are going buggy between the intense sun and harsh reflection off the snow. The snow turns to slush, the slush turns to mud, the mud turns to dirt. Mountains across the valley that were wearing a snowy blanket this morning are now wearing their late spring garb.
Why is it taking so long to get down? It didn't seem this far coming up. We come to the creek crossing. Again 66.7% of us manage to get our boots wet – at least we are consistent.
The truck appears. The boots come off. The beers come out. The snow begins to fall. We stop in Buena Vista for a burger and see on the TV that a funnel cloud was spotted just a bit north of us near Mt. Massive (what's up with that?). http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zOHgDs2YMyM Flood warnings are everywhere. A storm is coming down off of Mt. Yale toward us. We drive home through three hours of rain. How on earth did we enjoy such good weather on Antero when the weather is so terrible everywhere else? Blessed we are.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):