Mt. Antero - 14,269 feet
Mt. Antero - 14,269 feet
|Ice Cream Cone Gems|
Mount Antero is known for being one of the easier 14ers, largely due to the 4WD road that goes up its western flank to within 400 vertical feet and half a horizontal mile of the summit. There's a short scramble from the "parking" area to the summit and I'm surprised it wasn't bulldozed to get the road that much closer. Also relieved, because no matter what route you do that short section of summit ridge is where all the fun is. In summer all one has to do is drive or hike the road, but in winter people usually choose the west rib (it's not quite as good as Denali's, sorry), a steeper and more direct line that bypasses the vast majority of the upper road. The west rib is exactly what I did...
My alarm went off at 4:30am. I was sleeping in the front seat of my Civic, as usual, and somehow had actually gotten a good night's sleep in it. It can be pretty hit or miss. I ate my usual hiking breakfast of chocolate chip Poptarts and was on ye olde snow-dusted trail/road at 5:40am. I had scoped out the first short section near the start of the 4WD road - closed to vehicular traffic in winter - the previous night and found a nice trench, though I wasn't sure how far it went. I hoped it went all the way up and came with a steaming cup of hot chocolate on the summit. I wore my snowshoes from the car knowing that even with a trench booting it would be less efficient, since I'd be sliding around more than if I had some kind of traction. Traction and flotation would prevent postholing if I encountered typical winter snow.
Down low on the road the winds were calm. It was cold in the dark and following twilight, but the lack of wind and lack of needing to break trail all the way up the road was more than I could have asked for. This was my third time up the road and my first with snow cover. Nearby peaks looked beautiful draped in snow.
I was able to make quick progress and hit treeline in about two and a quarter hours from the start.
From treeline the trench continued southeast towards Cronin. I assume it continued up the road, but that wasn't where I wanted to go. I snowshoed over to the bottom of the rib and stashed my snowshoes in the rocks. I couldn't tell how much snow there was on the rib, but I could tell how much snow there wasn't, and I knew carrying my snowshoes would be dead weight for the majority of the ascent and descent.
The first third or so of the rib was easy. It started off kind of rocky, slipped into open tundra and thin snow, and then to scree. On the ascent while the snow was still cold it went quickly and I soon found myself at the first of several switchback corners I'd cross.
Steep scree and talus slowed me down a lot, and by now the winds had begun to pick up and it was getting cold. Snow conditions higher on the rib were pretty punchy, but they weren't deep, and in only one spot did I have to make a short traverse on mostly snow.
As I neared Antero the Lesser the scree turned into chunky granite filled in with snow. I tried to keep to the rock where I could but overall the going was slow and tedious. I just wanted to push steadily, even if it was slow, and get to the fun part. The upper ridge from Antero to its Lesser counterpart kept poking up and teasing me; I'll get there, just be patient, little ridgelet!
Antero the Lesser is maybe 50 feet above the start of the ridge traverse at worst, so I was close. A short time later over lots of white granite and I was on top of Antero the Lesser and at the junction of the west rib and south ridge.
At last, I was at the good stuff. It had taken me just under two hours to ascend the entire west rib, though it felt like it took longer due to the monotony of the rib. I looked forward to the more congenial climbing across the ridge, which didn't look too spicy from my vantage. Ripping winds on this minor sub-summit forced me to put on my shell jacket.
I took out my ice axe for the traverse but left my microspikes in my pack. If the snow proved to be hard I'd put them on but I didn't feel like they were necessary, though that was an untested hypothesis. I dropped down off Antero the Lesser and crossed a short section of scree and then onto the ridge proper, where the scree gave way to blocky talus and stacked rock. Traversing on the west side for a short time, I made it to the first visually difficult part of the ridge, where things steepened and the snow began piling up.
Instead of taking the ridge crest directly I crossed back to the eastern/right side of the ridge and climbed a strip of snow that covered the rock. Deep and sugary, this snow wasn't perfect for climbing on but it was stable. I passed the first gendarme and had a short, snowy notch to cross before another east facing section of snowy boulders.
I scrambled up the boulders until I reached the ridge crest, and then had a move of Class 2+ to get to its flat top.
The ridge crest lasted but a brief moment and another down climb into another notch with one more easy snow-covered scramble led to the end of the fun for the ascent. I'd obviously have to get my second dose on the descent but for now all that remained was the final slog up Antero's summit pitch.
Given how poor the snow quality was I didn't want to wallow my way up, so I stayed on talus the whole time. I chugged up the final bit of now-easy ridge and stood on top of Mount Antero, my first winter 14er of the season.
I didn't waste much time on the summit, since it was bitterly cold and my phone was nearly dead. I stuck it under all my layers to warm up, hoping to convert a few calories of human flesh into a few percentage of battery power, then sauntered down the upper slope, this time on the snow. A couple of roads on Antero the Lesser's northern aspect caught my attention, and I tracked them close to where I'd come up, thinking they'd be faster and more direct than reascending Lesser.
Crossing the ridge a second time was vastly easier and faster descending than ascending - the difference between wallowing and plowing. The road came up to the minuscule saddle between Lesser and the ridge, and forked shortly after. I took the right, lower branch.
In the end I'm not sure if the road was any better than going up over Lesser and down the full rib. The road was covered in the usual awful quality snow, so I stuck to the thin margin on the very edge where there was paradoxically little snow and little rock (because it was covered by little snow). The gully crossing was steep and slightly concerning, especially alone, but it was very short and I stayed as far from the edge as I could for this short section.
At this point I continued on the road for a short distance before it petered out on the west rib. From here I had but hike down the rib to my snowshoes and to my car.
I didn't follow my exact ascent tracks down, as there was little point, any old way down would work. Progress was very speedy here and I soon found myself facing down the final bit of rib.
The last couple hundred feet on the rib were probably the most annoying part of the day. The solar energy was melting the snow and making the tundra extremely slick so I fell on my keister several times. I might have even been able to skate ski given how slippery the grass was. Before long I was at my snowshoes at treeline, only an hour and twenty or so minutes from the summit of Antero. I grabbed my snowshoes and walked over to a log where I ate and drank and basked for a few minutes, taking in the success of the day. I strapped in and began the long trek out on the road. Someone I had talked to at the bottom of the road in the morning had come up and turned around right at treeline. They'd booted up and had left the trench a complete mess of postholes. He'd laughed and said "it's winter in Colorado!" when I told him I thought the snow on the upper road would be awful; indeed it is winter in Colorado, good sir, where is your flotation?!
Peaceful grinding down the road ensued, and I had the entire thing to myself. I was surprised not to see a single other soul on the road at all but was glad for the solitude, as I almost always am in these situations. There's tranquility in them thar hills. Antero went down without much of a fuss, a great start to the winter season.
Climbers: Ben Feinstein (myself)
My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):
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