Mount Antero (14,269 ft), Colorado

4-5 Jun 2004 - by Bill Stafford

I left Littleton around 1 pm on Friday afternoon, headed for the Buena Vista area. I stopped for a late lunch in South Park and said hello to Cartman, Stan, Kyle and the rest of the crew. (Cartman said to kiss his ___.) The ride to the lower Baldwin Gulch Trailhead is really simple to achieve, about 2-1/2 hours in drive time. However, the jeep road to the upper trailhead is a different matter altogether - 3 miles in about 45 minutes of steep uphill, which my Grand Cherokee defeated admirably. I pity (and admire) the hardy souls who are doomed to complete this climb from the lower trailhead. (If I did not already own an SUV, I'd have stopped off in Buena Vista AFTER this hike and purchased one on the spot.)

I parked at the 10,840 foot turnoff to Mount Antero, before the left-hand creek crossing, loaded on my backpack and headed for a high alpine campsite. I found the spot, at about 12,000 feet, at a point in the trees just below where the trail turns off to switchback up a snow-filled gully. (One could cheat on this hike in a major way... when the snow clears, a Wrangler could nearly drive to the summit on the jeep trail.)

I enjoyed a pretty mild evening, maybe 40 degrees at the coolest. Runoff from snow melt was just a couple of hundred feet away, in the gully. But I doubt this water supply will last all summer, and one would likely find water scarce in July or August.

I had a bit of oatmeal and coffee in the morning, and was off by 7 am. Hah! Today I shall be first on the summit of Antero, no doubt. I feel great. The skies are blue, and I am able to shed down to a tee-shirt by 8:30, rolling on the sunscreen. (I bought one of those little sunscreen sticks, like underarm deodorant. I am not sure what I was thinking when I bought it, beyond the weight savings. You're standing there, carefully rolling it up and down each finger, hoping to delay the onset of more wrinkles, and the next thing you know, the afternoon thundershowers have arrived.) Got to keep moving, I am sure to be first on the summit today!

I have my GPS, but one could do this hike blindfolded. Just follow the jeep road, higher and higher, as it switchbacks into the horizon. Just don't forget the Antero turn off, it is just beyond the bottom of Antero's south ridge, at about 13,170. A well-worn trail leads up to the Point 13,820, where I stop to take a look at what lies ahead. Lets see, a bit of narrow ridge to traverse, then the base of a steep slope that leads to the summit. But wait, what the hell? There's a guy, with his two dogs, coming DOWN, coming towards ME. Curses, the worm has been gotten by this early bird. It looks like I shall be second to summit, today. :) :)

I continue on, stopping to chat for a bit. (He started from the creek crossing at 5:30 am. Why so dang early?) I make it past the rocky/spiky ridge traverse, and stand at the foot of the final ascent, which is quite steep and looks to be about 400+ feet. I look back at the distant, Point 13,820, and another figure appears. Hah! Today I shall surely be SECOND on the summit. No stopping me now. Little did I know my pursuer was half man, half goat. He leapt across the length of the traverse, and reached the summit in a second bound, or so it seemed. He was up there all of 5 minutes ahead of me, for sure. I think I kissed his feet when I arrived, mumbling "I am not worthy." (Time: 10 am or so.) And thus, I have been relegated to third on the summit today, care of Eduardo (per the summit register), from Spain/Boulder. Twenty minutes later, Eduardo rubs the wound with salt, walking back down the 400+ foot slope, so that he can walk back up AGAIN with his friends, who have arrived, needless to say, later than he.

It was a bit windy, but not too cold, although I was back in my polypro and jacket. I called Kristen on my cell phone to say "Heya!", took some pix, had some food, and decided it was getting crowded. I made my way back down, able to "plunge-step" my way in the snow much of the way back down the slope. Sweet!

I stopped at Point 13820 again, to dress down, and a guy, looking wholly worn out, approaches. I say to him "Just a bit further, bud." This guy appears stunned! He thought that this was it! He looks at the peak in the distance and begins cursing and lamenting and "I'm turning around", etc. I chuckled and cajoled, "Ya gotta do the summit, dude, its right there. Ya can't come this far and turn around." I left him wallowing in his despair. Good luck.

The way down was great. Blue skies with puffy white clouds and good views. I was able to half glissade/half plunge step down the last gully back to the my campsite, arriving about 12:15 pm. I packed it up, and felt great (even with the now-45 pounds on my back) on the last 1100-foot descent to the jeep, arriving about 2 pm. I chatted with a group of fellow-summiteers (more Boulderites... they're everywhere) who were lolling about at the creek crossing, waiting on others from their hiking party. After a bit of stretching, I steeled myself for the downhill drive to the lower trailhead, and bid farewell to Mount Antero.


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