| Fall Break Adventures, '12
Fall Break Adventures
This weekend was the beginning of fall break for me and my friend Philip in which we were hoping to bust out some 14ers. We've been planning for a while now hoping to see good weather, but Colorado didn't help us out too much. We wanted to make at least 2 summits this weekend, but ended up only getting one summit due to tough snowy conditions on Challenger Point. We had some fun glissading down Challenger though!
10/13/12 - Challenger Point*
We left Golden at 5 am hoping that by leaving a little later, the weather would clear up a bit in the mountains which it did not. The drive took about 3 hours and 30 minutes to the 4 wheel drive Willow Lake trailhead. The final dirt road was a mile or 2 of crusted sand because it had rained the night before and then froze a bit. Only one part on the road was a washout kind of sketch, causing my car to balance on two diagonal wheels for a moment . Not surprisingly, we were the only ones at the trailhead at 8:30 am given the weather conditions which looked like high snow clouds mostly above 12,000 ft.
We packed up and hit the trail which was a long 5 miles or so to Willow lake. I didn't look up the exact distance.
It was calm and snow flurries gradually came down heavier the higher we hiked. We passed one guy and his dog who had camped out the night before. He said it rained the night before making things really icy and that now it was covered in snow. He did not try to summit, but was wary that we would make it today and for good reason seeing the amount of snow that was up there.
I really enjoyed the trail up to Willow lake. It was very gradual and very well kept. The late fall colors with the falling snow looked great along with the icicles that had formed on rock formations next to the trail. Finally arriving at the lake about 2:15 min later, I found out why so many people enjoy camping up there in the summer.
It's a very nice lake which Philip and I had the experience of seeing it with snow all around us. It wasn't quit cold enough to really freeze the lake though.
Following the 14ers summer pictures of the trail as best as we could, we headed around the west side of the lake. We now put on our micro spikes at the lake because it was icy on the rocks and to help get grip. The snow was coming down a bit harder now and would not let up the rest of the day.
The north slope of Challenger was still visible enough to see the route but had quite a bit of snow on it. There was one moment above the lake before we were on the snow that we got a good view of Kit Carson and the class 3 gulley that heads up to Kit Carson avenue. Then just snow, we maybe had a few hundred feet of visibility the rest of the day.
Just below the point we turned around, 13,500 ft
We began the trudge up the north slope of Challenger heading towards the rock rib. In some spots, we post holed past our knees due to snow drifts and some spots was just crusted ice under a bit of snow. The snow just got deeper and the downwind blowing snow just got stronger as we ascended. At about 13,500 ft (some 2 hours after we left the lake), we decided to just stop and head back down. It was 1:00 pm already and we wanted to make it back before dark because we were going to hike the next day again. If we would have continued, we would have probably been turned back anyway and then would not have made it back until after 6 pm most likely. Basically, 2 hours hiking up that snowy slope was brutal. Ice axes would have been nice, but still may not have sped up the trek.
To lighten the mood, we glissaded almost all the way down the slope! The slope which took us 2 hours to climb to 45 minutes to descend.
Glissading like a boss!
We made back to the lake, the wind now whipping across it over the cliffs. It had snow a few more inches at the lake since we were there last.
The trek back to the car went fast, what took us 4.5 hours to the point of turning around, it only took 3.25 hours to make it back to the car.
At 3:30 pm, the clouds broke and provided the first sunlight of the day and our first view of how snowy the peaks really were. There was a lot more than we ever expected. I'm glad we made it back safe and decided to turn back and not push the limits.
Clouds cleared for a moment after 3:30 pm
Quite a bit of snow across the peaks of the north Sangre de Cristos
10/14/12 - Mt. Antero via Baldwin Gulch
After being defeated by Challenger, we almost wanted to stay and try again the next day hearing the weather would be nice but decided to head to Mt. Antero and stick with our original plan. I had cooked some very meaty spaghetti for the trip which was an awesome dinner after a long day of hiking.
We made it to the Baldwin Gulch trailhead just before dark (6:30 pm) and set up camp in a small camping spot just off the road. I have a dodge nitro which probably could have made it up the 3.5 miles to the 4WD trailhead of Baldwin Gulch, but I chose not to beat the bush and save my car the damage. I made a good choice after beginning the hike the next day and seeing how rocky parts of the road were.
We got up at 5:30 am, packed up, ate some breakfast (bananas, peanut butter crackers), warmed up in my car for a bit, and hit the trail about 6:20 am.
Our pace was fast. We made it the 4WD trailhead in 56 minutes and by then were very motivated to continue because the skies were clear and the amount of snow on Antero was so little compared to Challenger from the day before.
The road was long, had ice on some parts just below tree line, but made for continuous movement for us.
Vehicles would struggle getting past this icy section
We chose to stay on the road all the way because it was very cold and it wasn't steep allowing us to move at pace to keep us warm and not trip on snow covered slopes. The road had some drifts we were able to avoid at about 13,000 ft that were a few feet deep but the mountain itself did not have much snow.
After finally reaching the ridge, the sun provided a soothing warmth from its radiation. The views from Mt. Antero were great allowing us to see peaks in all directions. The road ends at the top of the ridge at about 13,600 ish. The final trail up to Antero's summit is visible.
We made this in quick time and were on the summit by 10:20 am, exactly 4 hours after we started. Averaged 2 mph on the way up, not bad given the conditions. No spikes were needed today just some careful stepping on snowy boulders.
Antero had some snow on it today but from the top, we could see Mt. Princeton had almost nothing. It was basically dry! It almost looked odd to see snow on all the other peaks and then to see Princeton as dry as it was.
quite dry..? good for hiking then!
I wanted to look cool with the goggles..
Our descent went fast. We took the class 2 shortcut from the saddle where the road ends down the north slope towards the switch backs of Baldwin Gulch. This wasn't the best choice, because we had to scramble over loose snow covered rocks all the way to the road. Not fun at all but we made it eventually.
We scampered down the road quickly and took the shortcut gullies down where we could. This shortened the descent by a mile at least. It was a long hike back to the car, but we didn't mind. We were happy to accomplish a summit this weekend even though we had to turn around on Challenger.
Both Philip and I completed our 29th 14er with Antero. My record is now 29-34 on 14er summit attempts since I moved to Colorado for school in 2009. Even though my hiking season may be done for the winter, at least now I can look forward to ski season! Maybe some winter hikes will be on the agenda in the coming months!
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):