| A Surprisingly nice May Summit
• Total Distance: 14mi (Started hike after driving .5 miles from the start of the Jeep Road)
• Elevation Gain: 5,200ft
• Trailhead Time: 6:30am
• Summit time: 11:45am
• Completion Time: 3:30pm
• Total Time: 9 hours
For a day with a wind forecast from hell, the southwest side of Antero remained surprisingly windless until mid-afternoon. Winds stayed calm until I reached the ridge and started working above Point 13,800. The summit was exceptionally windy, but that is to be expected. Temperatures were probably in the mid-30s all day, and it was very warm below treeline. Scott P, who climbed the peak that afternoon, reported that winds picked up dramatically after I was off the summit.
This was the mid-May climb I have been looking for this year, and hadn't found until now. After a long and tiring drive up (I didn't sleep as well as I had hoped the night before), I was surprised to find significantly less snow on the Sawatch Peaks as I drove down into the valley that morning. My hopes turned and I realized I had a chance at a good day. Still however, I had no intention of summiting anything that day, given the length of Antero and the wind forecast. Boy was I wrong…
After finding a pull over spot before the snow drift, I quickly tossed my gear on and hit the road at exactly 6:30am. All of the preparations I had made for the week were for my Mt. Massive attempt the next day (which failed by the way), as a result, this hike was a warm up for me, and so I was solo. I threw my iPod on shuffle to pass the time. Time passed at normal time, the hike however, was going excessively fast. I was caught off guard when I reached the creek crossing at 7:20am and managed to break treeline at 8am. Suddenly, with the mileage half behind me, I realized I might have a chance at the summit.
After breaking treeline, I diverged from the path set by my GPS and ignored the switch-backing road. With ice axe in hand, worked my way up the gully that the road crosses until I reached 12,800ft. The snow was perfect for the climb – not quite hard enough to need crampons, but not so soft I would sink through. It was perfect for a quick altitude gain. I rejoined the road and headed south for a short while before tossing on my crampons at 13,000ft. Instead of enduring more road hiking on icy snow, I trudged up the next gully to the south of the road switchbacks, and in a short hour, reached the summit of Point 13,800.
Here's my modified route:
My changes to the route are marked in red.
The final ridge was an endurance test, as the wind started to pick up. However, in an uncharacteristic burst of energy, I was able to move up the ridge to the summit in another hour, finally reaching the summit near noon. Admittedly, I had hoped after the earlier fast pace to make it up more quickly, but I was still pleased with a relatively speedy ascent of a long mountain.
The Buffalo Peaks
The Three Apostles and Ice Mountain
Sangre de Cristo Range
The descent was filled with much less pleasant snow. While my ascent was done without crampons to 13,000ft and then with crampons just for added stability on the last thousand feet, the descent began the slush fest. I chose to circumvent Point 13,800 to the west, following a path that I was hoping would return to the first gully I had climbed that day. The ridge was a postholling nightmare, but as soon as I dropped over onto a west-facing aspect, things improved. The improvement, however, was short lived. The path did go to the top of my gully, which was unfortunately snow-free and filled with loose, steep scree. I smiled, untriumphantly, and "glissaded" my way very cautiously back down to the snow, where I made quick work of the descent back to treeline.
The below treeline sections proved to be the least pleasant of the day. Every drift involved some knee-deep postholling, but I kept myself entertained by trying to cross the drifts as "gracefully" as possible. I probably looked like an idiot dancing in snow, but I had some fun and didn't get quite as wet as someone else may have.
The big lesson of the day is this however: if a stream crossing is difficult in the morning, you may want to have an inflatable raft ready in the afternoon… if an inflatable raft is unavailable, I would recommend putting the National Treasure soundtrack on your iPod and crossing the stream while making spy moves from rock to rock…
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):