Peak(s):  Antora Pk  -  13,269 feet
Sheep Mountain - 12,860
Sheep Mountain, Northeast - 12,228
Date Posted:  06/03/2020
Date Climbed:   05/30/2020
Author:  supranihilest
Additional Members:   whileyh
 Counting Sheep on Antora Bore-a  

Antora Peak stands at the very southern edge of the Sawatch Range and is its southernmost 13er. It's only Colorado's 424th highest peak, but with over 2,400 feet of prominence it's the 46th most prominent which makes it relatively popular for its obscurity. It's an easy, mostly Class 1 hike with some Class 2 at the top and with afternoon storms predicted for at least the next few days Whiley and I had to pick a couple of easy, low commitment peaks to bag. Antora, of course, fell on that list. Let's just get these not-so-exciting ones out of the way on otherwise pretty useless days.

The crux of the route came before we even started: the drive in. There are multiple ways to get to Antora, which is near the ghost mining town of Bonanza, but they're all four wheel drive roads with one exception. Driving a Civic I could only take the one road, so Whiley and I drove down to Villa Grove in the San Luis Valley and then headed west on Saguache County Road LL56. There's a number of private residences along the first part of the road before it crosses into the National Forest and the road is nicely graded throughout. About 13.8 miles in we turned hard left onto Saguache County Road 46PP (Saguache County has a wonderful naming scheme, doesn't it?) and followed it toward an arrowhead shaped junction with a small parking area near Kerber Creek. We slept there for the night.

Since we knew Antora was easy we got a start at 7am. It had poured all night but the morning dawned with blue skies and puffy clouds.

20154_01
Early in the day. Photo: Whiley H.

The hike initially took us southwest on a faded old road. We quickly left the road as it curved further south away from Antora, and then made our way nearly directly west across another unmarked road. We continued ascending in a west/southwest manner until we came to a drop off. This drop off descended into Slaughterhouse Creek, and if we continued ascending the ridge we were now on it would take us below twelver Sheep Mountain. The ridge never got very steep, and the forest was open and easy to hike through. One outcrop of rock, which we bypassed on the right, and one brief snowfield crossing blocked a truly direct ascent up the ridge.

20154_02
The only real exposed rock on the entire route.
20154_03
Short snowfield crossing with Antora Peak in the back.
20154_04
Typical terrain on the ridge.

Since we started just under 11,000 feet we were quickly above treeline and the rest of the route became obvious - hike under Sheep Mountain to the Antora/Sheep saddle, then up Antora.

20154_05
Antora on the far left, Sheep on the right.

As we hiked towards Sheep the tundra gave way to a soft mix of dirt, grass, and shattered rock that was a bit irritating to walk on.

20154_06
Random bits of rock everywhere.

Once at the saddle we had about 600 feet to go to the summit of Antora. The ascent started nice and grassy and low angle and quickly turned into a steep, dinner plated mess.

20154_07
How exciting.
20154_08
Transitioning from hiking to slip sliding to flying.

The upper portion of the mountain was quite steep, but surprisingly stable for how awful the rock was, the kind of junk that rattles and clacks and grinds when you step on it. There were trail segments and switchbacks on the slope, and we took a few, but mostly it made sense to just beeline straight upwards.

20154_09
Not so hot.
20154_10
Antora's summit with the Sangre de Cristo Range behind. You can make out the Blanca group on the right, far in the distance.

I was surprised by the number of signatures in the register but Whiley reminded me why - Antora's a P2K peak, or a peak with 2,000 feet of prominence. Usually this means good, unobstructed views. Antora's kind of a boring peak in that regard as well, which was a bummer. We could see the Sangre, eastern San Juan, and southern Sawatch, but they were all long distances from the peak. Oh well. At least it was quick - it had taken us under two hours to get to the summit. We didn't linger long before heading back down the dinner plates and up Sheep Mountain.

20154_11
The rest of our route, with Sheep Mountain in the left foreground and Sheep Mountain Northeast in the back with the big snow patch on it. Mount Ouray's east ridge is in the upper left.
20154_12
Kind of like an M. C. Escher tesselation, except not nice.

Sheep Mountain was an exceptionally quick and easy peak, by far the easiest of the day. It consisted of a better mix of talus and tundra than its higher neighbor, thankfully. It was also much gentler and gave us no trouble.

20154_13
This looks exactly like a sheep, doesn't it?
20154_14
Rocky, but better than Antora.
20154_15
Looking back at Antora. Not a whole lot to it.
20154_16
The entire remaining route to Sheep Northeast.

Sheep Mountain Northeast was the farthest summit, what with Antora and Sheep being right next to each other, but like the rest of the day to this point it was all easy. There was potentially some snow below the final summit slopes we'd have to deal with, but we thought we could avoid it.

20154_17
Off to the first bump en route.
20154_18
Frontal view of Sheep Mountain Northeast from the curve in the ridge.

We dropped back below 12,000 feet en route to Sheep Northeast, and got a good enough view of its southern slopes that we knew we could avoid all the snow by swinging far left through some krummholz.

20154_19
Keeping with the overall "shoulder shrug feel" of the day. The little bump on the skyline isn't actually the summit cairn, but a bush that's way higher than anything else.
20154_20
Dozens of animal trails on Sheep Northeast's dome-like west slopes.

The rock on Sheep Northeast was the only scree of the day, but overall it wasn't too bad. We picked our way through the krummholz, bypassing all of the snow, and began ascending in a northeast direction towards this ranked summit.

20154_24
A sea of yellow scree to get up this one.

Mostly stable scree led us up to the top, and the larger summit cairn and register were on an obviously lower spot on the summit plateau. I signed in (only the second in two years!) and then plodded the remaining 150 feet to the true summit.

20154_25
Looking back at Antora Peak and Sheep Mountain.
20154_26
Big ol' Mount Ouray.

From this point we had a couple of descent options back to our cars, none of which looked that bad on topo maps, but we all know not to trust a bunch of squiggles on a piece of paper. We knew there was a road to nearby Mosquito Lake so we planned to descend off Sheep Northeast to the flat area below, drop into the drainage, and hike out on the road. The direct ridge off the summit seemed steeper, plus there'd be more of it, whereas we'd have to take our chances with possibly finding more snow than we liked going to the flats, which seemed like the better choice overall.

20154_27
The snow in the flats. It looked like we could hike to the big, dry crescent and cut across minimal snow.

We hiked back to the far western edge of the low point, around the snow and krummholz, and across the flats. There were a couple of spots where we had to touch snow, but managed to get through with only a few postholes and mostly dry feet.

20154_28
Mosquito Lake. I can guess where it got its name, but don't want to find out firsthand. Photo: Whiley H.

At first the descent didn't look too bad, but eventually we got to "the edge" of it and either had rotten looking cliffs to try to bypass or a steep and rotten dirt slope to go down. Neither was particularly enticing but the latter we could make tight switchbacks down as we descended towards the lake.

20154_29
Looking down our descent slope. Steep and loose but not awful. Photo: Whiley H.
20154_30
Some uglier looking slopes that we would have had to descend if we'd gone right off the summit. Behind us were some chossy outcroppings. Photo: Whiley H.

There were a couple of spots where care had to be taken, but overall the slope wasn't too bad, though it was most certainly environmentally unfriendly. Sorry, Mother Nature.

20154_31
Looking up our descent slope it looks pretty good! Photo: Whiley H.

We ended up not going all the way to the lake, as we found an old, unmarked, and very disused road that cut off in the direction we wanted to go. It faded in and out and led us through beautiful forest, marshland, and across barely trickling streams.

20154_32
Forest near Mosquito Lake. I can guarantee we were the only ones anywhere near here.

The road eventually became more obvious as we got closer to the cars, until we realized that the closure where we parked was the end of our road. We'd made a good choice in return route after all! We finished the easy hike - a mere four and a quarter hours - and went into Salida for Amica's Pizza and ice cream. It was the first time we'd been able to dine-in in months and we were happy to not have to take our pizza back to our cars! Here's to hoping the situation - both COVID and summer conditions - continues to improve.


Statistics

Climbers: Ben Feinstein (myself), Whiley H.
Trailhead: Saguache County Road 46PP (parking at 38.329317, -106.183933)
Total distance: 7.68 miles
Total elevation gain: 3,479 feet
Total time: 4:14:46
Peaks: One ranked thirteener, one ranked twelver, one soft ranked twelver

  • Antora Peak, 13,269'
  • Sheep Mountain, 12,860' (soft ranked)
  • Sheep Mountain Northeast, 12,228'

Splits:

Starting Location Ending Location Via Time (h:mm:ss) Cumulative Time (h:mm:ss) Rest Time (m:ss)
Parking Antora Peak 1:47:27 1:47:27 9:22
Antora Peak Sheep Mountain 0:25:41 2:22:31 0:00
Sheep Mountain Sheep Mountain Northeast 0:59:39 3:22:09 0:00
Sheep Mountain Northeast Parking 0:52:38 4:14:46 Trip End

My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):




Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32


 Comments or Questions
dillonsarnelli

nice work!
06/03/2020 17:06
where's the post hike Salida ice cream fest shot?


matt_foco

new trees
06/03/2020 17:46
Good to see lots of new growth under the beetle kill!


supranihilest

Ice cream
06/03/2020 18:11
@Dillon: Haha, Whiley said you'd be climbing these peaks after my reports came out (+ Chipeta). We went to Chill, right near the river. I got chocolate chip cookie dough with M&Ms and gummy worms like a REAL climber does!

@matt_foco: Indeed! The forest is recovering quite nicely!


dillonsarnelli

haha
06/04/2020 11:57
"chocolate chip cookie dough with M&Ms and gummy worms" sounds like this may have been the best mountain day EVER.


Jay521

Nice, Ben
06/05/2020 11:20
Antora has been on my list for quite some time. Your report has bumped it up some. Thanks!


mennoguy

not much snow up there
06/05/2020 19:24
Did about the same route last July with just about the same amount of snow above treeline.


blazintoes

I saw you
06/05/2020 19:57
From Kit Carson!


supranihilest

Eagle eyes
06/08/2020 16:34
@Jay: Have fun!

@mennoguy: Yep, seems we're about a month ahead of last year's snowmelt. This definitely feels more normal in any case.

@Amy: So that's who I saw up on KC! /waves



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