Peak(s):  Antora Pk  -  13,269 feet
Sheep Mountain: 12,860
Sheep Mountain: Northeast: 12,228
Date Posted:  07/31/2020
Modified:  08/04/2020
Date Climbed:   07/26/2020
Author:  JQDivide
Additional Members:   bmcqueen
 A Walk Above the Clouds: and a sunrise  

20471_09
Sunrise and a cloud inversion is a special sight to see.

Antora Peak: A Walk Above the Clouds

The monsoon season was here. All the weather forecasts looked questionable across the state. The early morning looked good, but rain at 10 a.m.?

With our too-close-for-comfort-electricity-in-the-air retreat off of Blaurock last weekend due to a thunderstorm, we were really trying to be careful this weekend. What would be a fairly easy and quick up-and-down hike this weekend?

Brad and I tossed around some ideas, mostly in the Sangres. Brad joked that we had to find a lone peak, so he wouldn’t be tempted to go for another summit and get caught in the rain.

But wait, what about that southern Sawatch peak? We discussed it once before while on Hunts. We decided to hike Antora. It met all the requirements, except for there are 12ers here. Just in case the weather holds.

Brad sent me a link to Supranihilest’s TR. We used that as our guide.


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First light on the horizon


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Horizon


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Shark fin in the clouds


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Brad, lagging behind, which is not normal. :-)


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The show is getting good


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Those clouds!


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Good morning


Driving to the trailhead Saturday night was slow with all the rain. It came in waves across South Park and the Arkansas Valley. Was even raining harder in the San Luis Valley.

From the turn off in Villa Grove it’s still nearly 20 miles to the trailhead. The roads were good, but the fog set in making highbeams too bright in the mist. It was slow going up the dirt road.

The apple phone map looked a bit different than Google maps, but I made it. County Roads “LL 56” to “46 PP” were on both, and that’s the way I went. But the northern end of “LL 56,” the section from Bonaza to the TH, wasn’t on the phone map. I’m guessing “46 PP” is probably a better road. But we didn’t investigate.

The trailhead, or parking spot is near the junction were “46 PP” and the upper end of “LL 56” meet and then the road continues on to Mosquito Lake. We parked in this area. There is a log fence blocking an old road. There is room for two vehicles to park, three if you park real close. There is a dispersed camping spot right across the road. Probably could fit at least three to four vehicles and tents. (There were several other dispersed camping spot along the road, but most were empty. I assume because of the rain.)

I parked at the TH and slept in the back of the Suburban, so comfy. I was in bed by 10:10 p.m. Brad arrived about 11 p.m.

We were up and moving around 3:30 a.m. hoping to beat the forecasted rain. We started walking a few minutes before 4 a.m. And just like the vehicle headlights, our headlamps were bright in the morning fog.

We walked around the log fence and followed the old road toward Kerber Creek. Someone had put in numerous button-sized reflectors in one section leading off to the right. But Supranihilest went left, so we followed that route. His TR said they soon turned right and went uphill. We found another old road and decided to see where it went. We thought it would be faster than dodging and weaving around trees in the dark.

We wondered if the road would connect to the old road that goes up Slaughterhouse Creek. This road went in that direction. We followed and near 11,000 feet, it turned. There might have been a path that continued on, but we decided to stay on the obvious road. Well, it stayed near 11,000 feet and we were back to where we were on Supranihilest’s gpx track. The road continued, but we decided we ran around in the dark for too long with no real results… Don’t follow that road. We should have just went uphill earlier. So, we started up hill here.


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Sunshine


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Brad coming up the slope from the saddle


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The views did not suck


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In the in between...


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The trees were thick. It was dark and foggy. It was slow going, even with headlamps. We’d go around one tree, to find three downed trees. So, we would back track a few feet, and go around another tree. It was all uphill, but it wasn’t too steep. Very manageable. But in the light of day, it would have been so much easier.

The trees started to thin out a bit and a large shape emerged above us hidden in the fog… a large rock outcropping near 11,500. With minimal visibility, we couldn’t see too much of it. We went around it to the left and up. Then there was more of it, and we went right.

From here, the route opened up and we just went up without the hindrance of trees. Near 12,000 feet the first hints of light appeared on the horizon. We realized we were not in fog, but a cloud inversion. The valley had a layer of low clouds and layer of high clouds.

About this time we realized Ben (Supranihilest) and Whiley are fast hikers. There time up was quick. We were behind schedule. At first we blamed the lack of visibility (dark and foggy), but later on we realized they were just really moving.

So, I drove over here in bad rain. Got my ass out of bed at 3:30 a.m. Stumbled around in the dark forest for nearly two hours. Only to figure out, I wasn’t going to be on the summit for sunrise. What!

I didn’t like that. I turned on the speed. The sidehilling of Sheep Mountain wasn’t too bad. The slope was gentle enough there was an occasional trail sections leading toward the 12,600-foot Antora-Sheep saddle. I was going to get a better view of this sunrise. As we traversed closer to the saddle, the eastern slope of Sheep Mtn blocked the view. I moved faster. I left Brad behind. (That never happens.)

I hit the saddle, but that wasn’t good enough. I start going up Antora. A little higher. Stop and look. A little higher. Stop and look. And I finally was high enough to see the sunrise. I think I was near 12,700 when I finally stopped.

It was beautiful. It was worth the trip and the morning hike.


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The sun moved higher into the clouds


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Sheep Mountain and the clouds


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Brad moving up the slope to Antora's shoulder


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The valley below the summit. The road and route were below.


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The summit was long and narrow. Brad's photo


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Summit snacks. Brad's photo


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Brad hanging out on the summit of Antora


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The view to the west from the summit


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Heading down toward Sheep Mountain


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Looking back at Antora from Sheep Mtn


A high mountain sunrise is awesome.

Brad eventually made his way over up to me. “I’ve never seen you move that fast.”

“I didn’t want to miss the show.”

And what a show it was. The sun came up over the inversion, then moved between the cloud layers, then disappeared behind the upper clouds. Simply gorgeous.

We hiked up to the Antora’s west shoulder, kind of a saddle, and turned east and followed some trails to the summit. Guessing these were goat/sheep tracks. Lots of animal poop in these hills, but no animals.

Took us about 2.5 hours to reach the summit. It was slow in the trees. And I’m not sure how long we stopped to watch the sunrise.

It was actually a little chilly on top. We took photos and ate some snacks before heading down.

“Any interest in some 12ers, since we’re here?” Brad asked as we hiked the slope back to the saddle.

I laughed, because I knew Brad was going to want to hit those peaks. “I was thinking about breakfast.”

“If we can get these peaks, I’ll buy breakfast,” Brad said.

What the hell. We’re here. The weather looked good. And we’re walking on the edge of a cloud inversion. That’s pretty cool.


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Cool view from ridge between the two Sheep Mountains


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The clouds were in the way of our route, but the ebbed and flowed


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Clouds moving in on both sides of Sheep Mtn NE


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The clouds were moving in and out like the edge of an ocean beach


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Sheep Mtn NE


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Sheep Mtn NE


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Clouds, inversion, cool


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Brad on the gentle ridge


So, up and over Sheep Mountain (12,851) we went. We hit the summit about 3:20 into the hike. The lower section of Sheep, might have been the steepest terrain of the day, but it wasn’t that bad.

From there we followed the ridge toward Sheep Mtn North East. As we moved closer to the second Sheep Mountain, we could see clouds converging on the mountain from both sides.

The ridge dropped to 11,800 in two spots, but this was a gentle walk. The clouds continued to stay to the east, but would occasionally move our way. And one more uphill slope to the summit.

There was a summit cairn, but was that the top? I walked over to another cairn that looked older, almost more like a fire ring. Well, that cairn was a foot lower than the first one.

We headed down, following Supranihilest’s track, but decided to venture off course a bit. Near 11,600, we followed the slope more south and by passed a steep rocky gully, the most rugged terrain we saw this day. We skirted the top of it and took the next slope down toward the TH. The slope was steeper than most of the route today, but very doable.

Near 10,800, we ended up in a somewhat flat marshy area to the north of the old road we started on, a bit northwest of the TH. There was another old road here (might have been the one we were on this morning). I think Ben took the road south maybe? We took it kind of east, then cut across the flats. It was a bit wet, but our boots were already wet from the day so it didn’t really matter.

We were soon back at the vehicles and talking about breakfast in Salida. The drive out was much faster than the drive in. And it was a beautiful drive. It’s always a nice treat to drive a trailhead road in the light after driving to the TH at night. You get to see everything you missed.

The cloud inversion and sunrise made this a memorable hike. Other than that, it was pretty mundane. A perfect peak for a questionable weather window.


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Sheep Mtn NE and clouds


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Ouray


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Brad on the summit of Sheep Mtn NE with Sheep in the background


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Clouds moved in while on the summit, but they moved back. And that area over there is a foot lower.

.

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"Trailhead" parking, though not a real TH. The directional sign in the photo is for Mosquito Lake.



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 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38


 Comments or Questions
nyker


Nice !
08/01/2020 09:10
And really nice sky shots. Can't wait to be able to come out again.


Jay521

What Nyker said...
08/01/2020 14:13
Those are fantastic pictures, Joel. I really enjoyed this report.


mathguy

Photos & clouds!
08/02/2020 08:33
Wow is all I can say.


glenmiz

Eye Candy
08/02/2020 09:48
Cool pictures! Thanks for the report.



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