Peak(s):  Mt. Antero  -  14,271 feet
Date Posted:  01/26/2015
Modified:  01/27/2015
Date Climbed:   01/24/2015
Author:  Steve Climber
 It Doesn't Have to be Fun to be Fun   

Route: West Slopes via Baldwin Gulch
Team: JManner (John); Beard of Justice (Adam); Volleyballer Becky (Becky); Doggler (Sean); Steve Climber (Sam)
Distance: (per GPS) 13.7 RT
Gain: (per GPS) ~4800'
Time: 10:00 JManner/Adam; 10:45 Becky/Myself

Sometimes a last minute change of plans can provide an amazing day out...other times it can just provide a pain in the ass. This is a story of the somewhere-in-between.

When my original plans of mixed climbing in Vail fell through, I switched gears to winter-slog mode and asked if Becky and I could join in on Jmanner and SurfNTurf's group on Princeton.

"The more the merrier" (or something to that effect) was the reply. The trip was set with Jeff, John, Adam, Sean, Becky, and myself.

Becky and I (in Fort Collins) decided to drive down Friday night and stay at Jeff's place to save the hour commute in the morning. Manner would be by at 3:30am to pick us all up for a carpool to meet Sean and Adam (who was camping at TH). Long-story-short, Jeff got "literally zero" sleep that night and, looking like the walking dead, decided to pass on the trip in the morning. With that news, John proposed we adjust our sights toward Antero, for his Sawatch closer. The info that we had showed it was a few miles shorter, with almost identical conditions and terrain (roads and wind-scoured tundra slopes). Becky and I had no particular agenda and agreed to go along with the adjustment. A text was sent out to Sean to let him know of the change, but Adam couldn't be reached at the Princeton TH, so we'd have to make a quick stop to collect him. The drive went smoothly, with a short detour to grab Adam, then we met up with Sean to caravan to Baldwin Gulch.

Winding up the mostly dry road, it was clear the snow conditions were going to favorable, and our forecast (High 34F, mostly sunny, light breeze) looked more than promising. Stepping out of the car, it was frigid, but the clear skies and lack of breeze had our hopes set high that today would be mild, and hopefully quite enjoyable.

They always start out that way, don't they?

Still smiling...still early.

Becky and I were starting to get cold as John and Adam changed into their touring boots and affixed skins to their skis, so we decided to get moving as the sky immediately started turning gray and growing overcast. The boot pack was easy to follow, although knee-deep postholes awaited any errant step placed more than about 6" off center. We set a steady pace and managed to stay off the front of the ski pair until treeline where they finally caught us just in time to stash the skis, around 11,800'. Sean had caught and passed us much earlier and was on a pretty tight schedule with an early turn around time, and we watched for a few minutes as he shot up the grassy slope ahead, growing smaller and smaller by the second, finally disappearing over a small point.

About all we saw of Sean for the day. haha

Regrouped, our band of four trudged on with me following Sean's prints when possible, and looking for a trail when not. It was soon apparent that I had taken us across a small gully and one rib too far north in hopes that a faint snow line (I thought trail) would provide easier passage. Once we had realized my mistake, we set a new course traversing south and slightly up to get us back to the correct rib. We kept an eye out for Sean and once he was visible again, we plotted our line straight toward him. Before we knew it, we were crossing paths with him on his way back down. We stopped to chat for a few minutes before going our separate ways, but not before he transferred a few Dales Pale cans to Manner's pack (now we HAVE to summit!!!)

Sean says "Screw you guys, I'm outta here!!"


The direct method worked pretty well for us as we cruised up as straight a line as possible, cutting off many of the switchbacks along the mining road, and worked our way up a slope full of large, partially snow/ice-covered, and very loose talus, wearily arriving at a shoulder below the final summit ridge.


Seeing the remaining route, gave our spirits a bump, and after a few minutes of refueling and pictures, Adam shot off like a rocket, hell bent on the summit. Becky, John, and I set in after him at a much more leisurely pace (read: we were pretty dead at this point) and slowly ground our way up the final ~600' push.


The wind was relentless at this point and if not for the summit being SO close, my will may have broken. Becky was dealing with an asthma flare-up in the cold, dry air, and the constant barrage of spindrift and sometimes staggeringly strong gusts was not helping.

The final push.

As John marched on, she and I took several breaks to face away from the wind to keep the few square inches of exposed skin on our cheeks from getting sandblasted and to get some still air to breathe. Adam and John greeted us with warm hugs and hearty congratulations when we arrived a few minutes behind them, and the sweet feeling of relief briefly warmed our bones. We donned our summit down, ate some snacks, and enjoyed passing around our Dales slurpies (711, you listening??? DALES. EFFING. SLURPIES!!! Make it happen).

Finally arriving on summit.
The gang at 14,269'!!!

Congrats on breaking the streak!
Sangres standing tall on horizon.


The STOOOOOKE!!!! was high for all of us, as this summit meant the coveted "final Sawatch slog" for JManner; the end of a 19 month streak of summit failures for John and Adam as a team; and Becky's first all-important-around-these-parts snowflake. I was just happy to still be conscious and vertical at this point, after a 7 hour push from the car. We all quietly basked in our own personal glories for a bit, reflecting on the day to this point, before finally succumbing to that moment of realization that anyone atop a 14er has had at one point or another...

"Oh yeah, now we have to get all the way back down."


Cronin Pk. looking regal on our way out.

The wind and cold was intense, even with the sun we were promised that morning FINALLY starting to peek through an overcast ceiling that seemed to hang so low you might bump your head on it if you stood up too quickly. We packed up and started down the ridge -all still in our full summit layers- getting blasted and jostled every step. Our determination to get low took hold and we made short work of the summit ridge, arriving back at the shoulder in about 25 minutes, where we took another quick break for some water and shed our down. We followed our direct ascent track for the most part, but I took us through a miserably angled scree gully, choosing scree-skiing over descending the teetering and snow covered talus we had come up. At one point, I took a tumble and got caught in a small scree slide that accelerated way faster than I was comfortable riding in. Fortunately, I was able to roll out to the side and self-arrest (feels silly calling it that, but I guess it's the correct term). As horrible as it sounds, I was a bit relieved when I looked back up and saw that everyone was so engrossed in their own hellish slip-n-slide that they hadn't noticed my flop. After contouring a short bit to the north near the bottom of the gully, we were back on solid ground, and able to reset our steady pace downward, arriving at the ski stash 2:40 after leaving the summit.

This sums up our mood back at the ski stash.

We sat for a few minutes celebrating being through the last of any "difficult" sections. Knowing that John and Adam would blow by us on our road hike, Becky and I tiredly set off for the car at a slow-to-moderate pace. About 15 minutes later, we heard the first whoops of glee and turned around to see John and Adam rushing up behind us...envy was in full effect as the pair glided past with huge smiles. We knew we would need to make quick work of the remaining ~2.5 miles, so as to not keep them waiting for too long at the cars.

...though it looks like they kept themselves entertained in our absence...

"On second thought, let's stay and watch this sunset for a bit longer."

That pace went to hell about 1.5 miles down when we rounded a corner and saw the Princeton massif basking in the early glow of what was shaping up to be a spectacular sunset. With every step down the road, the sky got more intense and when we finally rounded a curve that faced us west, we dropped all thoughts of escape and simply sat in awe, marveling as the vicious wind effortlessly folded and stirred huge layers of clouds into one of nature's most amazing light shows. As the colors shifted from brilliant reds and pinks, to blues and purples, we started down once again shooting to make the cars before dark.

Light show.

Our timing ended up being perfect as we trudged out the final mile or so, arriving at the car with 15-20 minutes of usable light left. We stripped our boots in favor of trail runners, nibbled on a few snacks, then hugged out our goodbyes before the drive home.

Sweet. Trailhead. Victory.
All smiles

None of us in John's car had the energy to stop for food, and all agreed that hot showers and beds would take precedent. In a (what is now) slightly comical twist, what was already a long day was made even longer when we found out Hwy 285 was closed past Fairplay due to wind, and had to change our route and double back toward I-70 through Leadville. Thankfully, any ski traffic had subsided by the time we hit the interstate and we were able to cruise to Denver relatively pain-free, arriving at Jeff's just before 9pm. The extra hour to FtC was icing on the long-day cake at this point, and Becky and I were ecstatic to finally stumble through the front door, dry-eyed, wind-burned, and too exhausted to be starving. A few minutes of unpacking the cars and cat-loving preceded a scalding hot shower, and then glorious, glorious, GLORIOUS sleep.

Congrats again to Jmanner on his completion of CO's most spectacular range, and to Becky on her first winter 14er summit!!!

THIS GUY. Congrats on never 'needing' to go back.


Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions
Sorry I missed it
01/26/2015 20:39

Seriously though, glad you guys suffered through and got the summit. Next time I’ll stick to my normal regimen of 3–4 beers before bedtime so I can fall asleep.

Type 2 Fun!
01/26/2015 20:55
Great company, good workout, misery, skiing, summit beer–slushy... Can’t ask for more. Thanks for the write up SteveClimber, definitely brought a smile to my face reading it. Glad you could pass up an ice day for a scree day.

Cold dry asthma
01/26/2015 21:43
I suffer from this too. The only thing that has helped me is a fleece neck gaiter over the nose and mouth. It needs to be fairly "sealed", to keep warmer, wetter air inside. It leads to a sweet stealth ninja look.

Cronin is looking nice. Thanks for the beta on how things are setting up with snow so far. So wind blasted!

Great job.
01/26/2015 21:45
Glad you were able to take in the glory that is Antero! Look at the bright side... at least you didn’t have to deal with tons of folks driving up the road.

Nice write up!

01/26/2015 22:18
Glad ya’ll got er done.

Again, soon!

Love it!
01/26/2015 22:22
Good job guys! I love the spontaneity and ability to switch gears on a dime. I respect the hell out of that attitude. Excellent job, JManner and Becky! Sam – you did just alright

If I only had a gun....
01/26/2015 22:25
Stay off my Aquamarine claim, you bastards!

01/26/2015 22:28
You can’t own a mountain dude. Its like mother nature is here to do stuff and such.

Where is that confounded snowflake?
01/27/2015 00:23
After listening to Zeppelin on the drive to the TH, I was fired up to tackle my first true winter 14er. I’ll always remember my first. I love you, you slippery sonofabitch. You took my breath away. Fantastic write–up, Sam.

And yep, bergsteigen ... asthma–wise, my buff and inhaler were life–savers, but my buff kept slipping. I’ll look for a thicker fleece version. Thanks! So grateful for everybody’s patience on the trail when it felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest.

Congrats on finishing up the Sawatch, John! And so happy you and Adam broke the streak. Sam, of course, you earned massive brownie points for making me laugh and inspiring me to dig deep and summit that f*cker.

Where are my manners?
01/27/2015 00:30
Forbins_mtn ... I appreciate your kind words!
SurfNTurf ... thanks for letting us crash in Denver.
JManner ... bless you for driving.
Semitrueskerm ... thanks for supporting my kids’ college funds.

Brian Thomas
01/27/2015 19:03
An entertaining read of a not particularly exciting or aesthetic mountain, +1 on what michaelgrundy said about getting it all to yourselves, nice to see a TR with some personality

how did you do Antero w/o your ice axe?
01/27/2015 22:34
haha – Really nice to see a Sam Sala TR! Great read. Looks like a solid day gents and lady. Congrats on all the milestones as well!

Congrats and Beautiful TR
01/28/2015 12:40
I’m looking to try Antero this weekend if weather improves. Based on your trail conditions, would you recommend snowshoes or just spikes? No skis for me...

Steve Climber
Thanks all for reading
01/28/2015 16:02
Glad the TR was enjoyable...Was a great trip.

As Becky said, big thanks to Jeff and Kate for the crash pad, Manner for driving, Adam for shaking your ass to keep us going on the final summit push, and Sean for the victory Dales!!!

Some cool milestones. I’m happy to have played a part it any of them.

youngk2844, PM sent

ps: I’ve been reading some other TRs on 20+ mile winter trips and feel like a total sissy

01/28/2015 17:27
The guest bedroom is y’alls whenever you want it, it’s nice to have company. Maybe one day I’ll even be able to keep up in the climbing gym.

Snow and Quiet
01/28/2015 19:29
Great job John and all. There are some great snow shots here. And the hike had to be quiet compared to the jeeps and ATVs that are on the road in the nicer weather.

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