Peak(s):  Mt. Antero  -  14,271 feet
Mt. Belford  -  14,202 feet
Mt. Oxford  -  14,158 feet
Date Posted:  06/10/2015
Modified:  06/11/2015
Date Climbed:   06/06/2015
Author:  SnowAlien
Additional Members:   mkmiller, Leopard233
 June Powder   

Mt Antero
May 31, 2015
Route: West gully ascent/descent
Mileage: 11 miles
Vertical: 4,800 ft
Time: 9 hours (2 hours on the summit)
Partners: Michael and Jeremy

The miracle of this Spring continues. Every possible line you can think of is in from the summit. After seeing Antero from Cronin in early April of this year, I've written the peak off as a potential ski descent. Not so fast, said Winterspring 2015 and it kept snowing and snowing.

Antero as seen from Cronin on 04.11.15

In the past month this typically bare peak has become practically unrecognizable. It was time to check it out. Anticipating a warmer spell, we started from the bottom of the road at 2.30 am, hoping to drive up a road a bit. We only made 0.5 miles in the dark before being stopped by a large snow drift. After reparking the truck we finally started hiking by 4am. Call it a rocky start. We did the road approach in the dark and were at the bottom of the snow gully by 6am. We found the good freeze the whole way and skinned as far as our skins allowed us. Mike has 10 year old skins, so he stopped around 12.5k, I managed to get past 13k, and Jeremy almost made it to the ridge on his fat split skins, but finally was forced to stop around 13.5k. By 8am we topped out on the familiar ridge and surveyed the summit.

Skinning up the West gully

First good look at the West face

Approaching the ridge

Mike topping out on the ridge

The west gully we skinned up. The sun didn't hit it until 8am.


Booting up remaining 500 ft to the summit

Just below the summit

Michael on the summit ~9am

The waiting game

There was a drastic difference between eastern and western aspects. The eastern one was cooked and already late to ski by 8.30am, while the western one (our intended line) was still frozen. We reached the summit just past 9am and just hanged out for awhile. Guys who complained about an early start, took a nap. I tried to find a windless shelter. Jeremy and I were eyeing a direct line west off the summit. On the approach we noticed a choke that looked fun. Michael seemed content with our ascent gully as his descent route. He decided to go down first, position himself across our descent line and take photos of us going through the choke. Jeremy and I waited until after 11am, but continued wind and some cloud cover kept the western aspect from warming up.

Michael skiing off the summit down the South face/ridge

Jeremy dropped in first, but wasn't too happy about the icy surface.

Jeremy on the descent, with the choke visible below

Jeremy on the upper part

The upper portion of the face was less than ideal, but I was able to make some turns that got progressively softer the lower we descended.

Approaching the choke

The choke ended up being super fun in great corn snow

Upper part

Lower part

Full line from below

Our line from Michael's vantage point

After the choke we were able to open wide turns and to join Michael

Skiing through the choke - video courtesy of Michael M

Michael skiing

Finishing the ski

Skiing out in wide GS turns was pure bliss, although snow was getting soft below 12k in the afternoon. We were able to ski down to the river crossing, and hiked down from there. We were back at the cars by 1.30pm.

June 6, 2015
Routes: NW couloir on Belford, NW gully on Oxford
Mileage: 11 miles
Vertical: 6,600 ft
Time: just over 11 hours
Max speed: 31 mph
Partner: Ben (Leopard233)

Continued warming trend and forecasted warm overnight temperatures had us on our toes. Still, there were reports that on some nights there was a freeze in the Sawatch. NW-facing lines, an early start and we thought we had a shot. We knew that we had to be fast and efficient in making transitions to tackle this beast of a Two-fer. We started from Missouri gulch by 2.40 am with skis and boots on our backs and headed up the familiar switchbacks. We almost made it to the cabin near @11,300 ft before switching into ski boots. Trail shoes and extra water stashed, we kept booting up the trail to about 12k, when the snow became continuous. We reached the bottom of the couloir at first light, right on schedule. With some rain the prior night and light freeze, the couloir was sleek to skin up. We made it on skins to about 12.5k before switching to booting again. Couloir seemed to be in better shape than expected.

Starting up the gully just after 5am

Ben skinning up

Switching to booting

Weather did not look very amenable from the get go. Pretty windy and cold, particularly on the Belford's summit ridge. The silver lining though that even with the weak freeze, it would keep the snow cold(er) for our descent.

Booting up

Is this really June? I've had hikes in winter that were warmer than this.

At around 13k we encountered hard freeze (Ben stopped postholing) and even some powder on top of solid base. We got to the summit of Belford just after 8am in punishing winds.

Ben approaching the summit of Belford

Natalie near the summit of Belford

Summit ridge of Belford towards Oxford

Ben on the ridge

Weather was a bit demoralizing and we could barely see Oxford. The upside was that the cold winds would keep the line cool for the descent, so we pushed on to Oxford. We skied to the lowest point on the BelOx saddle and switched to skinning again.

Our next goal, Oxford

We made a transition back to skinning at the saddle and started heading up Oxford

On the ridge to Oxford

We both remembered to eat and drink frequently, to keep our energy levels up. Around 10am we made to Oxford. Winds again were very strong, but visibility was improving. The summit was getting bare, but we could see the most obvious line dropping Northwest.

We transitioned about 10 feet off the summit in strong winds...

and skied to the top of the obvious gully. The top part was still icy and didn't prepare us adequately for what would happen next

Glorious June powder - Ben

Skiing Oxford powder - Natalie

We had to remind ourselves that it was already June, not March! We took the gully down to 12.9k and contoured back towards the BelOx ridge. Time to eat, drink and transition again for the 1,300 ft reclimb back up Belford.

After another transition, starting the skin up to Belford-Oxford saddle

Another weather squall moved in as we were skinning up

Ben took the lead and we slowly made our way back up Belford

Looking back at Oxford

Approaching Belford in improving weather

With one foot in front of another (and slowly) we staggered back to the still windy Belford summit by 12pm. The trip to Oxford and back took us longer than expected.

Made it!

Summit trickery

Skiing just off the summit - Ben

The snow above 13.5k still felt cold, so we were hoping the NW would be in good shape for our return. Still, we decided to go one at a time and utilize the safety zones. We encountered powder from the summit to about 13k, corn from 13k to about 12.6k and rather mushy conditions below. We skied the lowest portion of the couloir as fast as we could, although the already bare walls of the couloir and mellower angle near the bottom gave us added comfort.

Off the top of Belford gully - Natalie

First turns

Kicking up some corn - Ben

More skiing - Natalie

Middle of the gully - Ben

Cruising in corn snow

Slushier turns towards the bottom - Natalie

Escaping the Missouri gulch willows unscathed

After leaving the couloir near 12k, we regroupped and were able to follow the patches of snow all the way to the cabin. There skis went on the packs once again. We hiked down to the creek crossing near 10.8k through the drifts where I transitioned to the trail shoes. Back at the car by 2pm, for just over 11 hour RT. Ben, thanks for joining me and for taking great photos.

Creek crossing @10,800 ft. Dry trail from there

Heading home

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

Comments or Questions
Jon Frohlich
Miracle or hell
06/10/2015 14:20
One person’s miracle is another person’s vision of hell. I guess it’s all a matter of perspective.

06/11/2015 14:31
Jon, now you’ve got Hotel California song stuck in my head. "It could be heaven or it could be hell". It’s all about the perspective, I agree Skiers perspective is always correct though, lol (j/k)

06/10/2015 20:18
Natalie, my attention span is similar to that of a 4 year old, so 69 pics is tough for me. That April shot really puts the May snowpocalypse in perspective. Way to keep kickin butt out there!

Very nice, Natalie...
06/11/2015 08:18
...always kickin’ butt

06/11/2015 14:30
Dillon - I thought ~20 pix/peak is a reasonable photo ratio? Btw, your report on Missouri gulch provided a much needed kick in the butt for the dreaded BelOx ski slog.

glad this trip worked out
06/19/2015 13:52
sort of sorry I wasn’t able to join you all..

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