East Ridge of Mt. Antero from Raspberry GulchOver the years I have been climbing a few Sawatch centennial peaks per year with the goal of eventually completing them. I only had one 14er left to do and it was Antero. I had been putting it off because of the 4WD issues and my general dislike for crowds and noise in the mountains. A month or two ago I found some loose information online that the east ridge was a viable alternative as a dayhike and my research began. I estimated the roundtrip would be between 9 and 10 miles with between 4,700’ and 4,900’ of gain. The last weekend in September gave me the window I was looking for: high pressure over all of Colorado so no chance of rain or storms and a forecast of little to no wind.
I knew it would be very cold early in the morning so I decided to get a late morning start. I arrived at the Raspberry Gulch trailhead around 8:15am. The trailhead is at the far western end of the Raspberry Gulch road. The drive to the trailhead was easy enough to figure out from the Trails Illustrated Map #130. The last mile or so is high clearance with 4WD being helpful if the ground gets soft from rain.
I got started up the trail around 8:30am. The first portion of the route followed an old road grade up to the 10,550’ saddle between PT 11,058 and PT 11,570. The road grade is fairly obvious up to the saddle with a few long switchbacks. Not long after leaving the trailhead the upper portion of the ridge between about 13,000’ and 13,600 came into view briefly through the trees.
When I arrived at the 10,550’ saddle I left the trail to the left (west) and proceeded up progressively steeper terrain to PT 11,570. The ridge becomes more defined the higher you go.
After arriving at PT 11,570 the ridge flattened out for awhile. This was a nice change of pace after the steep grade up from the saddle.
My next objective was treeline and PT 12,504. The lower portion of this climb was through well spaced trees that were easy to navigate through which was nice considering the steep grade. The upper few hundred feet was above treeline and got a little easier.
Once above treeline I decided it would be best to traverse around PT 12,504 on the left (south) and shoot for the saddle at about 12,400’. This is when the view of the upper ridge really started to open up and I knew it was going to be a fun day. I also got my first glimpse of the summit as shown in the photo below.
I saw a mountain goat on the right side of the ridge and an elk on the left side – really nice. I continued the climb up to PT 13,105. As I got closer to PT 13,105 the grassy slopes slowly transitioned to talus as shown below. The second photo below looks back down at this transition.
As I approached the bump in the ridge before PT 13,105 I made the decision to traverse around it to PT 13,105 which is actually a saddle. The view of Mt. Antero from this saddle is shown below. The second photo below shows the huge basin below the northeast face of Mt. Antero – quite impressive.
After taking a short breather at the saddle I turned my focus on PT 13,888. The photo below shows the climb up to 13,600’ looked pretty steep and ended up being the most difficult portion of the ridge. It was very straightforward, just a little loose in places but not too bad. The second and third photos below show looking down this section from two different locations.
At about 13,600’ the ridge turns more westward and the grade lessens significantly. PT 13,888 and Mt. Antero came into view and I felt a burst of energy knowing I was getting close.
This was about the time I first heard the hum of 4WD vehicles on the backside of Mt. Antero and Mount White and I was reminded why I chose this route. I loved the exposure down and to the right off of the ridge as I climbed the final few hundred feet to the summit.
I took advantage of the unbelievable weather and stayed on the summit for over an hour. During that time about ten people came and went. Two came up from Little Brown’s Creek and the others all came up from the 4WD road. It was literally shorts and t-shirt weather on the summit. No wind. No clouds. Simply amazing and it was the end of September!
All good things must come to an end and I started back down with the anticipation of walking down the ridge and all of the amazing views I would have.
About halfway down the steepest portion around 13,300’ I took a short break to refuel and took a photo down into Raspberry Gulch. The second photo was taken in a similar location and shows a cool outcrop with Mt. Princeton in the background. It would have been cool if someone could have taken my picture standing on it.
After all of the talus hopping the grassy slopes below 13,000’ were very nice. It was relaxing to not have to decide where each foot would be placed on every step.
I took my time strolling down the grassy slopes but still made great time. I saw a fox that didn’t seem too interested in sticking around once he saw me. I traversed around PT 12,504 and took a break just above treeline to refuel and stretch. I took the following photos during this break.
I started back down into the trees and was reminded time and time again from about 12,300’ down to about 10,600’ how nice trails and swithbacks are at the end of a long day. The steepest part was 11,400’ to 10,600’. Luckily I had my trekking poles and leaned on them pretty heavily. The photo below shows how dispersed the trees are for much of the route so the only real issue is the grade and not bushwacking. I was very pleased to reach the saddle and the roadbed which led me back down to the trailhead at about 9,600’.
In summary the route I took was about 9 miles on the map but with all of the switchbacks I made back and forth on some of the steeper sections I estimate the distance traveled was at least 10 miles. The elevation gain was about 4,700’-4,800’. There were two sections that were noticeably more difficult than the rest of the route. From 10,600’ to 11,400’ was very steep with no views and from 13,100’ to 13,600’ was steep talus that moved just enough to keep you guessing. The most enjoyable section was the grassy slopes from 12,300’ to 13,000’ and from 13,600’ to the summit.
I achieved my goal of climbing my last Sawatch 14er without sharing the route with 4WD’s or via a route requiring an overnight backpack and had amazing weather as a bonus. I would recommend this route to anyone who is reasonably fit and comfortable with off-trail travel. One final note: there is no water on the entire route so come prepared.