I awoke at 3:30 am not too optimistic for the day's climb. The weather report was saying up to 5" of snow and 15 to 20 mph winds, which at 14,000 feet would likely be even worse. But, we had decided to head out to Buena Vista and attempt to climb Mt Antero anyways, at least as a recon trip for sometime later this month. Keith and I had discussed climbing Antero for awhile now, with both of us wanting to summit in the Winter to avoid the long trek up a 4x4 road and the constant rumble of 4 wheelers that are found on Antero in the summer. We also wanted to check out the North slopes or another option other than the 16 mile round trip of the standard route. Well, as we rolled past the Cascade Campground around 6:30, the North Slopes were looking bare, so we continued up to the standard trailhead at the base of the Baldwin Creek 4x4 road. We were happy to see the road covered with snow and we quickly geared up and started up the trail as the weather was looking good. Hopefully the report would prove wrong and we could have a chance at the summit.
Nearing the branch with the trail up to Baldwin Lake and the Mt. Antero trail, we noticed a snow filled gully running up the west face ending maybe 1000 feet below the summit. This would easily cut off 4 to 6 miles of the total distance and it looked quite skiable (unfortunately not from the summit though). So we turned off the trail just past the junction, angling up through the trees, quickly passing treeline and entered the gully. The snow thus far had been rock hard melt-freeze snow and as we moved off trail we hit some rotten sugar below treeline, making travel a bit more difficult. In the gully the snow was bulletproof and icy. I was wishing I had ski crampons all the way up. About halfway up the gully, my skins lost grip and I went sliding back. At this point the toepiece on my binding broke in two and my ski went rocketing down slope (no brakes or leashes, doh). I was able to dive down and catch the ski in a state of confusion wondering why it fell off my foot. Half of the toepiece was still intact and to my surprise it still held my boot and seemed stable enough to at least finish the skin up the gully, so I gingerly ascended the rest of the gully and we stashed our ski gear at about 12,800 feet. The summit didn't look skiable to the west and with the impending weather, we decided it was best to lighten our load as much as possible for the talus scramble.
at the top of the gully, mount antero above us
the talus scramble, this is a false summit
We reached the summit at 2pm, and the weather really settled in just as we hit the top, with winds blowing up to 30+ mph and visibility dropping quickly. It started dumping snow as we made our descent back to our skis and at times it was near whiteout and I was getting a little worried that we might descend right past them and spend extra time searching for our gear.
on top. there's plenty of snow on the summit, and a ski descent could be made to the east. Unfortunately, there are no established routes up from the east, but I'm sure it could be worked out.
view of mt. cronin from near antero's summit. the couloir from the top looks really nice
view to the south from the summit of antero. the standard climbing route comes up this ridge. notice the weather getting worse.
descending in the near whiteout. snow was puking on us. visibility got much worse than this before we got back to our gear.
Just before we reached our gear, the weather miraculously cleared out and we had a beautiful view of the area and great weather for the ski down. Couldn't have been more perfect. 3-5inches of fresh snow initially bonded very well to all the old snow we had climbed and we had awesome weather for our ski descent back down to tree line. Once we were skiing down the 4x4 road the weather came back in and it started dumping and the drive home was a little sketchy, but I couldn't have asked for a much better climb and ski descent. Amazingly, my binding held up all the way back to the car, but at the car the rest of the toepiece looked about to break off. Guess I should carry an extra for trips like this. Overall distance according to my TOPO! software was about 9 miles, elevation gain over 4800 feet. Trailhead elevation about 9400ft, Antero summit 14,200 feet. Roundtrip time, 9 hours.