Antero. The 4WD crew loves it. Hikers dread it. Much of the hike is on 4WD ride and hardly feels like a wilderness adventure most of the time due to the roar of engines all around on the many 4WD roads in the area. Today was not one of those days.
Kris and I ducked out of a beautiful day in Denver and found ourselves heading up the 277 Jeep road in the dark (due to construction on Kenosha Pass) and in the snow. I drive a 2003 Ford Escape and have taken a car up several rough roads before (Princeton and South Colony Lakes come to mind), but I was a bit uneasy about this one. Add the snow in and it was a very challenging drive.
It is 2.7 miles to the first creek crossing at 10,850 feet. Our goal was to get there and camp for the night so that we still hit 3,000 feet of gain but could shorten our day so that we were back in Denver pretty early. The road is rough the entire way, but it is manageable for a smaller 4WD car. There are a few sections that are pretty hairy and the presence of a couple hundred foot drop-off on one side make it feel even more so. We we’re thankfully able to make it the creek in 35 minutes with minimal bottoming out but plenty of stress and prayer.
It was still snowing lightly and quietly. Once we got settled and calmed down, it was beautiful. We set up our tent on one of the few rock free areas underneath a tree and settled into bed around 9:30 PM. It was a challenge to get to sleep with Kris, Casey (70 lb brown lab), Merlin (50 lb Griffon) and myself all in our 2 person REI Half Dome tent but it was warm!
We woke up without an alarm at 4:30 AM and began to get ready for the day. The sky was clear and the air cold. Felt a bit like winter!
We were on the trail at 5:45 am and thankfully able to safely cross the rocks through the creek without getting wet. Would have been a chilly start to the day!
The road made hiking quick and straightforward. There was an inch or two on much of the trail but we were easily able to manage it without any extra traction. The combination of the moon and fresh snow made it easy to hike without my headlamp. The solitude in front of me without a light was relaxing and the most at peace I’ve ever felt during a hike. As we approached treelike the surrounding peaks began to reveal themselves in the soft light.
It’s at this point that I should mention that when I got my camera out to take a picture of Cronin, I realized that my battery was sitting at home so I was stuck on the iPhone for the day. Not terrible in the light, but not great in low-light situations such as above.
We reached the first turn just above treeline in 1:06 and about 1.5 miles. Not the pace we wanted but the cold and snow had led to a relatively slow start. Alpenglow was starting to peak above the surrounding peaks but we were on the west side of Antero so no sunlight for us yet.
The road is gradual for much of the hike and the width of the trail makes it easy to move quickly. Our pace picked up as the sun rose and we found ourselves at the shortcut to 13,100 at 2:20 and 5K into the climb.
We were still in the shade as we turned onto the shortcut but we could see the sun on the 13,100 ridge above us. In between us and the sun stood a 4 foot snowdrift.
We trudged through the drift and worked our way up a steep single track trail and found ourselves finally in the sun a few minutes later. We picked the road back up and connected with 278A about a half mile later on relatively even terrain.
At the intersection of 278A and 277 we could see the work in front of us to reach Pt. 13,800
We were still on the road, but it was heavily drifted now. A solid foot of snow covered most parts but thankfully the far edge of the road was usually bare or minimally covered. Around 12,800 feet we had seen a tent and some tracks, but they stopped somewhere around 13,100 so we were now breaking trail.
We reached the saddle just below Pt. 13,800 in 25 minutes despite the fact that it was only a half mile. We weren’t struggling but we were moving slowly. Upon reaching the saddle, we were greeted with a view of Antero’s summit and our remaining route.
We took a quick water break and set to work on the remainder of the route. I was nervous about the dogs being able to get across the rockier section immediately in front of us, but thankfully there was a relatively straightforward trail through the section and it was not as challenging as it looked from a distance.
We found ourselves at the summit pitch 15 minutes later and we silently went to work. The pitch is not overly steep but the light snow had made much of rocks undependable and we had to consider and explore every step.
We were able to pick up the summer trail and follow it underneath the 14,269 foot summit. Once past the summit, we took a quick turn and approach the summit from the east, arriving on top 3:52 after we left the trailhead.
The summit was very chilly but they may have been exacerbated by the fact that we we’re drenched in sweat from the summit pitch climb that had left us extremely hot in the sun. There was minimal wind…always a nice thing to find on a summit.
We spent 15 minutes on the summit and began to work our way back down. We figured it would take us 45 minutes to get back to 13,800 with the technical terrain immediately in front of us, but the addition of microspikes (which we should have worn on the climb up too) allowed us to move much faster. We reached the 13,800 saddle in 25 minutes.
From here on out, the rest of the climb was on road and we made quick work of it. We kept our microspikes on for the entire down climb save a short section where we thought it was going to rocky for the rest of the way. We quickly realized how much more efficient we were with them on. We were back at the car 6:12 after we left it. Our summit to car trip had taken slightly less than 2 hours.
We did not see a single other person the entire day. Not on the road. Not on the trail. What a unique experience to have on Antero. We also saw no one coming up the first 3 miles of the 4WD road when we left so we can only assume that we were the only people to summit Antero on October 26, 2013. Fun fact of the day right there!
Antero is a straightforward and quick climb. I highly recommend taking advantage of it in similar conditions that we did as it seems to thin/eliminate the crowds. I haven’t fully decided yet, but it may just be my favorite 14er that I’ve done.
Mt. Antero Stats
Elevation Gain: 3,654 feet.
Mileage: 9.12 miles
Total Time: 6:12