Mount Antero is the 10th highest peak in Colorado and is easily visible from the US285 highway in the Arkansas River Valley. But the mountain has a lot of scars caused by mining activities and road building, so I found it really difficult to appreciate this mountain.
I woke up in the car at 06:00 next to the Cascade Campground. The previous evening I did not have small change so I was not able to pay in the self-service station at the National Forest campground. Thus I slept in my car.
To get to the Cascade Campground I turned left (west) onto Chaffee County 162 (paved) near Johnson Village south of Buena Vista. After 15 kilometres (9,6 miles) on this road I arrived Cascade Campground. But this is not the trailhead. To get to Baldwin Gulch Trailhead, I continued on Chaffee County 162 for an additional 3-4 kilometres (2 miles). There is a parking lot both on the north and south side of the road. 4WD vehicles can continue on the Baldwin Gulch Road almost to the summit of Antero, but I had no desire to drive up this rough and steep road with my rented Jeep.
Mount Antero (4349)
I started to walk 07:15 from the Baldwin Gulch Trailhead and the elevation here was only 2880 metres. It was easy going on the 4WD road but it took a long time (almost 1,5 hours) to reach the junction, where one road continues to Baldwin Lake and the other one to Mount Antero. I was not very surprised to see several 4WD vehicles parked at this junction, because I know that Colorado people are used to rough roads and they usually drive as high as possible to make the approach to a 14’er as short as possible. I measured this junction to be approx 3300 metres high.
I crossed a stream and continued on the rough Antero road to reach the tree line. From here I could see the upper part of the road and all its switchbacks on Mount Antero west slopes. Not a very beautiful sight. Higher up I did a couple of shortcuts, simply to get off the road and to speed up the ascent. The road eventually reached a levelled area and from here I left the road and aimed for Antero’s south ridge. First I reached point 13820, and then I descended some few metres to a saddle. Slightly east of this saddle I could see a small parking lot and the end of the Antero road. People who drive all the way up here to 4100 metres, and then hike to the summit, can’t claim to have ascended Antero. That’s for sure.
I scrambled up the south ridge (class 2), where I passed a lady and then two more people just below the summit. There was a small cairn on the summit (4349m) and once more I started to ask myself why so few 14’ers actually have a cairn on the summit. In Norway there are normally huge summit cairns, especially on frequently climbed peaks. But here in Colorado it seems to be the exception rather than the rule. Maybe I will offer a couple of hours a day, to build a really distinct cairn on a 14’er, but that will not be on Mount Antero.
I found myself a windless spot and rested for 20-30 minutes before I started to descend. When I came down to the 4WD parking lot I could see 3 vehicles. But those people seemed to be more interested in collecting rocks and study the geology than actually climbing Antero, probably some kind of scientists or gem collectors.
A silly idea
I could see Mount Shavano and Tabaguache Peak right across the valley, and suddenly I got a crazy idea to climb them as well. The weather was still perfect, and I expected no thunderstorms for the next few hours. But after I had studied the map and done some serious thinking, I abandoned the idea. I would loose too much elevation when I crossed the valley, and later in the day it would require a lot of effort to return. So I decided to wait until tomorrow to climb these peaks.
Instead of following the road I took a shortcut down the grassy west slopes, and soon I reached the tree line. From there I walked on the seemingly endless 4WD road before I finally reached the lower situated parking lot and my car. It had been a quite long an exhausting day, but I was glad to find out that the injury in my left leg was almost entirely healed.