“That type II fun, that ‘fun when it’s over’ fun, is the best type of fun, because that’s the fun that requires suffering and hard work to achieve. Those are the great accomplishments in the long run. Those that take you out of your comfort zone, that take you to a point where you aren’t really sure you’ll be able to accomplish what you’re supposed to do.” –Cedar Wright
The past few weeks I have been obsessing about getting out and hiking with my backpack and gear that I’ll use on the PCT. I’ve strategically stuck to the foothills near Denver in order to hike big days, and not have to deal with too much snow. This would be the closest thing I would get to the start of my hike in Southern California. However, a bunch of my friends had been planning a hike up Mount Antero for the past month. I did a ton of hiking with this great group of friends the past summer, and I’m really going to miss hiking with them this year, so I really wanted to do this hike! Although it would be snowshoeing without my backpack and PCT gear, it would still be hiking approximately 15 miles, and gaining close to 5k feet in elevation. At the very least, I would get a good workout, and climb a lot, even if it was on soft snow.
Ali picked me up Friday night, and we made the 2.5 hour drive the trailhead for Mount Antero, just Southwest of Buena Vista, in the Sawatch Range. The trailhead sits at 9,500 feet, and the night was surprisingly warm. It was my first time out in the mountains overnight in months (thank you, busy season), and the stars were amazing! That is one thing that will always amaze me, the clarity of the stars and the milky way out in the mountains. It felt great to be back.
At 6:30 AM, our friends met us at the trailhead, and we quickly loaded up all of our gear and set out. It was great to see many of my friends, including Nicolas, Justin, Sheryl, Krista, Scott, Tammy, Richard, and Brent. Its funny how I associate these friends with mountain adventures. Every time we get together, I know we’re going to be having a lot of fun, and likely suffering the whole way through as we push our limits as we attempt to conquer all of Colorado. They are all Type II 🙂
I had decided to bring my skis and boots, as I wanted to try skiing down as much of the mountain as possible. This was a good choice in the long run, but man did it make my pack heavy going up. The first 4 or 5 miles of the trail were in the trees climbing up Baldwin Gulch. It was a beautiful morning, with a strong sun and blue skies. As we reached higher and higher, the views of the Sawatch range really started to come into view. I was especially enamored with Cronin Peak, just West of Antero. It had a very defined ridge to the summit, and is definitely a mountain I am going to put near the top of my list.
Eventually, the weight of my pack became too heavy with the skis and boots, and I decided to drop them right near tree line. I was sweating profusely, and knew that if I kept pushing it this hard, I would get uncomfortably cold. The last thing you ever want to do in a cold, windy, alpine environment is to sweat. The second you stop hiking, the mix of moisture on you, and the biting winds will cut right though you, and you’ll have no choice but to keep moving on to stay warm. I had hoped to bring the skis to the summit, but it just wasn’t going to happen.
A video from Justin of the wind:
Shortly after, the winds started picking up. Before we left for this hike, the moutain forecast called for sustained 20-30 mph winds, with gusts as high as 50. However, it soon became clear as we marched upward that this was much more than we had anticipated. Before we got too high, I noticed that the face of Mount Antero that we would be climbing looked awfully bare of snow.
It was SO windy!
This originally excited me, as climbing on rock would be much easier. However, as we got closer and the winds picked up, it was obvious that the mountains slopes were bare due to being scorched by the constant winter winds. It was pretty miserable climbing up, and extermely hard keeping my balance on the rocks with the wind pushing me around. Despite the discomforts, my friends and I kept pushing on.
Still, so windy:
We made it to the ridge, continually getting pounded from the stiff cross winds, and despite everyones clear pain and misery, we decided to push on. At 13,810 feet, we got our first view of the summit. It was only .5 miles away, and only a few hundred feet higher at 14,269 feet. We had already gained over 4,000 feet, so the extra few hundred to get to the summit would not be a bid deal. However, the ridge leading to the summit was very snowy and narrow, and the South side of the ridge that was out of the wind was steep and covered in snow. The only other option was to stay on the narrow ridge, but the wind was so forceful that it would be difficult to keep your footing and safely traverse it to the summit. We’re already a group of very stubborn individuals when it comes to tackling goals, and we had just spent half a day climbing and dealing with this wind to get this close to the summit. It was a bit difficult, but we made the decision that it was not safe enough to attempt. Antero 1, Steven & hiking buddies 0.
On the way down, it started to get miserable. We were taking the wind face first, and it was so consistent and cold that you couldn’t take your hands out of your mittens for more than a few seconds without feeling the burn. Because of the several hours of exposure to this, I had neglected my thirst and hunger. I had hiked nearly 10 miles in the snow, and gained nearly 4,500 feet over several hours, and all I had eaten was a banana nut muffin. My energy was sapped, I was clearly dehydrated, and the elevation was definitely affecting me. Luckily on the way down I was able to glissade on the steep snow, and as soon as I got back to where I had placed my skis and boots, I began the nice, easy cruise back down to the trailhead. I was the only one to pack full skis and boots, and as such arrived at the trailhead much sooner than others. You can see my route here: http://share.findmespot.com/shared/faces/viewspots.jsp?glId=0s2GnrYbdzP6qd59sU5sk2G6JigmOTlbz
I enjoyed a nice little nap on the snow, and told myself that I was not going to attempt any more 14ers before my hike. The wind was just brutal, and 95% of the time I was uncomfortable and annoyed with the conditions. Yet, after only a day, the memories that I’m left with are those of fun times with friends, and the beautiful views of the snowcapped mountains. It’s that type II fun, where you know you’ll look back at this adventure fondly and remember the beautiful parts of the day, that keep me coming back for more. My friends and I talk about this often, as we put ourselves through “mini” sufferfests all summer to get the best views, and see the beauty that is beyond what you can easily drive to. That effort, that struggle, is what makes it so rewarding, so worthwhile. Being in many of those situations with all of my friends is what brings us closer. Sir Edmond Hilary said “It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.” This quote is definitely true for me, and I feel that others would agree. Sharing those memories and moments of growth with friends is something I’ll always remember, well after my days of climbing and adventuring are over.