Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Mount Antero

Yesterday I ran up Mount Antero, my 24th fourteener. It was an awesome day and I'm so glad I did it!

I set my alarm for 4:00, but for some reason I was wide awake at 2:30. I tried desperately to fall back asleep for some much needed rest, but it just didn't work. So at 3:40 I decided it was time to get the show on the road. I got dressed, ate a little breakfast, and was on my way to Buena Vista at 4.

The drive was uneventful, but the sunrise over South Park was amazing. It's so neat how just before dawn you start to see the outlines of the mountains and then they gradually become illuminated by the morning sun. After a quick stop in Fairplay, I made a beeline for the trailhead and parked the car at 7:00. I decided that I wanted to start at the lower trailhead at 9,400 feet rather than try to take the XTerra up the 4-wheel drive road at 10,800. First of all, I wanted the longer distance as a training run for September's Imogene Pass Run and secondly, I was worried about driving up a steep 4-wheel drive road on my own.

At 7:10 I hit the trail and was able to run very steadily the first three miles to the upper trailhead. The road was rocky and wet, but I was able to get a pretty good footing the whole way. The one downer was that it was pitched to the left the whole time, so my right leg was not so happy. I got a few knots in my calf that I had to keep stretching out. The road followed a gorgeous creek with light colored rocks. There were also aspen and pine trees that seemed to climb a mile up into the sky.

The upper trailhead allowed views of the surrounding peaks. They looked like giants from my vantage point and I wondered how I would ever make it to the top. I crossed the stream and continued on. The next mile or so continued along the creek and passed many small pullouts perfect for camping. About and hour and a half into my run, I saw the first people of my trip---a large party camping along the road. I quietly ran by, pretending I didn't see or smell their illegal campfire.

Soon I was finally at the treeline. I could see endless switchbacks snaking their way up the mountain. I didn't realize what a popular 4-wheel drive area this was. There was an extensive "trail" system and even well-marked maps displayed by the High Rockies Off Road Vehicle Club. At this point I ran into a hiker. This older gentlemen was dressed in jeans and nice cowboy boots. He told me he was a "digger" and that his ATV broke down so he was hiking back to "basecamp" to get a replacement part. Ok....fair enough. For a while after we passed I wondered if he really said "digger" and carried on up the switchbacks.

After what seemed to be an eternity I got to the upper regions of the mountains. Here I saw my first ATV of the day (a friendly couple who I saw in the parking lot earlier) and continued on the southern side of the mountain. All the trip reports and trail guides I read said to stay on the road/trail, even when it looked like you could just slog up the scree, stay on the road. So, that's what I did. At one point I did cut a switchback because I thought the road was ending and the scree was super loose and steep. Thankfully, the road continued and I ran up a few more switchbacks. Suddenly, I came to a flat saddle between point 13800 and Mount Antero. The stone and sand were white and the road just ended. I looked to my right and saw a formidable ridge. I thought, "that can't be it, that looks crazy!" I took out my trail description and map and realized it was, in fact, the way to the summit. Gerry Roach described it as class 2 hiking, so I went on my way.

The ridge was actually not bad at all. There was a bit of a trail going through the really rocky part and it led pretty quickly the the summit hill. I scrambled up the talus and made it to the top in just under 3 hours---2:58! To my surprise there were 4 other people on top. A father and daughter and two guys from Germany (I think). It was beautiful on top, but already the clouds were building and I wanted to get down quickly since the treeline was probably an hour and a half away. They were all a bit surprised I had run from the lower trailhead.

I took a few pictures, texted Dan, ate a snack, and headed down. The switchbacks were fun to run and I made it to treeline in less than an hour. Here I started to see more ATVs and 4-wheel drive trucks. Actually, in all I saw 16 (and 2 marmots, 4 pikas, and countless chipmunks---I like counting things :-) People in the ATVs were telling me I was crazy, making them look bad, etc., etc. Pretty funny! Then, just minutes from the car I ran into my digger friend. Turns out he and his buddies dig for aquamarine on the other side of the mountain. Modern miners! Crazy! His friend was trying to get me to join them as they needed people with "my kind of stamina." I don't think so! I got to the car less than two hours after reaching the summit (1:52). What a great day!

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