Stunning vistas from Colorado’s 11-highest peak
Story and photos by Kim Fenske
Mount Antero, 14,269 feet, may rank high among the ugliest Fourteeners in Colorado. The peak has been abused by mining digs and cut with four-wheel-drive vehicle pathways for decades. During peak summer season, Antero can be crowded, dusty, and noisy with heavy traffic of all-terrain-vehicles.
Despite the blemishes created by modern machinery, Antero offers spectacular views of its neighbors, Mount Shavano, 14,229 feet, and Tabeguache Peak, 14,155 feet, to the south; as well as Mount Princeton, 14,197 feet, to the north.
Mount Antero is the 11-highest peak in Colorado, named for Chief Antero of the Uintah band of Utes.
Driving south from Buena Vista, I turned west on the first road past Nathrop. I followed Chaffee County Road 162 12 miles to the small trailhead parking area at Baldwin Gulch, where Forest Service Road 277 begins winding south toward the base of Mount Antero.
Almost a vertical mile below the summit, I began a quiet evening walk skirting the west face of Antero beside a stream rushing down from the valley, In anhour and a half, I covered three miles of rough dirt road and ascended 2,000feet to the wobbly stepping stones that led across the stream.
Once across the water, I found a plush tent pad a hundred steps east of the stream, among fir trees and willow thickets. As I unrolled my bundled tent, I was startledby a slight movement in the brush. A bear with the blended colors of the seasonal transition bounced past me and vanished into the forest.
I settled into my sleeping bag as alpenglow left the valley. Darkness and silence envelopeme. When I arose in the late chill of night, I prepared a large pot of pasta and cheese before the sun began brightening the sky. By 8 a.m. I had almost reached tree-line on the jeep road switchbacks ascending toward the summit. A few snowdrifts still covered the road on the exposed slopes. Three miles above the stream crossing, the road split, with a branch crossing a broad saddle to Mount White, while the road winding north continued toward the final ridge before the summit.
Four miles above my base camp, the jeep road ended at about 13,700 feet. A powerful wind rolled over the jagged boulders that formed the sharp ridge ahead. Steadying my stance against strong gusts with every step, I finished the final 600 vertical feet to the snowcapped summit in an hour. Despite standing in the brilliant noon-day sun, I wished that I was wearing down mittens rather than thin summer gloves. However, I stripped layers of clothing and finished my second quart of water on the descent to base camp. After breaking camp, I completed the solitary fifteen-mile circuit to the trailhead at 5 p.m. ,finishing a 12-hour workout in a warm pool of sweat.
Kim Fenske is a former wilderness ranger, firefighter who has hiked thousands of miles in the Colorado mountains. He has served on the board of directors of Friends of the Eagles Nest Wilderness Area.
Fenske has authored several hiking books filled with hundreds of photographs of Colorado wildlife, wildflowers, and scenery. His books are enjoyed by thousands of outdoor enthusiasts. His current electronic book titles are published on Amazon for Kindle, as well as Barnes and Noble for Nook. Search for these titles: “Greatest Hikes in Central Colorado,” “Holy Cross Wilderness Area,” and “Eagles Nest Wilderness Area.”
Kim’s winter 14er series:
- Colorado: Snowy tracks on Mt. Yale
- Colorado: Climbing La Plata Peak
- Colorado: A winter climb of Huron Peak
- Colorado: A winter climb of Quandary Peak
- Colorado: Winter hiking in the Collegiate Range
- Colorado: Scary moments on Mt. Elbert
- Colorado: A winter hike up Grays and Torreys
- Colorado: Exploring Mt. Massive
- Colorado: Around the Wetterhorn
- Colorado: Hiking Mount Harvard
- Colorado: Summiting Sneffels
- Colorado: A fall hike on Castle Peak
- A hike to Windom Peak, Sunlight Peak, and Mount Eolus
- A Colorado classic: Longs Peak