October treat

Despite a rather significant fall snow in some parts of the state, the weekend weather was looking good for another climb. In particular the areas in the foothills to the east of the Continental Divide had around 2 feet of snow, and locally we had 8" in my town. For some reason though, the southern Sawatch mountains were mostly spared and only got a small accumulation. My friend James, who lives in Vail, and I met up Saturday morning to head down that way in the hopes of climbing Colorado's 75th highest peak, 13,870' Cronin Peak. The peak is named after the first woman to complete all of the Fourteeners back in 1921. It is located right next to 14,269' Mount Antero and offers views of several other fourteeners. An appropriate suspended island in the sky surrounded by a sea of peaks in recognition Mary Cronin's accomplishment. We weren't sure how the road conditions were going to be, seeing as the peak is located up in Baldwin Gulch, which is not plowed in winter. The road surprised us though, as there was only about 4" of snow on it, easily drivable for my 4WD. We made the 3 mile drive with no problems and parked at the trailhead at 10,840'. From here we headed up the jeep trail that climbs to Mt Antero's mines. We didn't stay on the road for long as our north ridge route quickly appeared through the trees to the right. We left the road and began hiking through the trees to the base of the ridge. After a quick snack we started up the ridge from about 11,500'. Still close to 2 miles and over 2300' of climbing to go. Initially the ridge was steep, but not too rocky. Then there was one short rocky section that required a little bit of class 3 and some careful route finding to avoid a couple of loose rocks. Once past this section there were a series of rolling false summits culminating in the highest false summit at 12,591'. This was a good place to have a snack before the final 1200 vertical foot push up the ridge. This final section went smooth, and in another hour we were on the summit admiring the far reaching views that included Pikes Peak and Uncompahgre Peak in the distance. We decided to descend a different way than our ascent and headed along the southwest ridge. We hit the low point on the ridge and dropped down snow covered slopes towards Baldwin Lake. There we found an elk trail through the snow that skirted the lake and led us back to the upper road. After another short break we hiked back down the road to the point where I was parked and headed back home. Sunday was another nice day, but instead of heading out on another peak I made it more of a lazy day. It was nice to get another peak in, and hopefully this Saturday I will be able to get in yet another climbing trip before switching to skis the following week. I should get my ski pass next Monday, and with 3 resorts already open and at least 2 more opening Friday there will be plenty of options to get re-aquainted with the snow!

The north ridge on Cronin Peak as seen from PT 12591: