Colorado: Medano Pass, Daisy Pass, and Mount Antero

SAS

Observer
#1
My son had some buddies out from the east coast for a week (they're all 18-19 years old), and they wanted to undertake some adventure and camping. They made some day trips from our home in Colorado Springs but were really anticipating the off-road experience and some camping.
We started on Tuesday evening by driving to Medano Pass and camping near the trailhead. Wednesday morning we made breakfast and struck camp, and drove the pass into Great Sand Dunes National Park.
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After playing around and climbing the dunes, we headed west via Highway 160 through Alamosa, Monte Vista, Del Norte, and South Fork to Highway 149 (Silver Thread Scenic Byway) to Creede, Lake City, and then on to Gunnison and Crested Butte.
We fueled-up and took the western leg of Paradise Divide, and drove up Daisy Pass to camp near the "glacier". The views were fantastic at sundown, and even more so the next morning as the sun rose on the mountain peaks.

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Thursday morning we had an ambitious plan to drive over Paradise Divide to Schofield Pass, drive down the "Devil's Punchbowl" and then view the Crystal Mill before returning to Crested Butte and hitting the highway for Buena Vista and attempt a late afternoon climb of Mount Antero (14,275' elevation).

Nature made our decision simple when we drove north/northeast over the Paradise Divide and found snow blocking the road a (relatively) short distance from the intersection with Schofield Pass. There were several snow drifts, but the greatest obstacle was a slide area (evidenced by lots of tree debris within the snow) that exceeded eight feet in height and probably twenty feet in width on the road.

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We decided at this point to turn and burn for Buena Vista and get on Antero near mid-day. Good thing, too, as I received a message later that day indicating the "Devil's Punchbowl" segment of Schofield Pass was blocked by a large rockslide; even had this snow not stopped us, the rockslide certainly would have!

The drive east on Highway 50 was uneventful. Having a little time to spare, I took the boys to see the Cruiser yard at Classic Cruisers (in Poncha Springs)--a spectacle for the Land Cruiser enthusiast! There were FJ40's, FJ55's, FJ60's and 62's, and even a few FJ/FZJ80s. Coincidentally, just minutes later when we stopped at the Hunger Junction (BBQ joint at Highways 50 and 285), Mica from Classic Cruisers pulls in and parks next to me--he's driving a Cummins 5.9L-converted FJ/HJ47 Troopy!

We finished lunch and sped up Highway 285 to Nathrop, Colorado and headed west toward St. Elmo on County Road 162. We found the Mount Antero trailhead marked with the "277" Forest Service sign, pulled off, locked-in the hubs, aired-down the tires, and began to creep up the rocky road. We encountered very little traffic, two hikers and one vehicle, before getting above treeline. Once here, the views really open up and one begins to see the scale of these mountains.

The road is very rocky but no obstacles were encountered which would prevent a stock 4x4 from making the approach. On the "lower switchbacks", the road is quite steep. The 2F was groaning and the wheels kept turning. We approached the "upper switchbacks", and were amazed with the panoramic views. We were also surprised to find a rolled Jeep Wrangler, which appeared to have only occurred that day or perhaps the prior day--though it is hard to tell. We stopped and cautiously approached the Jeep from the uphill side, just to verify that no one was inside. (Later, after descending the mountain, I contacted a friend who is a local and knows the 4x4 community and local USFS Ranger District well--he said the rollover was several days old, and he understood that a plan was organized to recover the Jeep as soon as Saturday).

We reached the end of the 4x4 road and parked, making preparations to climb the remaining 500 vertical feet to the summit. I estimate that it was approximately one mile from where we parked. The ascent was rocky and the wind was blowing! I estimate it was blowing 20-25mph with gusts around 40mph. Four of us plus my Black Lab, Sir Percival Blakeney, scrambled up the jagged ridge and loose rock. It took us about 30 minutes, but we reached the summit. Breathtakingly beautiful, we stood silently and just looked around.

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Anticipating that the wind was blowing a storm in, we scrambled back down the summit and began to drive the descent. The clouds actually broke and the sun shone upon us all the way into Buena Vista, where we grabbed an ice cream snack at K's and relaxed in the city park nearby. The drive home to Springs was pleasant, and we arrived at sundown. A perfect ending to a great adventure!
 

Ace Brown

Adventurer, Overland Certified OC0019
#2
Nice report. I’ve driven to the top of Mt Antero twice but have not hiked to the peak due to threatening weather. But some day.


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#4
This is awesome. I'm new to the cos area and looking for trails like this. Thanks for sharing I can't wait to get out and adventure.

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#5
Great report. I live in the Springs too, trying to think if I've seen your rig around town, I'm sure I have.

How was Meadano pass? Probably nearly water-free at the West end, I would expect. Was the sand firm that day? With the weather this weekend there should be a nice pulse of water into the creek.

The Devil's Punchbowl segment of that road above Gothic slides a lot. I was on a trail building trip several years ago, and we had to cross an area of basketball sized boulders and slurry after a slide just hours before. Subaru Forester, a Tundra and a Taco, a Hyundai Santa Fe, and a USFS F250 longbed made it after we hacked at the slide area with our picks and pulaskis for about 40 minutes.

I'm sure you would have made it at least to Crystal Mill had you gone Kebler Pass to 133 into Marble, but then you'd have to backtrack anyway back through Aspen over Independence Pass to get to Antero. Probably a much longer drive overall.
 

SAS

Observer
#6
Great report. I live in the Springs too, trying to think if I've seen your rig around town, I'm sure I have.

How was Meadano pass? Probably nearly water-free at the West end, I would expect. Was the sand firm that day? .
Thanks! The pass was pretty dry but there were still spots of running water coming down the area where there is a turnoff to the reservoir (downhill from the open gate and fence marking the "national preserve"). The deepest crossing was about 16-18", others downstream (with stone bottoms) were in the 10-12" range.

The teen boys climbed the dunes, they said it was not firm, haha.
 
#7
Nice report!

Those snow banks have re-routed many a path. Even late in the (summer) season, and not on mnt passes. (Somewhere south of the Medicine Bow area, WY near Libby flats) photo 3.JPG photo 4.JPG


(No we didn't make it over that - haha)
 
#8
Nice report. Being from Pueblo, the dunes are pretty close and I've run that trail since college. Great easy run with the dunes on the backside as a bonus. It's a fun trail to do in the fall for a color run when the aspens are changing. Consider this as an option too, run Medano east to west and head back to alamosa and go north on 285. You can link up to Hayden pass that will take you back out of the San Luis valley and pops back out on hwy 50 again between Salida and canon city. Both passes are the only 4x4 trails that connect the valley with the front range. Hayden is a little more challenging that Medano, but just because it gets steep in spots. It's not a rock crawling trail.

I've done Antero before too. Very high up above the trees on most of the switchbacks. My old K5 used up every inch of width on the trail too. Browns lake is down the backside you could camp near too. Nobody stays up there, but it's awesome in its seclusion. I follow a CO 4x4 recovery on fb and they had a full write up in the last few days about recovering the jeep you saw. They righted it, lowered it down to the next shelf and managed to get in running enough to drive it down. It was tethered to another truck for safety just in case though.

I want to hit schofield pass and the punchbowl this summer at some point too.
 
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