This past Friday Steve, Jason, and I managed to finagle a day off from work to take advantage of a picture perfect state-wide weather forecast. The three of us set off from the Antero trailhead with the intention of exploring the Baldwin Creek drainage to the west of Cronin Peak. If all went well we hoped to summit Mt. Mamma from there, and maybe its immediate neighbor, Boulder Mountain as well.
Residing in the southern-Sawatch 3 miles southeast of St. Elmo, bicentennial 13er Mt. Mamma does a good job of hiding from view behind several higher peaks that surround it. It most often seems to be combined with Boulder Mountain as a summer/fall ridge run, and maybe occasionally with Grizzly Mountain to the south as well. With a long road approach and gentle slopes on its south side, Mamma seemed like a logical option for a winter ski approach. Turns out it was.
Steve was toying around with an experiment of sorts on this day – it was his first time on AT skis for awhile and the first time he’d worn his ski boots. His usual blistering pace was tempered somewhat by his POMRanian setup – heavy boots clicked into a pair of five and a half pound bindings mounted on an old pair of resort skis. Not exactly ideal for a six mile skin approach. He handled it like a champ though, never complaining and still making fine time.
We broke trail beyond the road split and pulled up to the shores of Baldwin Lake just before noon. Jason was feeling a tad under the weather as well, having been at sea level all week as well as getting over a cold. We took a look at the map and contemplated just calling it a day and skiing back down to our beer and sandals, but ultimately we convinced ourselves to keep moving as the day was gorgeous and none of us had anywhere else to be.
After working our way higher up through a grove of trees we eventually caught a glimpse of Mt. Mamma and the remaining route to the summit. There appeared to be a series of snow strips connecting the summit ridge down to the bowl below, which was definitely a tad motivating. At this point Steve was really struggling with his setup and decided to throw in the towel. Steve buddy, let me know if you want help lightening that thing up at all.
Jason and I pressed on under the afternoon sun, working our way up and around a large moraine, past the abandoned mine at 12,500 ft, and up the south face of Mt. Mamma. Thanks to the recent snows and relatively low slope angle, we were able to skin all the way to the summit ridge by linking snow strips up the face. Once on the summit ridge, continuous now nestled up to maybe ten feet below the true summit. Not bad for mid-February if you ask me.
On the summit Jason and I we were treated with a calm breeze and gorgeous 360 degree views of the southern-Sawatch. Uncompahgre’s blocky and unmistakable profile was visible to the southeast as well. Some summit shots:
With Steve waiting down below, the hour growing late, and Boulder Mountain looking pretty far away, we made the decision to blow off the second peak and get on with the ski out. Neither of us took many ski photos as it wasn’t exactly what I would call photogenic. Re-freezing snow created a breakable crust layer at just the right time for our descent, which was tough to work through and didn’t lend itself to linking very many decent turns. Down lower we did find some softer snow in the trees however.
We rendezvoused with Steve below treeline and skied out Baldwin Creek back to the Antero road junction. As we passed underneath Antero’s slopes, the sun ducked behind the horizon and bathed the landscape above in an awesome alpine sunset.
The familiar road luge went quickly and we were back at the car just after dark. Apparently La Cumbre is distributing in Colorado now, and their Elevation IPA provided a fitting end to a tough, but enjoyable day in the hills.
Steve and Jason, it was great to see you gents again. Jason, I hope you’re feeling a little better man. And Steve, let’s lighten up your setup a tad and when you go back, you can get Boulder too ;).