For a long loop up high in the Southern Sawatch Range, it’s worth visiting the region around Cronin Peak and the 14er Mount Antero. Jeep roads that remain from the old mining days allow you to get up high quickly, and since this region doesn’t typically get a lot of snowfall, the trails and summits can be relatively snow-free earlier than other parts of the state. If you’re looking to get up on a summit or two as part of your day, there are no fewer than ten ranked 13ers and 14ers in this cluster of mountains.
We’ve climbed and skied several of the peaks in this group through the years, and we were aiming to get on top of about four new ones. We made a plan to start at the bottom of the Baldwin Gulch Jeep Road and take it as high as we could in the direction of Baldwin Lake and Mount Mamma. From the summit of Mount Mamma, a long ridge heads south/southeast over Grizzly Mountain, Cyclone Peak, and Carbonate Peak.
We figured that from Carbonate Peak, the final summit, we could descend east into Upper Browns Creek. That would allow us to hook up with the old mining road by Mount White and Mount Antero, and give us an easy jeep road descent back down to where we started. Looking at it from above, it basically makes a large lollipop loop around Cronin Peak, a Centennial 13er. So we just named it the “Cronin Peak Loop” for the day.
Getting up and down the roads are easy, they’re rough for driving but fine for a trail runner. Once on the ridges the terrain is pretty rocky and travel isn’t as fast. As far as the rough stats for our loop went: it was just about 20 miles in length and climbed between 7000-8000 vertical feet (depending on which device we consulted). We were out for about 10 hours.
From our point of view, the only negative aspect of a day in this region is the likelihood of encountering a lot of off-road vehicles down low. Apart from that, it’s a really cool area for peakbagging and spending time up high. Our route is just one way to set it up, it would be easy to change our route in both length and which summits you reach. If you look at the map and know where the roads lead, you can do all sorts of different peak link-ups.
Because of the amount of time you spend up on ridges above 13,000 feet, it’s critical that you pick a day with a low chance of weather. This region of the Sawatch can see pretty nasty afternoon T-storms and if you’re on these ridges, there isn’t anywhere to run and hide if you get caught. So pick a nice day and you’ll have more fun.