A Taste of Spring on Mt. Mamma

      10 Comments on A Taste of Spring on Mt. Mamma
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Connecting snowfields up the south face of Mt. Mamma (13,646 ft) in the southern-Sawatch. Click all photos to enlarge.

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.

Trenching beyond the Antero road split. Lots of new snow fell in the previous week.

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.

Meadow skipping on a hot February day. That’s Cronin’s west face in back.

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.

Jason scoping out potential routes up Mamma. The large bowl directly ahead of him was the only time we had to think about our terrain selection all day.

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.

Getting higher with the Cronin/Grizzly connecting ridge in the background.

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.

We took the obvious leftward trending snow strip straight up the middle of the face to the summit ridge.

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.

Enjoying the views just below the summit with the ski route (if you could call it that) heading down and to the right.

Mamma’s snowy summit within striking distance.

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:

Summit panorama.

Looking across at what most maps call the true summit of Mt. Mamma. It’s actually a sub-point with 50 ft of prominence.

Connecting ridge over to Grizzly Mountain.

Our mugs, looking better than we were feeling I think.

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.

Jason making a few of the better turns of the day with the sun on the wane.

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.

Parting shot of Antero.

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.

Map Code

Map of the route generated at 14ers.com. Most maps have the true summit of Mt. Mamma incorrectly labeled as a sub-point to the north of the true summit. Pt. 13,646 is actually the summit.

Cheers, and thanks for reading.

10 thoughts on “A Taste of Spring on Mt. Mamma

  1. Steve

    You’re too kind, Ben; I think I should have been able to make it. But snow conditions and my bulky AT gear aside, it was an absolutely perfect day and I enjoyed the snowy sweatfest with you and Jason!

  2. Brandon Chalk

    Nice work, fellas. I’ve never heard of Mt. Mamma, but I like the name of that peak 🙂 Man, it it sure looks like spring back there. Warm days and corn snow – I cannot wait!

    1. Ben Post author

      Thanks Chalk, it was very reminiscent of spring. We just need some of those stickier storms to fill things in up high and we’ll be off to the races! Looking forward to skiing some stuff with ya man 🙂 Let’s hope El Nino is generous.

  3. jblyth

    Mamma mia! That day took everything I had….much tougher than I anticipated. Couldn’t have asked for better company or weather, thanks fellas!

    1. Ben Post author

      Same here Jason, was good to get out with you again! That butt kicking will go a long way towards getting us ready for spring…

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