West Ridge between Point 13,936 and Tabeguache
After struggling up the Angel of Shavano and failing to make the traverse over to Tabeguache this past May, I decided to give Tab another try. My wife, having researched several trip reports and consulting one of our three copies of Roach's book, suggested we try the West Ridge route. We left the car at 4am and walked up the road to the trailhead, which we located the night before (the trailhead can be difficult to find unless you carefully measure the 7.6 miles from highway 50 or use GPS coordinates). We reached the trail and headed into the woods. I love the predawn time spent on the trail, and it is always an added bonus to be in the company of a full moon. The trail was easy to follow with our headlamps and we made decent time on this section. Still under the cover of darkness, we reached the small pond which marks the point where the West Ridge route leaves the closed Southwest Ridge Trail. The term 'bushwhacking' sends chills down my spine and I was expecting the worst, but the valley turned out to be a very pleasant off trail hike all the way to the saddle.
Approximate route through the valley in blue, naughty route in red (taken from just above the saddle on return)
As the sun began to light the morning sky, we became aware of all the flowers that filled the valley.
The hills are alive...Bert strikes her 'Sound of Music' pose
The number of Columbine alone was incredible. If Enos Mills were alive today he would have ate two raisins, wrestled a bear, and then proceded to count 2,153,829 individual Columbines. This is, of course, a gross exaggeration, but it was definately the most Columbine I have ever seen on a hike before. We gradually made our way up to the saddle.
Carbonate Mountain from the saddle
We took a short break at the saddle and started the slow, steep scree ascent toward the intimidating false summit that is Point 13,936. I knew this was a false summit, so I wasn't surprised when I saw Tabeguache come into view behind it. I was, however, expecting the ridge between the two to be an easy little stroll, but there are several minor summits in between that must be either skirted or climbed over.
First of the minor summits
One bonus of climbing over these is a short class 3 down climb on the final minor summit.
Final minor summit downclimb
We reached the summit in a mere five and a half hours (gulp...that's why we start early).