| Tab and Shav: Third time a charm!
Tabeguache was the goal today.
This trip was three years in the making. The first time I attempted the combination of Shavano and Tabeguache, we got chased off the summit of Shavano by a thunderstorm which had rapidly appeared once we got on top. After ten minutes of contemplating going on to Tab, we deemed it unwise to continue. As such, we turned back, feeling defeated. Weather thwarted another attempt a few months later which was aborted... Earlier this Spring, I attempted Tabeguache from Brown's Creek, but after getting within spitting distance of the northern slopes, it started to snow, hail and otherwise look pretty grim, not to mention the deep snow I'd have to continue walking through. It wasn't meant to be that day either.
I was back today to target Tabeguache again and by default, Shavano.
The weather forecast was solid, with an uncharacteristically low chance of rain, so I planned on getting started at about 5AM, solo. I was feeling strong, having done Mt. Evans and Spalding the day before and had a good night’s sleep. However, due to my underestimating the time it would take to get up the trailhead road, I started a bit later than expected and didn't even need my headlamp. I started out on the trail at 6:00AM.
The trail begins right out of the parking lot and you enter a pleasant forest of Aspen. Take care walking along this portion of the route, especially in the dark, as you might stumble upon a few surprises. Last time we did this, we started at 4AM; a huge black shape the size of a Toyota Corolla, appeared just off the trail in the brush in the early morning darkness. Seeing the large black shadowy figure bathed in the waning moonlight, steam rising from its mouth and knowing it was far too big to be a bear, I realized it must have been a rare Sawatch Sasquatch ...until it started mooing... and I realized it was one of the many cows that reside here.
I spotted two cows this morning. Cows are much less intimidating when you see them in broad daylight, lounging in the pasture.
You are soon you are met by a comforting sign that you're on the right track.
The trail soon begins to climb in earnest and continues relentlessly, following a stream in the beginning before getting steeper. It becomes a bit tricky to follow in spots, so pay attention if you haven't been here before or are navigating by headlamp (which we did the first time).
As you climb up, occasionally, you can glimpse panoramic views of the valley below.
The route takes you through, up and into an aromatic forest of pine, spruce and fir, the trees becoming progressively more stunted as you gain altitude and the exposure to the elements increases.
Stunted Spruce were growing along the route in a thick, seemingly manicured ground-cover pattern.
Due to the harsh environment here and indicative of the prevailing wind direction, several trees take on a Krummholz configuration.
The sweeping expanse of Shavano's eastern slopes soon filled the view as the size of the mountain becomes apparent. Bluebird skies all the way!
Approaching the terrain near the saddle between Shavano and Point 13,630, the summit of Shavano comes into view. The wind also picks up here, to the point I need to secure my baseball cap to keep it from blowing away. Can't lose the lucky cap!
Another 20 minutes later I find myself on the upper reaches of Shavano's rocky southern slopes. The first photo shows a couple of folks climbing up nearing the top.
A beautiful clear day continued as I climbed up and was soon on top! Clear skies all the way. It was 9:25AM.
Below is a shot from the last time I was on the summit of Shavano in September 2008 when a storm and rapidly approaching clouds forced us to turn back and abandon plans for Tab. An hour after our decision to get down, it started hailing, thundering and lightning. We were really glad to be below treeline...
I told myself when I started this morning, that I’d only attempt going to Tab if I was feeling strong and there was not a cloud in the sky. Luckily, and incredibly, skies were solid blue horizon to horizon with just a few small puffs in the distance. I don’t even remember seeing such nearly cloudless skies in Colorado in early August. Motivated, I decided to move onwards to Tabeguache. I postponed having my customary Summit Snickers, and got a move on towards Tab, moving as quickly and safely as I could over the rocky terrain. I felt like I was moving across a rock jetty like those on Long Island Sound in New York, except with no fishing rod in my hands.
The below shot shows the terrain to surmount to get to Tabeguache (the peak to the left).
Two climbers make their way over the connecting ridge towards Tabeguache.
A closeup of some of the terrain on the connecting ridge from Shavano and Tabeguache; There are broken trail segments here and there, but you'll have to do some rock hopping to get across.
Tabeguache, getting closer...
On the summit of Tabeguache! 53 minutes from when I left Shavano. I am sure most people can do it faster, but this is to give some folks a rough estimate of timing.
A couple behind me coming up the final stretch on Tab, looking roughly east...
The view from the summit
Looking down towards Carbonate Mountain into the Sawatch
I didn't stay too long on the summit, and soon turned around after snapping a few shots, always concerned of weather suddenly moving in, since it has happened before from blue skies turning dark in minutes...though the skies seemed to be holding...fingers crossed. I kept my eyes on those little puffs in the distance...
A view of Shavano from the summit of Tabeguache.
Coming back starting the climb back up Shavano...no real exposure here, just some rock hopping up and across. Be careful you don't veer off to the left too much or else you'll be on uncomfortable terrain and need to climb back up to the right to re-summit Shavano.
Climbing back up Shavano; you can see a couple folks still coming down here...and I thought I was late getting back. Skies however, were holding wonderfully. No rushing today.
It took roughly the exact same time from Tabeguache-Shavano as getting from Shavano to Tabeguache; 55 minutes this time.
Moving down from Shavano onto flatter terrain before beginning the traverse across the long eastern slopes back to treeline. (make sure you have your sunblock here as you’re exposed to the sun the whole time).
I like the below photo and how it emphasizes the wide sweeping landscape of the saddle area off Shavano. The trail is clearly visible here, showing scale of how large this place is. The wind here was pretty strong, estimated 40-50mph in gusts.
All in, it was a wonderful day in the mountains and a fairly uneventful descent (thankfully).
Looking back from the road leaving the trailhead...
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):