| North Face ‘07
Since all my 4x4 rambles up the Baldwin Creek road over Antero in OlBlue, I guess I had taken for granted that Tabeguache would make an accessible late season descent. In reality, Tab is very hard to get. The north face is the only side that holds continuous snow most years. This immediately ruled out access from Jennings Creek, which was the closest at that time of the year. (Incredible access to Aetna, though. Approach from Baldwin was only practical in conjunction with Antero, which was already out of condition. That left Browns, shudder. I had made it to Browns Lake last weekend hiking my bike most of the way up there from the Colorado Trail, and then getting hailed out. I had caught a good view of the snowy north face of Tab, and it stuck in my mind all week.
Heidi and I returned to Raspberry Gulch on Memorial weekend, spending the day riding the Colorado Trail, and soaking in the Princeton Hot Springs. At 3:30 am, I was riding along the mellow stretch of the Colorado under the weak beams of a LED headlamp. My old Bullseye cranks ground and rumbled, moaned and chirped. It was chilly down here, so I expected a good freeze up on the mountain. The splitboard and boots added a significant burden. I was walking several sections up by the intersection with the Browns Creek trail. The bike would be a knee saver for the way down, but I really felt like some kind of freak for awhile out there. After all, most of the southern Sawatch looked dry from the highway, only a thin strip here and there left by a cornice, or drifted gully. The moon wandered over to the west side. Crossing a large meadow after the entrance to Browns, I had decided to stash the bike near the falls to avoid injury later on the rough upper sections. I hiked in my Kofachs from there. My pack was noticeably lighter. The birds cued the sunrise. I had to admit that though it was a beautiful trail, it was just not very conducive to bikes. I crossed the creek above the lake, and then a tangle of willows. I put skins on in the trees, and headed for a deep gulch left, or east of the north face. A couple of stones made there way to the bottom of this trench, but they moved relatively slow, and parked in the middle. Still, I moved quickly through these blind corners, since an east facing slope joined the corridor halfway up. I followed a less prominent gully to a triangular rock perched in the talus. I had skinned to that point, slowly made the saddle of Jones, then right to the saddle of Shavano and Tabeguache on skins again.
Shavano tempted me with a false summit. Looking again from the summit of Tab, a figure stood on Shavano. Nice view of the Arkansas and San Luis Valley, but the dunes were barely visible in the forest fire haze. Blanca was unmistakable, though. My phone rang at noon, it was Heidi. I guessed it would be three more hours to get back. I assembled the board on the summit, and made several boot adjustments.
Tabeguache from Antero (different trip)
I had noticed a few things about this run: first, the trail register indicated it had been skied sometime during the previous week (Frank, Crested Butte). I could trace out the old tracks down the steep couloir skiers right. One had taken a more central line. Secondly, the most recent storm had cross loaded these NE aspects on firm spring snow. The steep roll-over half way down this Easterly one-sided fall-line had triggered during that loading event, then faded with time, and the melt-freeze during the week, locking it up again. I rode close to the dry right side most of the way.
Great corn turns into the cirque, and down to treeline. I did not quite make it to the willows, before falling through the bridge layer into deep slurpee.
I skinned out, and crossed the meadow of willows to dry ground for a late lunch. I was glad to have poles for the rocky trail down in wet plastic boots. I was out of water by the time I reached my bike, but my wet gear countered any weight savings. Fortunately the riding was mostly downhill. I walked the section past Little Browns, and met Heidi biking up the trail. It was already 4:00. I was an hour late.
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