| 3 days in the Sawach
Three days of solitude, isolation and mountains, what could be better?
Four Fourteeners and four thirteeners!
Day 1: Shavano, Tabeguache
Day 2: Antero, North Carbonate
Day 3: Princeton, UR 13971, unknown point, UN ("Avery") 13626
I left Greeley at 7pm on Sunday night for the southern Swatch range and finally arrived at the Shavano trailhead at 1:30am. After a miserable three hours of sleep, I woke to my alarm at 4:15a and began stumbling up the trail. About 2 miles from the trailhead, the trail flattens out and the route becomes somewhat ambiguous though sparse aspen trees. With only five square feet of illumination from my head lap, I could not figure out where the trail continued and realized I was off route. Never give up, never surrender! Knowing that tree line was somewhere to the right and straight up, I made my own route! As the sun rose, I was greeted by tree line and the trail, making the remainder of the route to the summit of Shavano a breeze.
Traversing to Tabeguache was no problem except for a little snow near the summit. The views from the summit were spectacular!
After a small glissade down from the summit of Shavano, I found myself back below tree line where I meet the first people I had seen all day. following the trail was much easier in day light, however, I still got a bit off route in the small flat area about 2 miles from the trailhead. Overall, a picture perfect day and an awesome start to my 3 days in the Swatch.
I quickly packed my car and drove up the Baldwin Gulch road for tomorrow's accent of Antero. The four-wheel drive road wasn't too bad, nothing beyond my Explorer Sport's capabilities. I made camp at 5 and dozed off somewhere between 7 and 9pm.
I woke at 3:15am and got a start on day two with 5 strips of broiled bacon, DELICIOUS! On the trail at 4am, I found it hard to move with all the gelatinous grease in my belly, a snails pace for the first two miles! I began to feel better and was greeted by a tremendous sunrise and a stellar day on Antero!
Shavano and Tabeguache!
From the summit of Antero, one owns the most spectacular view of the north Swatch range and beyond.
Felling tremendous at this point, I recalled reading about North Carbonate in Gerry Roaches book as an "Extra Credit" peak. I was inclined to climb it. To get there, one simply walks a gentle ridge between the peaks and does a tremendously steep accent up the side of North Carbonate.
(Looks are deceiving)
On top of North Carbonate, the weather was clearly building, so my stay on the summit was short. The register was placed in 1995 and was about 3/4 full. My hike back to the car was a little less pleasant that the first part of my day, the decent was down the north side of North Carbonate which is fairly loose and steep, making for a slow decent. Fortunately, the views from the valley were tremendous!
Mt Princeton, tomorrows project!
My "home" (yea for car camping!) never looked so appealing after a long tiresome day!
After a beer, I headed down the road and found the Grouse Canyon trail head. The "trail head" for the South West route on Princeton is more or less a mile of 4wd road with a small clearing to park. The trail is marked with a big fallen log across the road and a few cairns; this route is off the beaten path for sure!
Day three started at 3:30 with granola and other dry foods. I'm a zombie at this point. The first mile was once again a snails pace, however, I quickly woke up and started moving. The only problem with this route is there is no route after about a mile after the trail head. No trail, no cairns, nothing. In the pitch black of a moonless night, I got off route from Roaches description and strayed to far from the stream; this became a miserable, bush whacking steep slog in the dark. crap. At this point, I decided that all mountains go up, so, I went up. It was steep. The sun rose, and I was still in the trees and it was steep.
I finally made the crest of the ridge and was rewarded with my first glimpse of Princeton's summit.
Overall, the route is definitely class 2/2+, however, getting around a large tower in the ridge proved to be a little closer to class 3, but very easy to tackle.
After summiting UR 13971, the summit of Princeton was easily with in grasp! The views from the top were spectacular, so great, in fact, that my camera batteries died! Oops, spare batteries in the car.
At this point, the weather was getting a little unsettled, however the clouds were not rising into the atmosphere, so I decided to add a few more points to my hike. From UR 13971, I continued NW along a ridge, then headed West, leading me to the summit of UN 13626, known as "Avery" according to the summit log that had been there since 1992.
The remaining hike back to the car was perhaps the best hike I have ever had. There is NO trail in Grouse Canyon, one simply follows the stream to the trail head. Aside from three trail runners that I had met on the summit of Princeton, I did not see anybody the entire day. Truly one of the best routes on a mountain I have ever done, capping off a tremendous experience in the southern Swatch range!
Here are some other photos of the trip!
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):