| Sawatch Weekend
Spent the long weekend in the Sawatch. The weather was spectacular and it's clear that spring has sprung. Unfortunately I did not get the memo that trail runner season is in full swing and spent the weekend in my clunky boots. What a difference a week can make. Last weekend lots of snow in the San Juans, this weekend almost none in the Sawatch.
Friday evening we arrived at the Baldwin Gulch lower trailhead and I chickened out on driving up the 277 road as my 4WD ride is sick with a bad case of rusting/corrosion on the radiator support cross member and I didn't want to leave the radiator along the road. Spent the night on the very busy County Road 162.
Started out on Saturday morning at 4:30 and was at the creek crossing about an hour later, the water was too high for rock hopping. We scouted upstream and downstream a bit to look for crossing opportunities and found none. Not wanting to risk wet feet, socks or pants this early in the day, we choose to wade across barefoot. Cold. Very cold.
We joined up with another group of 3 and ascended the gully just to the south of the switchbacks. The snow was solid and crusty in the morning, and (as expected) soft and mushy in the afternoon.
Continuing southeast we intersected with the shortcut route to 13,800'. Soon we were on Point 13,800' making our way over to the ridge.
Really enjoyed the ridgewalk, some really cool views with all the different stone formations. It was mostly dry with some small snow patches.
The snow on the ascent of the final ridge was all easily avoidable by staying left. Microspikes, crampons and axe were all carried today, but none were needed.
It was a beauty day - blues skies, warm temps and less than 60 mph winds - perfect. We hit the top at 10:30 and enjoyed the views.
Descent was uneventful. Minor postholing in the gully. Passed a few other groups on the way down. Weather was super hot and sunny. A last look back at Antero.
We chose to wade the stream on the way out. Waterproofness of gaitors and boots held up well. Water level was calf to below knee and moving good. Back at the car, it felt like the middle of the city with all the traffic, quite different from the San Juans last weekend. Headed to Salida for some supplies at Safeway and post-hike pizza at Amica's - Yum!
Drove into an almost empty parking lot at the Shav/Tab TH on Saturday evening and woke up in the morning to find it packed. Forecast was for a beauty day with just a slight chance of storms in the afternoon. We hit the trail at 4:30 am. A group of 2 plus dog passed us at the left turn off the CT, they were headed to the Angel, we were headed up the East Slopes. Soon we had first daylight, it was another blue sky day, the valley from Buena Vista to Salida was filled with fog. We watched it move along the valley, change shape, lift and after several hours burn off.
The beginning of the route is a pleasant walk in the woods with a nice gradual grade. Above treeline we could see the Angel and the group we'd run into earlier ascending it.
Above treeline there were a few snowfields along the trail, around 12,300', all easily passable with no special gear. At the top of the Angel, we split the difference ascending to the ridge between the standard East Slopes route and the Angel route. There were small snowfields here and there.
The fog was moving up the gully towards us, but never quite reached us.
Reached the top of Shavano at 9:00 am and headed straight for Tabeguache. The ridge was almost all dry.
At the saddle we put on microspikes for the climb up. This is the only point that we used them all day, crampons and axe once again got a free ride up and down the mountain. Passed a hiker glissading down the snowfields.
On the top at 10:00 am. Shared the summit with several others we'd been hiking with all morning. Looking north to where we were yesterday – Antero. A great view day, very clear at the horizon.
A quick and easy descent off of Tab and soon we were going back up the Shavano ridge, another great ridge walk with cool rock formations. Ran into lots of groups on their way over to Tab.
Stopped for a bit on Shavano to enjoy the day. The fog from the morning had cleared out for great views of the valley below. The walkout was a copy of yesterday – super blue sunny skies and warm temps.
A look back on the drive out.
Sunday evening we headed for the Mt. Princeton TH hoping for at least one open parking space at the radio towers. On the way up the road, just past the CT junction we ran into someone coming down. Behind us the road was just wide enough to allow each of us to squeeze past one another, that was lucky! We arrived at the radio towers to find all of the pull out spots open - excellent! Watched a spectacular sunset over the valley and mountains.
Monday morning at 5:00 am we started walking up the road. There were a few others camped at pull outs further up the road. There was a full moon and the daylight came quickly - we didn't even need headlamps. Enjoyed this sunrise during the road walk.
Road is clear to the first switchback past the radio towers. There is impassable snow at that first switchback. Used the microspikes for a few steep sections on the road as the snow was frozen and icy. The spikes were on and off a lot today. Left the road and headed up to the ridge. Just another blue sky day in paradise.
There were several significant snowfields to cross. There is a good trench across. It was frozen and slick on the way up, and mushy and wet on the way down. I liked conditions better in the morning. We used microspikes, axe and pole. Others choose crampons. In between the snow sections were long stretches of dry rock, so there was a lot of gear changes for the feet all day. These snow sections end just as you turn left (west) and head up the ridge near 12,800'. Beyond that we didn't need the spikes.
Made our way up the ridge. There were some strong wind gusts here and there, but not sustained. Snow was spotty.
We were on top of Princeton at 9:30 am and it was déjà vu with another incredible sunny blue sky day with views that go on forever.
Chatted for a bit with the group we'd been climbing with all morning. Took in the views and then headed down. Passed many groups on their way up. Sunny and hot on the way out and it's still late morning. A look back at the snow fields.
The view of Princeton on the drive out.
It was an awesome weekend with some fun hikes. I think Shav/Tab was my favorite of the weekend.
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