Having summited Shavano and Tabeguache 15 years earlier, I was ready to return for another adventure. We left the Longmont/Denver area on Friday evening, and it took us a full 3 hours to reach the trailhead. After a dinner in Salida, we reached our campspot(8:30 pm) 6.8 miles in from HWY. 285. There are at least two camping spots at the creek 6.5 miles in, but those were both taken shortly before our arrival. Our biggest camping obstacle was avoiding the cow patties dispersed here and there and blending in with the dark soil. The main animal threat was the moo cow and the coyote howl at 3:45 in the morning.
The road was in great condition and is passable with 2WD. There are several direct views of Shavano during the approach.
Approaching Shavano (Blank Gulch) Trailhead
Leaving the trailhead at 6:40 am, we started off on a slow, but steady pace. The trail soon splits from the Colorado Trail and heads left. At this point, the trail is moderately steep during the portion below treeline. The area was beautiful and quiet, and the stream paralleled the trail at points. Despite the steady steepness and elevation gain, we commented on how long it took to reach treeline. Just below treeline, the views open up to the east and south. As you can see, once above treeline, the majority of the route to the saddle is visible and we are satisfied to see that we have made good progress. The route is not as steep from this section above treeline until you nearly reach the saddle. Note that the entire left wing of the Angel of Shavano has melted out.
View above treeline
Approaching the ridge, little did we know that we had our last moments of a wind free experience.
Shavano summit in background Once on the ridge, the winds were at least 40 MPH , but as you gained the steeper section of Shavano's summit ridge, they died down.
Saddle where wind picked up to 40 MPH plus The winds were on and off during our traverse to Tabeguache, never as strong or consistent as they were at the saddle.
We reached the summit of Shavano in 4 hours, taking only a quick break before heading to Tabeguache.
Shavano summit At 10:40, the weather looked good, but we knew we were in for a 1.5 to 2 hour committment to get back to Shavano.
At this point, we picked up the pace significantly, reaching Tabeguache in just over 40
Tabeguache Summit There was just a little bit of snow on the ridge to Tabeguache, and most people went left of it on the way up.
From atop Tabeguache, we saw a very isolated, yet ominous looking cell heading directly for us. We descended quickly to the ridge, and we were hit with the storm just before noon. The storm was left of the picture atop Tabeguache.
Tabeguache from Shavano Ridge
The storm produced sleet and wind, but fortunately no lightning. This is a classic example of the rapidly changing weather from late morning to midday! We stayed left of the ridge ascending Shavano on the way back, gaining the ridge itself about 3/4 of the way back up. We were back to Shavano at 12:15 in time to see our first lightning several miles due south. This was the only lightning we witnessed, and it never rained on our descent down.
It was a big day, yet we were all in good spirits at the bottom.
End of adventure Just over 8 hours in all.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):