| Pack a balaclava & ski goggles- (combo standard)
After a week of planning I was excited for this combo summit as it will be my 9th and 10th 14ers.
I packed everything few days before, as I knew it would take at least 3 hours before I get to the TH from Colorado Springs. I planned to leave ~ 3am, but my son who's almost 3 who is in potty training mode for #2, woke up at 220am and I sat with him until 3am. A great start to Friday the 13th huh?
He did finally produce a little turd. Put him back to bed, ate some cereal, warmed up some coffee, and to my disappointment I did not get out of the garage until after 330am. Great, now I'll have to make it up on the trails...(I thought to myself)
The days are darker now... dawn breaks quarter before 6am just as I near the last 10 mile stretch to the TH near Salida airport. En route, I saw 3 shooting stars and made a wish for for my 2 children and awesomest wife...
The drive to the TH with my 4Runner on 4WD is no problem, averaging 25 mph... I was the 6th vehicle to reach the parking lot where I spot 2 youngsters with their father (presumed) just heading out. Only 2 of the 6 vehicles where trucks, so if you have a sedan this is a easy TH to get to without having to have your struts and shocks shocked.
We start just before 630AM and my husky Maximus is excited as ever. The trail is easily marked wide enough for a truck to drive through until you hit a stream. We spot some campers along the way. Make sure you stay to the left of the stream and lean right as the trails split several directions and becomes confusing. The morning air is crisp and refreshing and the running streams calms the mind. Making me more sleepy...
(Skip reading this part, as it maybe TMI for some)
~1 hour into the hike, my stomach starts to cramp up and hike slows down. I know I need to make a turd stop, but I had not toilet paper or wipes, something I always bring on longer hikes, but not on these day excursions. 10 more minutes of walk, the pain becomes unbearable, I find a solid spot and do my business, and sacrifice some hiking instruction pages... I missed my quilted double-plys. I felt 5lbs lighter and instantly quicker, reaching the first clearing ~ 810AM, by now the sun is strong and casts a haze in the distance.
We reach the the tree line shortly after 830AM, along the way I passed pack 3 guys and a boy, (later I learn from a fellow Longhorn that there where from Oklahoma and Sooner fans) who were taking a break before their goal of conquering both peaks today.
I wish them luck and proceed forward. Even with the sun baking my back, I still felt a slight chill. I add on my long sleeve inner layer, now with outer gore-tex shell, it feels proper (I still have a light fleece for backup). As I am remodel myself, I turn back and see the Oklahoma 4 slowly come into view. And then, my canvas hat blows off my head forcing me backtracking to retrieve my hat. I take this opportunity to don a skull cap underneath my canvas hat to provide warmth and provide covering to my ears. I read once, we loose some 40-60% our heat through our head. The strap is now securely fastened to my neck for the 1st time, and I am glad it is there.
The approach to the first saddle is onerous and lonely, for the 1st time Maximus turns back as if he wanted to retreat. I hesitate, as Max is pretty fearless and usually charges ahead. I wonder if it's an omen for badness up ahead. I am not a quitter especially with summit in sight. It's a cloudless day and nothing but beauty awaits ahead, I forge forward and Max now trails behind me but soon his short term memory fades, and he again charges and leads the pack.
At the saddle before the rocky approach to Mt.Shavano, the wind picks up even more... no, it was more like hurricane gust 60-80mph, I struggle to maintain balance with my hiking pole in my right hand. I take out my bandanna and covers my face, as the icy wind now causing numbness to my mouth and drying my nose out. Lucky my sunglasses were big enough to divert some wind. I didn't realize hiking in August felt like skiing in February! This was by far the most exposure I had experienced at any 14ers! The only time I felt this much wind was scrambling on top of Mt. Snowdon in Wales ~ a decade ago. The time is about 930AM
My trekking velocity demurs to a near halt as I punch against the tornado-like wind towards summit of Mt. Shavano.
There's no clear trail up to the summit, often having to scramble across boulders... Max seem to always find the correct way and waits for me at the corners before proceeding. We summit ~ 1030AM, I do not rest up on top of Mt. Shavano, knowing I have to return back here in few hours on my way back. I greet the same 2 youngsters and their father from the parking lot and took pictures for them and they wished me luck on traversing towards Tabegauche Peak. Max leads the way...
The total distance from peak to peak is ~ 1 mile, I think. It takes me 30 minutes to hop down to the saddle between the two. Looking ahead, I see nothing but loose rocks to get to top of Tabegauche Peak.
There's no clear defined trail up to the top of Tabegauche Peak, I make my own zig-zag approach, and as I look back, I see in the distance 2 grasshopper-like humans rapidly descending Mt. Shavano, and one on pace to over take me to the summit.
Soon one of the youngster passes me because of his straight ascent approach as I quietly lament. I summit Tabegauche Peak ~ 1130 and Max does not like taking photos being held.
I make a pose of an "X" a jumping routine often done in P90X workout.
I take a 20 minute break, ate a rice crispy snack and some pistachios and prepare for my return. Knowing that my knee will soon give out (first time it happened, I was hiking the Inca Trails with a 60lb+ backpack, on the second day, my right knee gave out in sheer pain, I thought it was over then, but after a hardy lunch, I was lucky and recovered, so now I know my right knee is my weakest link and that was over 10 years ago), I sleeve on my neoprene knee support knowing. The 2 youngsters are from Fort Collins and had done now 9+ 14ers in 1 week, mostly in the San Juan Range and this was their last climb before heading home.... amazing how they are still hopping and trekking with ease (without poles) after all the mileages. I felt old and tired as my loyal champion waited to resume the journey.
We make to the saddle ~ 1200PM, and from here the approach back to Mt. Shavano does not look to bad at all. The problem is that there were so many small peaks before the finalsummit, and most are actually over 14,000; dumb me, manage to go up 3 of those up and down before finally re-reaching Mt. Shavano. I only meet one lone hiker along the way as he prepares to go up Tabegauche. I tell him that coming back is easier to cheer him up, not knowing that I kept seeing false summits.
I see the biggest marmot in my life, the rodent must have been 40lb plus. But it still chirped like little bird.
I make back on top of Mt. Shavano ~ 1245PM. A father and son with their brown lab, Maggie (who has done 9 14ers, just like Max) was taking a picnic break before heading back down. We exchange photo taking. Out in the distance there were 2 lakes. They looked beautiful but I have no idea their names.
I start my descent ~ 1PM, hoping to get to the car before 3pm, that meant 2 MPH. I am in good spirits as my legs still feel strong and I quickly scree down the summit of Mt. Shavno. Here's a special thanks to the lady from Castle Rock for recovered my Gorilla tripod. And Hook'em Horns to my fellow TxEx from Highlands Ranch.
Returning, the wind was still strong, but nothing like previously. Now the wind is behind my back helping to propel me forward. I make to the tree line about 145PM and soon I began to feel the blistering on the soles of my feet and aching pain in my right knee with still 2 miles to go.
I now realize that my threshold for exhaustion is about 10 miles. My body is now telling me NO. Velocity now slows down to a craw, still with 70/200 way points to clear on the GPS before the parking lot. I am averaging now only 1 min per way point, too slow. I start to hate the loose rocks in the forest as my knees began to take more indirect beating try to balance on them, at the same time they roll underneath my boots and cause more shearing pain to the blisters awaiting to burst. Oh yeah, I run out of water (2L bladder). I swallow 600 mg of Motrin, knowing it's probably too late.
I stumble and limp to the TH around ~ 315PM and happy to be out of my sweaty boots and re-hydrate with luke warm water. I am glad I had my GPS as trails just before the streams split in all directions. I hoped for the others behind me to pick the right path (the scarred barks on the trees provides some clues, in case you get lost and do not have a GPS).
Looking back from the dirt road, it's pretty amazing to see how much 12 miles r/t can offer. I am satisfied that these 2 are under my belt. It was brutal 12 hour day. 50 14ers more to go and it only gets harder, I know.
I am thankful, that on Friday the 13th, everything went smoothly. I dodged few patrol cars out for speeders on the way back and reached home and joined my supporting wife and children at a local Mexican cantina for some good beef fajita ~ 630pm. Buen provecho!
PS. If anyone who lives along the Front Ranges especially near Colorado Springs / Castle Rock area and share similar ambition of completing all the 14ers and want to share a ride / overnight trip to conquer some of the Elks and San Juans, PM me!
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):