Peak(s):  Mt. Democrat  -  14,148 feet
Mt. Yale  -  14,196 feet
Mt. Shavano  -  14,229 feet
Tabeguache Peak  -  14,155 feet
Date Posted:  05/22/2020
Modified:  09/18/2020
Date Climbed:   05/14/2020
Author:  hogantheepic
Additional Members:   gfwarlock
 A Week of Mountains   

A Week of Mountains

I initially planned out a 4 day trip to hit a few peaks in the Mosquito and Sawatch range through the week of 5/11. On 5/11, I climbed Mt Princeton. 5/12-14 is what is covered in this trip report, but the Mt Princeton section I included in my previous trip report, A Spur of Peaks to Start the Season. All the trip reports I am writing for the summer is simply a byproduct of my thoughts, reactions, and experiences from my summer mountaineering project of climbing the 58 CO 14ers before I head back to CU in August. I hope that these trip reports help me to learn from mistakes, to document my experiences, and to help me to think and become a better person and mountaineer. Thank you for reading and for your support!

8/58 in 2020

DeCaLiBron Attempt, May 12, 2020

I arrived at the camp spot and pitched my tent at around 3:30 on Monday. I was by myself and had to set up a 6 person tent in some pretty strong winds. What a challenge! I nearly gave up on getting the rain fly over the tent because the tent is taller than I am. After 15 minutes of struggling to get it over the tent and to keep it on top while I clipped it to the corners, I finally did it. I almost gave up and wanted to wait for my dad and his friend Freedom to show up to help me. I am super glad I got it to work.

I took a 2-hour nap inside the tent. When I first stepped in, it was sunny and warm but very windy. When I woke up, the 3-season tent was nearly collapsing in on itself from the weight of the snowfall had started while I was asleep! I was not expecting this. I banged the snow off the tent from the inside, put on my shoes, and went to get my avy snow shovel out of my car to finish getting the snow off the tent. Right when I stepped out of the tent, Freedom's big red truck rolled up.

We ate a little bit of food, sat around and talked for an hour or two in the tent, and went to sleep.

The next day, we woke up to about 8 inches of fresh, wet, heavy snow blanketing everything. There weren't any clouds at sunrise, and the peaks above us were glowing as the sun began poking its rays to the tips of the mountains. We were excited for a day of backcountry skiing in the middle of May.

We set off from camp around 6:50. This was late for my taste. Oddly enough, I would soon find this to be a common start time for me, though. I need to fix this problem because at any time of the year you should be starting your days in the mountains early. At this point of the year, you don't have to worry about thunderstorms and lightning in the afternoon quite yet, but you do still need to be worried about the avalanche threat. As the day warms, the snowpack begins to melt. Water percolates through the snowpack and weakens layers underneath, which means that there is a rise in likelihood of wet slab avalanches. If you start and end your day early, you avoid being in avalanche terrain before this happens and therefore lower your risk of being caught in an avalanche. 6:50 is an ok start time if your day is going to be short, but even then you don't know what is going to happen, and your short day could end up being a long day. I'd like to be hiking by 5 from now on.

Anyways, we set off from camp at 6:50. We followed some skins tracks from the winter closure up to the trailhead. We boot packed our way to the trailhead rather than skinned because we had put our gear on our bags already and didn't want to take the time to transition. We should have transitioned in hindsight.


^^Left: looking back at the valley from where we came. Middle: my dad boot packing to the trailhead. Right: Freedom boot packing to the trailhead.^^

Freedom was expecting regular summer hiking conditions and not a full-on backcountry ski tour, and as such, didn't even bring his avy gear. He left his skins in the car. I should have said something to him at the car, but didn't. I blame myself.

My dad and I transitioned at the trailhead, but since Freedom didn't have his skins, he kept boot packing. We headed up the slopes. After a little while, Freedom decided to bail because he felt that he was holding us back. I felt bad because I blamed myself for Freedom not having skins. We skied back to the car, and we carried on.

My dad and I skinned up to the saddle between Democrat and Cameron, then transitioned and began boot packing again. We crossed some rocks, then began the steepest part of the ascent. From my best guess, we were boot packing up a snowfield near the ridgeline that was nearly 45 degrees steep! I had done Decalibron the previous September, and the actual trail up Democrat was full of switchbacks, but I was not expecting this! I was ok with it though. My dad was doing better than I thought he would on a slope like that. He's been getting in better and better shape since we've been hiking more 14er's lately.


^^Left: Walking back to the skin tracks from the trailhead. Middle: my dad on the most technical piece of the skinning of the day. It had a few switchbacks that required kick-turns. Right: the last stretch of skinning up to the saddle.^^

After about an hour, we made it from the saddle to the false summit. My dad wanted to put another layer on and take the skins off and then head up to the summit, but I told him to wait since every single break takes a lot more time, and the snow was starting to heat up, which is bad for both skiing and avalanche conditions.

150 vertical ft later, we were on the summit! It had been 5.5 hours since we left the car, and we had only summited one peak. It was a pretty hot day, the snow was getting a little slushy, and the descent off of Bross was a long time away. We decided to just ski back down to the car and come back later in the summer to complete Decalibron.

I feel that I had mostly made good decisions today. Things to improve would be to have an earlier start time, better communication with my team to make sure we all the right equipment, and based on the pictures, I need to learn how to pack my bag better so that my skis aren't leaning like the Tower of Pisa. Other than that, it was a great day! I will be back.


^^Left and Middle: Hiking up the steep part of Democrat. Right: Summit picture!^^


^^Left: Me on the descent. Right: Looking back at the line we skied from the (false) summit to near the saddle.^^

Mt Yale, May 13, 2020


^^Pano from near the top of Mt Yale^^

This is day 3 of the week of 5/11. By now, I have been climbing 14er's for 2 days already, and even though I am in pretty good shape, I am starting to really feel the exhaustion of hiking a ton as well as simply being in the mountains at high elevation. I am only halfway through the week though! How am I gonna make it?

I arrived at the Denny Creek Trailhead around 3 on Tuesday. I checked out everything, looking for a potential camp spot for the night.

I would like to take a second here to appreciate the fact that Denny Creek Trailhead is the nicest trailhead I have ever seen. The entire parking lot (plus the road between Buena Vista and the trailhead) is pristine, with no cracks or potholes or anything. The drainage system seems very effective (my assumption because it didn't rain while I was there), utilizing Denny Creek that flows right next to the trailhead. The trailhead map and information is up to date and very informative. The bathroom looked well built (without large holes in the wall where the wind could blow through), although it was locked because it's not the season for it yet. There was some overflow parking, there was your typical beautiful sign that you see from the national forest service for trailheads and BLM areas. Even the trail itself, from the trailhead to summit, was very obvious and well-marked with signs and trail blazes (from what I could tell because a good portion was still covered in snow.) The national forest service has done this one perfectly.


^^Left: camp in the morning. Middle: the Denny's Creek Trailhead. Right: making sure we have everything before we head up.^^

Anyways, I found a camp spot along the river that runs down the valley and set up the tent. Once again, I would be waiting for a good number of hours before my climbing partners for the next couple of days arrived. I made myself some dinner and took a nap.

They finally arrived at like 10 PM which was a relief because I was starting to wonder if they had gone to the wrong place. Even after the nap, I fell asleep pretty quickly.

We woke up at 5 AM and began to get ready. I made breakfast. Something I learned this week is that the packs of instant oatmeal are just not gonna cut it. It's basically a few carbs with a load of sugar, which is not at all sustainable for many hours of hiking. I need something with more protein and fat, which isn't too hard to get my hands on. But I had to make it work this week because that's the only breakfast food I had.

We all set off up the road at about 6:15, earlier than the last couple of days. We were camped less than a quarter-mile from the trailhead so we didn't drive. We were prepared for the day, with snowshoes on our packs, snacks, water, and extra layers. I had my ice axe with me, just in case. We were excited for a nice hike in the Sawatches.

Most of the hike was uneventful. It was the basic walk up the trail, you start dealing with more and more snow until you're at treeline, then you're able to hopscotch on the grass in between the snowfields. We ended up needing our snowshoes for a little bit, and we did some pretty steep scrambling up a slope on loose dirt and grass because we weren't sure where the trail was exactly due to snow.

Above treeline, however, there were plenty of sections where we were either walking on snow or kicking in steps. The steepest snow we climbed was probably around 30 degrees, which is the steepest that I would be ok with climbing snow without an axe or atleast trekking poles (although trekking poles aren't gonna help you hardly at all.) I had my ice axe with me and I used it, but never felt like I really needed it. If I had slipped, I would have needed to self-arrest. None of the other guys had an axe with them, but luckily the slope was safe enough, in my opinion, to hike without an axe.


^^Left: on the hike. Right: the views are always magnificent!^^


^^Left: Hugh, Max, and I on the hike. Right: just at treeline, looking for the trail.^^


^^Left: hiking above treeline. Middle: hiking above treeline. Right: looking out along the ridgeline.^^

After about 5 hours from leaving camp, we summited! The ridgeline from the saddle to the summit was an easy scramble but very fun. Technical climbing is always sick!


^^Left: summit picture! Right: me near the summit.^^


^^Just a couple photos of the view.^^

We had an awesome, successful day! Just one more day of hiking left for the week. I was still exhausted, but I felt like I could complete the week. This bodes well for my summer goal, because it shows that I can handle doing a full week of intense hiking.

Mt Shavano and Tabeguache Peak, May 14, 2020

I worked out all the logistics of this week myself: peaks that are ready to climb, routes, trailheads, climbing partners, camping plans, food plans, gear and equipment requirements, everything. However, I made one crucial mistake: I left the hardest, longest day of hiking for the last day! Big mistake. After climbing more than 10,000 ft and nearly 30 miles over the last 3 days, I now had a 5200', 9 mile RT to complete. Boy, it would hard.

When we got back to camp near Denny Creek, we decided to take a little bit to just sit and chill. My friends all brought chips and snickers and coke and really just awesome snacks. This is another lesson I learned: bring good after-hike snacks cause it is super nice.

We packed up, drove to Buena Vista to get some more food, and then drove to the Blank's Gulch Trailhead (which is not what it is called on for some reason). We found a perfect campsite within sight of the trailhead. Dinner came not too much later.


^^Left: making dinner at the campsite. Right: we had a delicious vegetable stirfry with our pasta.^^

We woke again at 5 the next morning, but we were all tired. I slept for an extra 30 minutes then got up and boiled some agua for oatmeal. After another 15 minutes, I finally had to tell the group to wake up, which luckily they all got up right away. I'm gonna have to start getting more strict with myself about waking up when my alarm goes off or else I could potentially sleep in way too late.

We packed our bags real quick and set off. Once again, we were starting at 6:50! I have no clue what is so special about the time 6:50, but this is like 5th day this season that I set off from camp at 6:50. As always, it's gonna have to start being earlier.

We hiked for a bit and reached the turnoff from the Colorado Trail onto the actual trail up Shavano. Last September, I came to attempt what I was doing today, except I was by myself, and I began hiking at 4:30 when it was pitch black outside. I completely missed this turn-off and ended hiking on the Colorado Trail for like 3 hours. By the time I got back to this spot where I missed the turn, I didn't have enough time to finish the hike. I had to head back to Boulder to take of homework and stuff. We all make mistakes, and I hope I never make one like this again. It was pretty costly.


^^Left: the very obvious sign that I walked past back in September. Middle: part of the Colorado Trail in the morning. Right: on the hike.^^

There were a few snowfields around treeline that we had to cross, but for the most part, the entire way up was extremely clear. We passed a few people on the way up, and just after we left treeline, a group of 2 guys who had just summited both peaks said that they should have ditched their snowshoes at treeline because there was no snow for the rest of the route. We ended up dropping our snowshoes shortly after and greatly lightened our loads. The hike was much more enjoyable thereafter.


^^Left: one of the few snowfields near treeline. Right: checking out the view.^^

After a good longish hike we summited! Being that it was day 4 of hiking 14er's, I was pretty drained of energy despite all the food I had been forcing myself to eat through the week. I ended up taking a 10 minute power nap at the summit of Shavano.


^^Left: hiking. Middle: Shavano summit picture. Right: nap time on Shavano.^^


^^Shavano pano.^^

Unfortunately, with the Shavano Tabeguache hike, to reach Tabeguache you have to go over Shavano first. Then to get back to the trailhead you have to climb back over Shavano. You have to descend about 500 ft to the saddle then climb 400 ft up Tabeguache, then go back on this route. This is what makes for a 5200 ft day.

There was still a good bit of snow on Tabeguache. There was plenty of places where you could walk to avoid the snow to get to the summit, but we hiked on the snow since it was shorter and easier to walk on this snow than climb up scree and boulders.

After a good 6ish hours of hiking, we had summited Shavano and Tabeguache! It took us about 3 hours to get back to the car from the summit of Tabeguache.

It had been a mostly successful week, with 5 14er's to add to my completed list for 2020. After this week, I stand at 8/58 14er's for the year. When I got home and weighed myself, I found that I had lost about 6 pounds, which for a mostly muscle 148 pound person, this was very shocking. I did not expect to drop this much weight, but now I see that it is inevitable with the goal that I have for myself. I am trying to build a better eating plan so that I won't be super skinny by the end of my project this summer, but it will be challenging to not drop weight since I am going to be burning so many calories for so many hours this summer.

Again, a successful week!


^^Left: looking up at Tabeguache from just above the saddle. Right: the view, looking Westward.^^


^^Left: Tabeguache summit picture!^^


^^Left and right: I usually bring my camera up the mountains with me to practice taking pictures but I am just beginning to learn photography so most of the pictures you see on my trip reports are iphone pictures.^^


^^Left: beginning to traverse some of the snowfields near treeline. Right: Cameron (front) and Max (behind) on a quick break.^^


^^A picture I took with my camera. The view from a spot on the Shavano trail peering down the Sangre de Cristos, with the Sierra Blancas visible on the right.^^

As always,

Risk is for managing, not for chance.

~Hogan Warlock~

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions

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05/22/2020 16:00
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