Peak(s):  Tabeguache Peak  -  14,155 feet
Date Posted:  11/27/2005
Modified:  03/26/2006
Date Climbed:   11/25/2005
Author:  doumall
 Tabeguache via Denny Creek TH - 11/25/05  

Was interested in hiking a 14er over my Thanksgiving break to get a summit in November. Choose Tabeguache for several reasons. Its in the central part of the state which had not received the snowfalls other areas, a route available to me was south facing which considerably lowered avalanche danger and I needed a 3000 foot ascent of the peak. After a big meal on Thanksgiving, I woke up early Friday morning and began the drive.

CR 240 was well plowed to the Angel of Shavano trailhead, at which point it became much rougher and covered in about 6-8 inches of snow. Luckily another vehicle had recently been up the road and I was able to follow their tire tracks nearly to the trailhead. There were several sketchy sections on the road, the most notable being a stretch of 150 feet or so of water ice from a spring above the road. To the opposite side was a steep drop-off to a stream bed. I was very thankful my parents let me use their Monterro. Once I reached the end of the tire tracks, I parked along the side of the road and spotted the route (9:45am).

To avoid walking on the closed trail (due to environmental damage) I bushwhacked through dense willows and aspens toward a gully leading to the southwest ridge. The area had between a few feet to no snow on the ground. It had clearly seen significant settling since the previous storm. I must say, this section of the hike was not to much fun, and I really wasn't enjoying myself. Some thoughts of turning around, but my desire for the summit pushed me on. I left the dense aspen groves behind me and climbed steeply through dry grasses, scree, snow and ancient cedars.

The setting here was really cool. The snow covered North faces of the opposite side of the valleys mountains faced me, and the large twisted cedars surrounded me in a unique scree environment. I could tell how hikers would easily damage the area. Instead of using the center of the gully, which was washed out from years of boots, I chose a traversing ascent to the east through the trees. There were many goat tracks clearly discernable here. Above treeline, I felt I almost had the ridge, but another 800 were still ahead of me before I would reach the point at 13,200 on the ridge. More scree, and my heavy pack (snowshoes, crampons, axe, beacon, shovel, probe coat and all else) were taking their toll on my legs. I was happy to reach the solid rock of the ridge. From the point, I could see the remaining route, which seemed plenty far in my unenthusiastic state.

Traveled along the ridge a bit and found a windbreak from the now increasing gusts. I checked my phone and saw I had service, so I called my Mom to let her know I was a little behind schedule but still optimistic. Ate some food, dropped my snow shoes and helmet and continued. The south faces of Tabeguache were well windblown and held neither avalanche danger nor a need for snow shoes. The trail became follow able in places, which took me across the sweeping face ahead and up to a false summit. From here the remaining route to the summit is breif sections of class 2+ hiking by staying on the ridge top, which I did to avoid rock hard snow slopes. Didn't want to crampon and axe up if I didn't have to. After going up and over several small points I reached the snowcapped summit (1:30pm) and took some pics.

It felt good to have climbed this peak by itself, but I really wasn't feeling it this day. Maybe the thought of laying in my parent's warm living room with my family made my thoughts drift to other things. The hike back went quick. I pickup up the gear I dropped and made my way back to the descent gully. As I came over the top of the gully, I encountered a sizable heard of mountain goats (dozen or so) with large fluffy winter coats and fat bellies. They ran across the tundra toward some rock bands. It is mating season. I went my separate way, jumping down the scree slope toward treeline. This was fun, but I was tired. Winter hiking is more difficult for if nothing else than the weather excites my mild asthma. Cold dry air, heavier pack and wind in your face all day also take their toll. Tree line was a welcome relief from the sun, which was burning my face. Ya, I forgot sunscreen in Denver, nice. Making my way back through the dense forest was a good experience in route finding. I was very happy to be ahead of darkness as mountain lion hebie gebbies crept into the back of my mind. I found the road and retraced my steps to the truck. The drive out went smoothly. Buried or no register.

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