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Peak(s):  Mt. Shavano  -  14,230 feet
Tabeguache Peak  -  14,158 feet
Date Posted:  07/13/2020
Date Climbed:   07/11/2020
Author:  lkjustplay
 Tabeguache to Shavano - One Way, Two Cars   

My buddy and I decided we wanted to get our first 14ers for the season in this weekend. We landed on Shavano and Tabeguache due to their proximity to where we would be staying and thanks to a full day forecast of glorious Colorado weather. We both really dislike having to re-summit so I did some research on how we could make this work with two cars. I found very little information, although some people have done it, it is not popular. Let me be clear, it is a long day and additional mileage (all downhill) but it is absolutely doable.

Trail map and route using two cars.

We left Silverthorne at 6:15a and made our way south. We parked my truck (Tacoma 2WD) at the Angel of Shavano trailhead/campground off of county road 240 around 8:30a. Up to that point, the road is in excellent condition and plenty of places to pull off and park. The CT trail goes thru here and you will meet a lot of people along the way. This will also be the trail you come down to round out your ~13 mile hike (with our side adventures - see later - I am not sure how accurate my mileage count is).

We then took his Jeep up the remaining 3.8 miles of bumpy, choppy, 4WD road to the Tabeguache trailhead (Jennings Creek TH). The going is rough and slow but you don't necessarily need any special vehicle to get up (at this time it is nice and dry) but it is not a pleasant trek even in a lifted Jeep. Set your odometer just as you leave the first vehicle because you can drive right past the Tab trailhead otherwise. There is very little parking but you can find little spots to pull off above/below the trailhead.

Around 9a we began our ascent. We followed the route as presented on the website. The beginning of the route to the saddle between Carbonate mountain and Tabeguache is wonderful. You hike through the dense trees before you come out and are blessed with the views and the saddle ahead. The trail is well carved out all the way to the saddle. If you are aware of staying off of the old Southwest ridge route, staying on the new route is pretty easy. Keep your sights between the base of the talus and the willows and follow this up to the saddle.

View of Cronin Peak once you reach the saddle.

Once we reached the saddle we knew we were in for the false summit of Point 13,936'. It is a doozy guys. Even when you know to expect it, doesn't make it any easier. Reaching this point is a milestone in itself and worth a short stop and photo op. If I am being honest, we thought this was Tab's summit.... no need to make jokes we felt every bit the fool when we did ACTUALLY get to Tab's summit *smh*. It's pretty stupid considering we were well aware of Point 13,936' but we thought we had crested that and then made our way to Tab's top. Just goes to show how much we really didn't like that part of the journey. The route finding isn't too difficult to this point. While we were stopped and snacking, we did see a group of hikers start to descend the feared McCoy Gulch trail but luckily we watched them turn back around. Prep yourself for the final jaunt to the top of Tab because you will need to make sure you stay sharp and stop often to find the best route to the top. Stay right of most of the ridge crest and you will be fine. The crux is just before the summit where the trail seems to disappear and you're staring at many large rocks and steep climbing. It's really not that bad. We chose a route that looked well worn straight up the gut of the rocks to get to the top (I wish I would've taken a picture to show). The top of Tabeguache was empty when we got there. We took it all in and enjoyed the moment. The saddle from here to Shavano didn't look that bad and we were pretty motivated and had good energy to get going and get our #2 of the day. The descent down to the saddle required a bit of route finding, but it was not a difficult hike. As you ascend Shavano the trail seems to come and go but overall it wasn't very hard to know where you needed to point your feet.

The saddle between Tab and Shavano.

To be honest, we thought the saddle between Tab and Shavano was a lot smoother and easier than the trek between Point 13,936 and Tab - I am so happy we didn't have to do that again. We made it to the top of Shavano around 3:30p and was greeted by a marmot letting the wind ruffle his feathers. He looked so regal. We celebrated with really terrible lemonade vodka shots but we were smiling from ear-to-ear knowing it was all downhill from here. Descending Shavano required large steps and careful footing but you could see the well defined trailhead below you so knowing where to go was easy.

Mt. Shavano's protector.

Side adventure note: While we all have to start somewhere to enjoy the wonders that trekking 14ers give us, please remember to tell friends, family, yourself, etc, etc. to prepare, understand, prepare some more, try to travel with a companion and always prepare some more before taking a hike. At the top of Shavano we met a hiker in need of some help. I am no doctor but I could definitely see signs of dehydration and a little delusion. The hiker was hurting, not well equipped, and had run out of water. We knew we couldn't offer any other help than just being motivation to get off the mountain. It took us 3+ hours to make it to the Shavano trailhead where the hiker was parked. It was a sobering reminder of how Nature always has the upper-hand and never over-estimate your abilities. I hope the hiker is recovering well and will not be discouraged to go back out again.

If you're following along then you know that where the hiker was parked was not where my truck was. So we turned back to the CT trail and finished our hike ~2.4 miles back to the truck. We went through beautiful aspen growth and followed the well defined trail back to the truck. It took us about 40 minutes to finish this final descent and pop open a cold one at my truck! Getting back to his Jeep was a slow slog but it gave us plenty of time to recap the day and appreciate what we had just accomplished.

Another side adventure note: By the time we got to his Jeep and turned around to head back home, it was 9p. On our way down a group of hikers waved us down and asked for some help getting a ride out of the woods for a sick hiker. I don't know the rules on this kind of thing, but naturally we obliged to give two guys a ride down to the highway where they were meeting someone to take the distressed hiker to (I am assuming) the hospital. So I hope that guy is doing well.

If you are anything like us (don't want to return over a summit if you can help it) and are willing to take two vehicles, then the extra 2 miles you tack on is a piece of cake. I don't know how quick we would have done this hike had it not been for our side adventure, but regardless it was a wonderful day to be outside and I can always do a few extra miles so long as it is downhill! As always, I'm thankful for the outdoors and my wonderful hiking buddy who always supports my ideas and tags along for the adventure. So there you have it - Tabeguache to Shavano in one day, with two cars, and no shortage of interesting stories.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions
7/13/2020 8:32pm
"we did see a group of hikers start to descend the feared McCoy Gulch trail "

I was just talking about this with someone on Sunday while we were in this area. One has to be completely oblivious to their surroundings to think that McCoy is the way down instead of Jennings Creek.
Two obvious things to note... the Tab-Carbonate saddle is at 12,600 feet, which is way below the upper ridge between Tab and Pt 13,936. You have to drop 1,300 feet. And the fact it is a saddle with Carbonate, if you're not looking up at Carbonate, you're not there yet.
And this is assuming you didn't come up from Jennings Creek. If you did come up that way, there really are no excuses.
This is great alternative to the standard route. Nice work on the loop.

Bryan W
Jennings Creek/West Ridge
7/16/2020 10:21pm
I did this route last September and had the whole west side of the hill to myself. It's a great route. Having done Shavano from the the standard route previously, I didn't want to go that way again to tag Tab and I'm so glad I didn't. One word of advice, go up and over point 13,936. It appeared to me that you could skirt around the south side to avoid the climb and subsequent altitude loss. This was a huge mistake and I made sure to go up and over on the way back. As for finding the TH, I'd imagine an odometer reset would work, but just look right as soon as you pass the beaver ponds. It should be plenty obvious, even more so if you have AllTrails working for you.

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