Monday, July 23, 2012


Mount Shavano & Mount Tabeguache

14, 229'  &  14,155'

July 23rd, 2012


Winner, winner, chicken dinner!  Blackjack!  As easy as that right?  I wish number 21 would have been that easy.  But the hard fought victory is all the sweeter correct?  Once more down to the Arkansas Valley.   I will be happy to finish off the Sawatch Range, and get to head to another part o the state for a while.  While the views are awe inspiring,  I am just getting tired of the drive.  
Doug joined me on this outing.  Even though he did it last year, he thought it would be a good training hike for his upcoming trip up Mount Rainer.  We bivied the night before just below the trailhead.  Luckily I put my tarp up, as I was woken in the middle of the night by rain falling on it.  Not too hard, but steady. 
With headlamps on we headed out at 4:40 a.m. The clouds from the night before, were gone, and the moonless sky was alive with stars.  The seven-sisters watched our backs as we headed up the trail.  The first quarter mile of the hike follows along the Colorado trail, before branching off to the west towards Shavano' summit.  From this point the trail climbed steadily upwards, on "baby-head" (yep.. just the size you are thinking they are)  rocks for a mile.  Once again the darkness and the limited beam of the headlamp created an isolated hiking experience.  With the trail view limited to the fifteen feet in front of me, the true steepness of the trail failed to register in my mind, though the effort was felt by my body.  From the get-go I had been feeling off.  I am never quick on 14ers, but today I felt even slower.  This sluggishness lasted throughout the day, and would take me to the edge of bonking on the way down.
After the baby-heads. the trail smoothed out, and passes through the blow down section.  Apparently there were fierce windstorms this past winter, which blew down a significant number of trees, both conifers and Aspens.  In the dark and from the trail all we could see was where stumps where the Forest Service had cleared the trail.  It was not until coming down, later in the day, that we saw the full force of the winter storms.  My hats is off to those who preserved and worked their way through the blow downs, and continued to the summit, before the forest service did their great work.  I know I would not of had the fortitude to push through.
Once you break through tree line the trail moves westward, traversing the hillside above the Angel of Shavano.  With the light snow this year, the Angel was now all rock.  Doug and I both agreed that it looked like the Angel would be a great snow route.  The trail gains the saddle below Mt Shavano at 13,380'.  The saddle gave a quick respite as we turned northward for a quarter mile, before climbing again and gaining the final 900 or so feet of elevation to Shavano's summit.  Just before reaching the summit, we were past by another party of two.  I was feeling pretty beat at this point so I did not put on the afterburners to try and beat them up.  One step at a time was all I could manage.

Worried about the possibility of afternoon storms (the weather report called for a 69%  chance of afternoon thunderstorms) we only took a quick break on the summit before heading onward to Mount Tabeguache.  I should have used this break time better, and refueled, but I did not.  I was to pay the price of this later, as I ran out of energy and my stomach turned on me.  We reached the summit at  9:10 a.m.; five hours 20 minutes after leaving the trailhead.
The descent off Shavano's summit was not as steep as I had imagined.  The first section involved some boulder hoping to move along the ridge before descending 600 feet to the saddle between the two peaks.  We started off the summit with the other two climbers, but they quickly left us in their wake.  By the time we reached the saddle they were more than half way up to Tabeguache's summit.  Way to move guys!  From the saddle  Doug lead the way switching between one faint trail to another.  Once again the ascent was not as bad as it looked.  We made it up to the summit. in just under 30 minutes from the saddle, and one hour from Shavano's summit.  After a few quick pictures and a brief break (no food for me once again), we were on our way back down again, as we still had to reascend Shavano to get back to the trailhead (does this count as three 14ers for the day?).  Descending off the summit we made the saddle quickly, and I was actually feeling pretty good.

That good feeling did not last!  As soon as we began to reclimb Shavano my body slowed, and doubt crept into my mind.  It took all I had to keep moving 20 yards at a time.  Which each step I could feel my stomach cringing.  I know that if there would have been anything in it, it would not have stayed down.  While resting at one point, I looked northward to Mount Antero and could see the clouds already building and darkening over it.  Shavano's summit was still cloud free, but we could see them building to the south.  Not wanting to get caught in a storm I moved as quickly as my tired body would allow.  We barely stopped at the summit, before heading down to the southern saddle.
Looking north to Mt Antero
Looking south to Mt Shavano Summit (taken at same time as above)

I lead the way off the saddle back towards tree line. It took a great effort to keep pushing on.  All that was going through my mind was to keep going so we did not get caught above the trees in a storm.  I knew that as soon as we were back beneath the real trees we could relax and take a good break.   Once I felt out of the danger zone, we took a 15 minute break.  I laid back on the ground and tried to get myself back under control. I managed to eat a little bite of peanut butter crackers that Doug had given me the night before.  It helped and I started to feel a little more human.  I continued to take small bites on the cracker as we moved downward to the trailhead.  By the time we reached the trailhead at 2:40ish, I was feeling back to normal;  just tired legs.  We had managed to outrun the storm and avoid all  but a few sprinkles of rain.  Once back on the main roads the  storm let loose and we were treated to a great light show almost all the way back to Denver.
Two more peaks into the record books for me.  Lesson learned on these two:  Eat!, Eat! and Eat some more.  I will have to try to find some better breakfast food for me to start the day off right. I have never been a big breakfast eater, but on 14er days I better learn to be.

Postscript:  I found out from my wife that Doug had called his wife from the summit of Shavano and had her schedule a doctor's appointment for the next day to have his ribs looked at.  He had a mountain bike crash a few days earlier, and was apparently feeling it in his ribs today, though he never let on.  X-rays showed a cracked rib.  Makes me wonder what the heck I was whining about, with my tiredness and stomach.  These old guys can be tough!!  A few (well more than a few) years and I will be there.

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