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Monday, December 3, 2012

Triple summit in the Sawatch range

Date:   October 7th, 2012
Mission:  Finally summit Tabeguache Peak (elevation 14,155 ft.)
Who:  With several others from and the Colorado Scramblers group, but I might as well have been alone.
Length:  12 miles
Elevation gain: 5900 ft.

Several years ago I climbed Mt. Shavano (elevation 14,229 ft.) and upon making the summit, I had to bail on traversing to Tabeguache Peak because of looming thunderstorms.  Today, I had my eyes set on only Tabeguache Peak.  Climbing Mt. Shavano's summit was merely a means of getting to Tabeguache Peak.

Still in the forest, but already above the clouds.
I had committed to climbing on a Sunday morning with a few members of  The plan was to start at 5:30am.  On Saturday 10/6/2012, I drove to the trailhead and arrived at a fog filled valley around 10pm.  I couldn't even see other cars due to the fog, so I just parked and went to sleep. 

I began my hike at 5:15am and I quickly met up with other members of the group.  It's not that I am anti-social, but one of the reasons I hike is for solitude.  The conversation of the group was friendly enough, but I just wanted silence.  So, while hiking through the forest, I decided to just sit down and watch the sunrise and let a large portion of the group pass me.  I'm guess I am just not a huge fan of crowds of people.

Sunrise in the Sawatch range.

It was a cold and windy morning once I reached the treeline.  I kept a steady pace, with most of the group now ahead of me.

The view behind you as you climb Mt. Shavano.

How many other hikers do you see?  There's at least 8 other hikers in this picutre.
Mt Shavano shares a saddle at 13,400 ft. with Esprit Point (elevation 13,630 ft.).  Once I reached this saddle, the wind was blowing pretty good, probably close to 35 mph.  Add that to the early morning temps in the upper 20s or low 30s and it was down right cold.  So I just layered up with the new Montbell softshell jacket I had bought, my insulating layer, and my heavy Black Diamond Mercury mitts over the gloves.  With all the layers, I was toasty warm.  A few others in the group were having some trouble with the cold and turned back shy of the summit of Mt. Shavano. 

Enjoying the summit of Mt. Shavano.

I didn't stay long on the summit of Shavano.  I was determined to get Tabeguache today, and it would require another 2 miles with 1200 ft. of elevation gain.  The climb down the ridge that separates the two mountains was enjoyable.  As I reached the saddle, part of me was a bit sad that I was missing was appeared to be a pretty good party on top of Tabeguache from the group in front of me.  I crossed paths with this group during my ascent of Tabeguache, during their descent.

Finally around midday, I reached the summit of Tabeguache.  It had warmed a bit, and the wind had calmed slightly.  I had the summit all to myself.  This is the moment.  When your body is so tired you feel like crawling under a rock and going to sleep combined with the warming sun, the mild breeze in the mountain air, the sense of accomplishment of making it to the summit, and complete solitude.  Combine all this and this is the reason I climb mountains.  So I just chill on the summit of Tabeguache for about 20 minutes, just loving the moment and the clear blue sky.

Just loving life on Tabeguache Peak, Colorado's 25th highest mountain.

All good things must come to an end, and boy did my good day turn quickly.  Altitude sickness starts with headaches and proceed to much worse symptoms.  It should also be taken very seriously, since it can be very dangerous.  About 70% of the time, I get headaches when climbing.  It's commonplace for me.  Today however was slightly different.  The headache that began on descent of Tabeguache and worsened on re-ascent of Shavano was pounding in my head with every step I took.  Upon my re-ascent of Shavano I ran into two women who asked me if I was okay, because it was apparently very clear that I was not feeling well.  I joked that I might just lie down and hit the SOS on my SPOT and wait for search and rescue.  I then assured them I'd be fine, I was just exhausted and having headaches.

Two hikers on the ridge back to Mt. Shavano from Tabeguache Peak
I plodded along slowly back up Shavano.  Finally and painfully I reached the summit for the second time today.  I was completely spent.  The views were simply amazing nonetheless.

Views from Shavano's summit.

More views!

Again, I didn't stay long on the summit of Mt. Shavano.  I quickly descended and popped a couple of Advil.  My headache was easing with every step.  By the time I reached the saddle that is shared with Espirit Point, I was feeling great again.  So great, that I decided to just go summit Espirit Point too.  I walked over 1/4 mile or so with 250 ft. of elevation and summited my first 13er in the Sawatch range. 

After my 3rd mountain of the day, I began my descent back to the trailhead.  I quickly felt like I was being watched. 

Some mountain goats trying to figure out who or what I am.
I only wish I could move as fast as these guys on this talus.

I made it back to the trailhead by 5pm.  I changed out of my boots and was getting in the Jeep to leave when 4 or 5 vehicles come flying into the trailhead, some with trailers.  Everyone jumped out, and I quickly realized it was the county's Search and Rescue team.  I asked what was going on. They said that a small group (not with had descended the wrong gully, and ended up stranded.  They also did not have the proper gear to sustain them through the night either.  Fortunately for them, they happened to have cell coverage and called 911.  I later found out the following day that all parties were rescued successfully albeit cold and tired.

As I was driving out of the area on the dirt road, I encountered my own roadblock while trying to get home.  So ends another adventure in the Colorado mountains.

Seriously, it took 5 minutes for me to get past these guys.  I love cows, but man they can be stubborn.