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Mt. Shavano and Tabeguache Peak were the last two 14ers I had to do in Colorado's Sawatch Range. It would take me 12 days to do all 15 14ers plus a selection of bonus peaks along the way. Eric and Leroy had left me a few days earlier, so they missed out Princeton & Harvard/Columbia, but Eric had already done these Shavano/Tabeguache previously. I picked out a looping route described in Roach's Colorado Fourteeners that would add a pair of bonus peaks, a class 3 ridge scramble and a navigational challenge to get from Shavano Lake back to the trail. I added an easy bonus peak on top of this, Esprit Point, as a first stop before climbing Shavano.
I'd spent the night camped at the Banks TH, something I usually don't do because of the traffic in the wee hours of the morning from those who like to get an early start. Indeed, the first vehicle pulled in around 3a and there were probably another dozen before I finally got up around 5:30a. I had gone to bed pretty early and got well over nine hours of sleep, so I didn't really mind the extra traffic too much. The trail to Mt. Shavano is well-marked and easy to follow. It shares a short stretch at the beginning with the Colorado Trail, but the junctions are well-signed and hard to miss. I found large sections of the trail once it leaves the Colorado Trail to be exceedingly rocky, a sign of high usage and low maintenance. There were easily over 50 people using the trail today, so I can only imagine what the season totals are, and the toll they take on the trail. From the junction with the Colorado Trail, the Mt. Shavano Trail climbs more than 3,500ft in just over three miles, a pretty good gradient. Three-fourths of this is through forest with few views, but eventually it breaks out above treeline as it makes its way to a saddle on the south side of Mt. Shavano. It took a little over two hours to reach this saddle where I immediately left the trail to turn left and climb Esprit Point about 1/4mi to the south. It's a very easy bonus peak with easy cross-country, leading to the rocky summit with a swell views of Mt. Shavano to the north.
I returned to the trail and continued north up to Mt. Shavano, joining about a dozen folks above the saddle making their way up. Though the topo map shows the trail ending at the saddle, it continues all the way to the summit with several branches that can be used in the upper half. There is a sign below the summit indicating that the CFI (Colorado Fourteener Initiative) owns the summit, apparently buying out a mining claim to provide (mostly) unfettered access to the public. They included the usual disclaimer about hazards that might be encountered including fatal falls into mine shafts (I saw no signs of mining activity anywhere today, so maybe I don't know what I'm looking for). It was almost 9a when I summited with a handful of my new friends. While the others were relaxing and taking in the fine views, I was busy checking out the remaining part of today's route, including Tabeguache about 3/4mi to the northwest and the Peak 13,712ft-Jones Peak ridge traverse to the north. I could see several persons atop Tabeguache already, no doubt those early starters before 5a.
After a short pause to sit for a moment and have something to drink, I headed north over Shavano's summit, following the NW Ridge to the saddle with Tabeguache. There are partial use trails both descending Shavano and ascending Tabeguache, but they aren't exactly obvious and different parties would take different lines coming and going. The first guy I encountered on his way back from Tabeguache was already reascending Shavano. I said something like, "Boy, you must have started early" to which he somewhat sheepishly said, "Yeah, I couldn't sleep." Makes perfect sense of course if you come out on the weekend to tackle one of these. After doing it for twelve straight days, I found I have no trouble sleeping at all.
Unlike Shavano, I found I had Tabeguache's summit all to myself when I arrived about 9:40a. A PVC register was missing one end and any sort of contents. I'd seen a similar one on Shavano but didn't bother examining it - seems the CO folks have mostly given up on 14er registers. I especially enjoyed the view north to Mt. Antero we'd climbed three days earlier, noting the roads we had driven and the other bonus peaks that day. It seems the fastest way to Climb Tabeguache and Shavano might be from the Browns Creek drainage just to the north, starting at 11,400ft. The hike to Tabeguache would be less than 1.5mi and less than 3,000ft of gain. Of course the difficulty is that drive up the Mt. Antero road from the north and then down into the drainage. Upper Browns Creek is not the easiest place to drive to.
After descending back down to the saddle east of Tabeguache, I headed northeast towards Peak 13,712ft. No vestiges of a trail from here, as the route seems to see little usage. I didn't see another soul until I had returned to the trail a few hours later. I had to first descend 300ft from the Tabeguache-Shavano saddle to a lower saddle SW of Peak 13,712ft, then climb up to the peak (not much higher than that first saddle, as it turns out). The descent to the lower saddle was easy grass & rock while the ascent of Peak 13,712ft was mostly rock, more rock and some boulders for good measure. Now 10:20a, the 3/4mi ridgeline to Jones Peak stretched east before me. Roach describes it as class 3 and "committing" with some rotten towers to avoid. I found it not really difficult, avoiding what I guessed were the rotten towers at the start of the traverse by descending lower on the south side. After this I spent most of the time along the ridge, though I avoided other minor obstacles on the north or south side, as seemed easiest. The last 150yds of the traverse were the most fun, easy class 3 on fairly solid rock to get me to the summit of Jones by 11:10a.
Descending the south side of Jones is pretty straightforward. After an intial descent through rocks, the slope becomes more vegetated and though steep, provides good footing. The lower 2/3 of the mountain becomes a fast, sandy boot ski, all the way down to Shavano Lake in less than 20min. The lake is pristine and sees few visitors. I was almost tempted to take a swim, but the water was pretty cold and deterred me. From the lake, it's about 3/4mi back to the trail along a tricky traverse. Roach suggests keeping to around 12,000ft which would make for little elevation gain or loss between the two points. I found this to be quite difficult in practice as there are some dense forest areas and cliffs to avoid along that line. I ended up dropping down 300-400ft to avoid these obstacles, then did an ascending traverse to around 11,900ft where I could pick up the trail. My GPSr had the trail and my track marked nicely, but without this there would have been considerably more guesswork in figuring out where to hit the trail. Once back on the trail, I had about 2.5mi to get back to the trailhead. I had originally thought this outing would keep me occupied until 2p, so I was happy to find it was only 1:10p when I got back. It had been nice and cool at the higher elevations, but it was 78F when I got back to the jeep, warmer than we've had the past week and more.
I was due in Telluride the next evening, with a four hour drive when I got down to US50. That should give me time for a good half day hike. Time to find one along the way...
For more information see these SummitPost pages: Mt. Shavano - Tabeguache Peak - Peak 13,712ft
This page last updated: Tue Sep 3 15:08:55 2019
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