The Greater Sister - Tabeguache
The Greater Sister - Tabeguache
The sister peak to Mount Shavano is Tabeguache Peak. It is the shy sister. From all common highways it is hidden behind the less modest Shavano. In my opinion it is the greater of the two. Although a shorter route with slightly lower elevation and lower elevation gain on the climb, it is a more challenging climb with a greater variety of spectacular views.
There are essentially two different routes to gain this peak. One is from Mount Shavano to the southeast and the other is the West Ridge via Jennings Creek. Neither route is very populated, so for me this climb was an enticing proposition. Since I was on Shavano the weekend previous, the West Ridge made for an easy choice.
On Friday night I set up camp along the South Fork of the Arkansas River along CR240 several miles west of Poncha Springs and a short distance beyond the Angle of Shavano Camp Ground, which had recently closed for the season. My hiking partner, Brian Richmond, arrived around 9:30pm. We had a nice campfire chat before getting some sleep for a 6:30am rise. A few miles up a 4WD road we were at the trailhead near Jennings Creek by 8am.
Along the way we gave a ride to a couple of ladies who abandon the idea of taking their less adequate car up the road. One of the ladies was seven peaks shy of climbing all Colorado rated 14ers this year. Oh, to be young again!
The trail was one of the lesser traveled trails I had been on this summer. We climbed up a few hundred feet in elevation through a thick pine and aspen forest until reaching a small tarn marking our exit to an even lesser traveled trail toward the ridge and saddle between Carbonate Mountain and Tabeguache.
The lower valley we hiked through to get to the ridge was nearing the peak of fall aspen colors. There was also a scattering of very old dried up pines and willow brush covered most of the creek. The pines were the remanence of what must have been a once majestic existence; the trunks near three feet across, some fallen, some still standing but long since dead. It was quite strange to see an old forest not replenished.
Gaining the ridge was an introduction to the rest of the day: very windy with miles of talus but an amazing view in every direction. The wind on the ascent was cool and steady with strong and sometimes sustaining gusts. The wind is great discouragement. At one point during the descent one gust knocked me off my feet. With this sort of wind it helps to have a hooded outer shell to dampen the sound and effect of the wind on the head and ears. Struggling up a mountain is tough enough without a constant wind.
From the ridge looking down through the golden valley from which we came to the south raises the guard of Mt Aetna and Taylor Mountain both just a few hundred feet shy of 14,000 feet on the other side of the Arkansas. On the north side are the layers of mountain peaks that populate the Sawatch Range beginning with Mt Antero and Mount Princeton leading into the rest of the Collegiate Peaks and the tallest in Colorado, Mount Elbert. Further off in the distance and slightly to the east Longs Peak can be seen on a clear day such as this day.
There were actually four summits and virtually no trail on the way to the top of Tabeguache. The general instruction is that it is best to go over the top of each as going around them yields very little advantage either in time or in elevation.
The final pitch to the summit was quite steep and the talus was very loose in some places. On a couple of occasions we caused a minor rock slide. In situations like these, do not climb below another person. Be sure you are clear of the path any loose rock could take from other people climbing. And it is a great idea to bring along a rock climbing helmet as a precaution. Gloves with a good firm grip will also help.
We had the summit to ourselves and stayed for a half hour before heading back down. This hike took us longer than expected primarily due to the wind. We were also both suffering from late-season weariness; tired feet mostly. Achy feet or not, there will be no objection from me any time I can spend 10 hours hiking Colorado with near perfect weather and see only few people.
The plan is to return in the late winter months for some glissading down the near-by Angle of Shavano.
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