Sunday, September 7, 2008

9/5/08 Tabeguache and Shavano

Tabeguache (14,155), Shavano (14,229)
~11 miles
~6,100 vertical feet
3hrs 54 minutes

For a variety of reasons, we got out of town a few hours later than I had hoped and did not make it the Angel of Shavano Campground (closed for the season) until 3pm and set up camp just up the road in a nice little informal camping spot, as we were meeting Dave, Emily, Aron and Kevin for a hike the next day.

It was my intention to run a fourteener on the way, or Tabeguache/Shavano after we set up camp, but as it was getting so late, I was a bit conflicted. I quickly set up camp and got ready for a “run”, not really sure how far I would get, but I was hoping to check out the route up “Espirit Point” over to Shavano and see how things went from there. It looks short on the map, and the distance/stats looked reasonable for the remaining daylight I had, but just barely.

I got off to a not so alpine start time of 3:35pm up the Colorado Trail from the Angel of Shavano TH at 9,180 feet. Not having done my homework, I realized that after a few strides, I needed to bushwhack hard left to attain the steep SE facing gulley/ridge. I was thankful that I dressed/prepared for a hike, rather than a “run”, as I was quite thankful to be wearing pants, long sleeve shirt, work gloves and scree gaiters. Up I went through the dense bushes, sharp yucca, cacti and deadfall. Up, left, up, left, up, left I went, desert scrub, turning to deadfall, talus and branches to hit your head on. Often times I was on all fours, negotiating the loose slopes and numerous obstacles. I could never really settle into a steady rhythm because of the terrain and I don’t really think I was feeling 100%.

It was hot from the start, but I eventually put all the trees/bushes behind me and appreciated the cool breeze above treeline. 13,630 foot “Espirit Point” looks tantalizingly and deceptively close, but took a bit longer than planned. Without pause, I cruised over the summit and dropped the 300 feet down to the Shavano/Espirit saddle and standard trail, where I could move a bit more efficiently. I topped out on Shavano at 5:30pm, and again cruised over the top while sucking down a gel. I originally debated heading over to Jones, as it looked fairly close, but I was behind schedule and knew my time frame just for getting back to camp before dark was tight.

Since I was running a bit behind schedule, I was starting to get a little antsy about getting off the mountain in a timely manner. I considered turning tail and going the way I came (too steep and loose, would probably have taken me longer to descend than ascend), debated heading down to Blank Gulch, then the Colorado Trail, but it seemed long and some of it unknown. I ultimately decided to go over Tabeguache and descend to Jennings Creek, as I have been that way before and I knew as long as I can get to the road with enough daylight, I would have no issues getting back to camp (I did have a headlamp). In the back of my mind, I kept thinking there was some sort of issue with the Jennings Creek route, “little used?”, and perhaps “discouraged???” (I would later find out permanently closed and erased from the mountain).

I made the traverse over to Tabeguache from Shavano at a quick, but conservatively safe pace and again did not pause. I was anticipating a nice quick cruise off the mountain and although the West ridge was not so bad, it had a few more ups/downs and more loose rock than I remember. I opted to side hill the talus below 13,936 (not sure if this was the most efficient way), then after a long while made it to the nice ridge heading South. The trail was faint and the ridge longer/slower than I anticipated, complicated by a now stiff wind from the West. I eventually lost what little trail was left and then descended the slope where I remembered the trail to be. I got my lucky break here, and was able to drop 2,000 feet in 10 minutes due to the nice soft dirt (probably the old trail) and then finally bushwhacked my way to the road in another 15.

I had told Allison I would be back in less than 3 hours, but I was now beyond that, oops. I kicked it into gear and jogged down the rough/rocky road, thinking maybe 10 or 15 minutes I would be back to camp. The road really started to seem endless after a while, way longer than I remember, but I still had plenty of daylight. I was just anxious at this point to get back as I knew Allison would be starting to question my whereabouts.

After 29 minutes and 4 miles slogging down the road, I made it back 3:54 after I started with only about 30 minutes of daylight to spare. I was very happy to see that Dave and Emily had arrived and we built a nice campfire and had a great time enjoying one another’s company.


I’m really ashamed and embarrassed that I did not do my homework on this route, but my lack of commitment for a specific peak and late start unfortunately prevented me from taking this important step. Subsequent research revealed that my ascent route is suggested for winter conditions only ascents due to erosion issues. The old Jennings Creek trail is completely closed and has been snuffed out with nary a trace. Although I happily bushwhack on little used peak, I respect the work of the trail crews on busy 14ers and was not happy with myself for coming down that way. Lesson learned.

Treeline: :53
"Espirit Point": 1:33
Shavano: 1:55
Tabeguache: 2:20
Old Jennings Creek TH: 3:25
Camp: 3:54

No comments:

Post a Comment