Saturday, August 25, 2012

Tabeguache Peak

We were standing at the summit of Mount Shavano, 14,229 feet in elevation, looking over at Tabeguache Peak, 14,155 feet in elevation. 
Tabeguache is not one of the more scenic mountains, at least from that angle. It had a little peaklet on top with a decidedly un-sexy approach of mixed rock and scree. It didn't look like a lot of fun. The topic of weather came up. A thunderstorm was supposed to come in (the picture above was taken later when the thunderstorm was near) and Sam mentioned that we needed to get going right away if we wanted to summit Tabeguache which was a mile away, and then a mile back, retracing the same route. We figured, about right on, that it would take us an hour each way. We'd made good time up to the summit and we felt pretty good about getting over and back before a storm hit. A man from Kansas was near us at the summit and his two female companions, that we passed on the way up, were just arriving as we left. From this point the trail was spotty at best. Virtually the entire scramble down the Shavano ridge to the Shavano/Tabeguache saddle, at 13,700 feet, was boulder hopping. Below, looking back at the Shavano summit.
Sam along the ridge.
Along the way, Sam stopped to show me a granite boulder with a rock protrusion that looked like a mushroom. 
He said that he loved these when rope climbing as they were easy to put a rope around and extremely strong. I'd never seen anything like it before. A view of Tabeguache from along the Shavano ridge.
A view into the valley below which contains Shavano Lake.
At the saddle looking up the Tabeguache ridge I kind of dreaded the next stretch of what I figured would be tiring boulder hopping and scree slipping and sliding. A picture of me, by Sam, near the saddle, looking up the Tabeguache ridge.
Another picture by Sam looking back at Shavano peak.
Sam pretty quickly left me in his wake and I methodically, per my m.o., went slowly, but consistently, step by step, up the ridge.  I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly and easily I got up the ridge. It was easier than anticipated. As I got near the summit I could see Sam with several other hikers and a dog. 
Coloradans love their dogs. It is not unusual to see quite a number of hikers with dogs on the trails to the fourteeners, a practice I am not fond of, especially when the dogs are not on a leash. I find the dogs an annoying intrusion into the wilderness experience, an intrusion into my personal space. But this particular dog I grew quite fond of as I met his owner, a hiker from Colorado Springs. It looked like a miniature version of an Irish setter, and we ended up spending a good portion of our hike back out in company with the owner and dog. This dog and owner had done about 17 fourteeners together. I caught a glimpse of the owner/dog bond. If you can't have one of your sons as a companion, maybe a good dog is an inferior substitute. The summit, like the mountain itself, was rather unspectacular. 
Nothing particularly unusual or distinctive about it. No particularly spectacular cliffs or beautiful scenic views, but a fourteener never-the-less.
As we left, I kept pace with the two other hikers and dog on the way down to the saddle. We passed the man and women from Kansas who were just beginning the hike up the Tabeguache ridge. I was surprised to see them, so far behind us and with the impending storm. They must have taken a long rest on top of Shavano. From the ridge of Shavano, looking back at the hikers from Kansas making their way up the ridge of Tabeguache.
A closer look at the man from Kansas as he nears the summit of Tabeguache, profiled by the sky above the ridge.
I stayed with Sam and the two other hikers down to the saddle, then quickly fell behind them on the trudge back up the ridge to Shavano's summit. 
Shavano is much more interesting than Tabeguache. The boulders are nicer, larger, covered with beautiful lichens and interspersed with grass.
(Shavano summit below)
Shavano is to Jacob as Tabeguache is to Esau, born next to each other, but the one much more beautiful and desirable than the other. Even from the roads on the valley floor below, Shavano stands out and Tabeguache remains mostly hidden and virtually indestinguishable from the peaks around it (I believe Tabeguache may be the little point right of center, up from the Shavano/Tabeguache saddle, but it may also be hidden and behind that point). 
I met up with Sam and the same hikers we'd seen on Tabeguache, on Shavano summit (the picture by Sam, below, is of me from Shavano summit, coming up the ridge), 
and we started down together. Our route down was more direct, through the loose scree, giving reason to the mishmash of trails we encountered on the way up Shavano. For the next two or three miles I hiked with the man from Colorado Springs and his dog (picture by Sam). 
For the most part, I enjoy other hikers. I suppose that may be expected among people with similar interests. There is a friendliness and camaraderie and trust. I usually don't worry too much about having gear or food disappear when left idle among a group. A view of Mount Antero, another fourteener, from the Shavano saddle (picture by Sam).
A little below the 13,400 foot saddle below Shavano, we could hear the thunder begin and Sam got a great picture of a rainstorm below us in the valley. 
My thoughts turned to the folks from Kansas behind us. I hoped they would be okay. We made it a way below tree line when drops of rain began. It was kind of nice and refreshing. Awhile later the skies opened up and I stopped to put on my jacket. At that point the man from Colorado Springs and his dog continued on and Sam and I stayed together. The rain actually added quite a bit to the hike. It was a nice change. It cooled things off, added a nice refreshing feel and smell to the air, deepened the colors around us. We started to look for signs of Andrew: mushrooms uprooted along the side of the trail. We were not disappointed. It was obvious Andrew had had some fun. The rain eventually subsided. I brought along some flax seed tortillas and hummus and enjoyed a nice lunch as a gray jay got very near me and serenaded me, quite unafraid.  We eventually ran into Andrew, close to the trailhead. He proudly showed us his collection of king bolete mushrooms and recounted the joy and ecstasy of eating one. He does love his mushrooms. At the trailhead I encountered the man from Colorado Springs and his dog again.  As we left the trailhead and looked back at the mountain, we saw Shavano engulf in mist and occasional lightning flashes. 

Perhaps the best view of what I think may be Tabeguache below, the point at the left end of the ridge on the third set of mountains.
My thoughts turned again to the people from Kansas. I really enjoyed the Shavano/Tabeguache combination, I think moreso than any other fourteener combination I've done. 

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