Climbed With - Sean Brune, Brian Murray, Chris
When I woke up Friday morning to the sound of the wind blowing rain against my window, I became a bit discouraged about our prospects for successfully camping and summiting Tabeguache Peak via the Angel of Shavano. This would mark my third attempt on Tabeguache Peak, having been denied by lightning last June and by deep powder below treeline in February. So throughout the day at work, I was checking the weather forecast in the mountains. It appeared that there would be some overnight snow, but that Saturday would be good, though the forecast for the Eastern Sawatch above 11,000 ft. called for windchills between -5 and 5.
With this small bit of (relatively) good news, we set out from Golden around 6, reaching the turn off from US 285 at about 8. By this time, there was snow on the ground around us and we had passed through some fog. The drive up the dirt road to the trailhead was eerily beautiful, with the snow weighing down the scrubby trees and still lightly falling. Upon reaching the trailhead, we found about 4 inches of light fluffy powder on the ground. The clouds were still around to keep it sort of warm though, and we headed off to bed around 9:30 or so. Just as we went to bed the clouds started clearing, which led to a bit of a chilly night.
I had gotten about 5 hours of sleep by the time the alarm went off, and I had gotten the most of anyone. It was a very cold morning, so we hurried to get our warm clothes on. My water had frozen in the car overnight, but it was just the hose, so I was able to melt it with no troubles. We set off at about 5:40am, wearing snowshoes because of the fresh snow. It wasn't long before they started knocking against rocks just underneath the snow, and we ditched them shortly after the trail splits from the Colorado Trail.
|The sun peeks through the trees to light up parts of the forest with a brilliant orange glow.|
We made decent progress, considering the snow and some wallowing right near treeline. We reached treeline after about 2.5 hours or so, and the angel after another 45 minutes to an hour (with a 15 minute break to de-layer a bit and put on sunscreen). Brian just powered on up the angel, leaving about 10 minutes ahead of me. He said that the snow wasn't all that good, mostly because there was more snow up here, leading to some postholing.
|Clouds sit 2500 feet below us as we head out of the trees and up towards the angel|
Heading up the Angel was where the trouble started. The powder on top meant that there was some postholing, and I didn't bother with crampons because I figured they would ball up terribly. The fresh snow had also kept the older stuff underneath good and hard, making it impossible to kick in steps. The fresh snow was too soft for steps, and the older snow was too hard. This meant that every step forward resulted in sliding back a bit before gaining your footing. This quickly got tiring, and by the time we finally got through the snow, it was about 11:15. Brian had been there for 40 minutes or so, with Sean about 5-10 minutes behind me and Chris the same distance behind Sean.
|The fresh snow hides the Angel of Shavano from view|
Brian and I planned to head up for Shavano and then on to Tabeguache, with Sean and Chris meeting us either lower down or on Shavano's summit on our way back. We set out for the upper reaches of the mountain, about 900 feet or so left between us and the summit. The snow caused new problems for me here. I took a bit of a different route from Brian, hoping the trail might be a bit easier. Instead, I found myself sinking into the snow and between boulders. It took me until 12:35 to reach the summit, about 20 minutes behind Brian, and at 7 hours, a full 3 hours longer than my last ascent of this peak.
|Clouds came up and enveloped us for a few minutes, an eerie reminder of our last trip up the angel.|
At this point, I was so tired from the troubles on the ascent that I knew I couldn't make it over to the other peak, so Brian headed off for there, and I decided to wait until I saw him on his way down. I talked to some other guys who had been just behind us who said that they found crampons very helpful on the Angel, which sort of added insult to injury. They also took the eastern ridge up the final push, rather than the south ridge, and they had very little snow. Brian made great time over to Tabby, and I headed down as I saw him get some glissades on the snow. Sean and Chris had already turned back at this point.
|Brian powers up the ridge between Shavano and Tabeguache|
I took the clearer route down, and wondered if I would have made the other summit if I had taken it up, since it was so very much easier. Once down back in the snow, I found that the snow was no good for glissading, but still very slippery. Eventually I found the glissade spots from the other party and Chris and Sean, but it still wasn't very good. I waited for Brian at the base of the angel, and we hiked out together in t-shirts because of the warm weather. The snow was dripping from the trees, but we managed to avoid getting hit by it. Back at the campsite, the snow was already totally gone from the warm weather.
|By afternoon, the mountain had less snow and some new glissade paths|
I guess I'll see if the fourth time is a charm for Tabeguache Peak, but I think I'll head over the Mount Antero 4x4 road and start from Brown's Lake next time. And I'll start at 4am.
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