My alarm went off at 1am on Saturday morning. I had just fallen asleep sometime between 9:30 and 10:00pm so waking up at 1am was nothing short of miserable.
But, I got out of bed, got dressed, took care of the dogs and headed out. I brought Zainey with me, of course, as she’s my adventure lab and needs the exercise just as much as I do.
With 8oz of coffee and breakfast to go, we were on the road by 1:40am. The drive was long and a solid portion of it was spent driving through very thick fog on 285. It had rained hard the night before and thick clouds and fog had settled into the lower elevation mountains and valleys.
I pulled up to the trail head around 5am and proceeded to meet a friend I already knew and two new friends who we had arranged to meet through our hiking grouop. We all set off on our hike at 5:20am. It was much warmer than I had anticipated, likely in the 50’s and very, very humid out from the rain the day before. This meant bundling up in the beginning of the hike with jackets & gloves but soon realizing we were sweating and had to layer down shortly into our hike. We hiked through the dark by the light of our headlamps for only 45 minutes or so before it was light enough out to put them away.
The hike was beautiful this morning. Because of the storms the day before we had the amazing opportunity of being above the clouds for the morning. Talk about absolutely jaw-droppingly beautiful views of the sunrise through the trees, the big moon and the clouds.
It took us longer than it usually does to get above treeline because we kept stopping to take pictures, stopping to layer down, stopping to chat, stopping for snacks. The weather was great and we were all becoming friends. By the time we hit treeline we probably should have picked up the pace but we were enjoying chatting & especially enjoying the blue bird day we had.
The trail above treeline was relatively steep but great dirt and scree on a solid trail. When we reached the ridge to Shavano the wind was quite intense, but died down when we reached the base of the top of the mountain where mildly vertical switchbacks on dirt, scree and rocks led us to the top.
The summit of Mt. Shavano was pretty, but relatively small and on rocks and with multiple people on the summit, there isn’t much room to really take in all of the views. We sat down, had some snacks, took some pictures and then decided to head on over to Tabeguache Peak, which is Shavano’s neighbor.
From the summit of Shavano, Tabeguache Peak summit is 1 mile one-way and 500 vertical gain away. There is a poorly defined trail for some of it, but much of the trail is over big rocks or dirt and is not defined. During the traverse from Shavano to Tabeguache you are likely to walk through one or two wind tunnels. I, without exaggeration, thought I might be blown away for a minute on the ridge down from Shavano to Tabeguache. It was the strongest wind I’d ever experienced. Luckily, it lasted for less than a moment as I kept trying to walk quickly out of the tunnel. Very interesting experience to say the least!
Pictures above include views of the hike from Shavano to Tab. As you can see, there really isn’t much of a trail. When we made the summit of Tab we were treated to beautiful views, especially of Mt. Antero to the North and of the climb we had just previously completed down from Shavano. We also met new friends when we joked about checking each other in on Facebook. Because it didn’t happen if you don’t post about it, right? Wrong. One of the admins from the ever popular 14ers.com Facebook site was up there and to our surprise, we had friends in common and ended up joking a bunch and hiking down together. You never know who you’ll meet on the top of a mountain. Tab’s views were much more gorgeous than Shavano’s (surprising considering they’re right next to each other) and because of how perfect of a day we had, we also spent a decent amount of time on the summit.
We finally began our trek back down Tab, up Shavano again, and down to the trail head / our cars at around 12:45pm. Very late to be leaving a mountain summit when you still have to head up and down another summit before you’re heading back down completely, but, we’re seasoned hikers and we were watching the sky the entire time for any chance of building storm clouds. I wouldn’t recommend anyone, ever, to be up at high elevation, exposed above treeline on a mountain top after 12pm. However, there are rare days when it is okay. Saturday was one of those days and we were extremely blessed to be able to take our time on these summits and on the hike. It is crucial to your safety and literally, your life, to be aware of storm clouds and GET OFF THE MOUNTAIN when clouds roll in if they have even the slightest chance of producing lightning. Lightning will kill you.
On the way down Tab we pretty much all took our own routes. As hard as you try to stay on a defined trail, it gets difficult because it’s rocks and dirt and talus to the saddle between Tab and Shav. You do what you can do stick on a trail but it’s poorly defined and disappears and reappears at time. Once down on the saddle we opted to stay below the ridge to avoid the wind tunnel and the bigger rocks so the dogs would have an easier time. Again, there is no solid & clearly defined trail so you do what you can to stay on course and not overwork yourself while you’re trying to back it back up and over Shavano to the defined trail that comes down from Shavano.
Amos was ready for a break once we summited Shavano for the second time!
And then once we cleared the Shavano summit and headed back down towards treeline Zainey decided she, too, needed a break. Right in the middle of the trail.
Looking back up Shavano. You can see the trail here that we took down from Shavano.
A while later Zainey decided to venture out onto the grass and just start rolling over on her back. Weird dog.
And finally, after a couple of hours of hiking down, which is always MUCH more painful than hiking up (Think: Knees hurting, toes hurting, hot because you’re at much lower elevation, tired from waking up early and the intense amount of energy expenditure, starving from burning 3-5k calories without a proper meal), we made it back to the trees we past at the beginning of our hike.
All in all, we took our time, spent time on the summits, took pictures, chatted, laughed and successfully made it to the top of two new 14ers. We left the car at 5:20am and Jason and I got back to the car around 4:45pm. Sue and the other Jason made it back sooner. But we had dogs, and they take longer to hike with 🙂 A very long day, but well worth it.
The first thing I always do when I get back to the car is 1. Immediately put Zainey in the car so she can lay down. 2. Take off my shoes!!! 3. Put on flip flops
To me, immediately after a hike there is nothing better than immediately taking off my shoes and putting on flip flops. My feet were hurting so bad this day. I definitely need a foot massage. STAT. Which is great timing because as soon as I’m done typing this blog I’m heading to get a pedicure 🙂
So after we said our goodbyes to each other, and thanked each other for a seriously fun day, I headed off towards Buena Vista, towards 285, towards home. Another 3 hour drive was waiting.
I might have stopped at the Shell Station on the way home (because really, when you’re in a hurry to get home, what are your other options in the middle of nowhere when fast food places don’t exist?). At the time, dealing with pure exhaustion, these were the only foods that sounded good. And they were good.
When you nab 48,000 steps on your Fitbit, 11.3 miles, 5,300 vertical gain and burn upwards of 4,800 calories in ONE hike, you can eat whatever the heck you want.
It was a good day. Shavano and Tab were #’s 16 and 17 out of the 58 Colorado 14ers for me. I’ll remember these two ❤