Labor Day Weekend. 3 days when all of Denver moves west. Problem was, we wanted nothing to do with that. Unfortunately, I had a cross country meet on Saturday, so that kind of limited our distance we could travel. After looking over some different options, we decided to climb Mt. Shavano and Mt. Tabeguache outside of Salida. We figured this would be far enough off the beaten path to escape the masses, especially if we hiked in a bit and camped for the night.
We took Sunday a little more leisurely than we planned and arrived at the Shav/Tab TH a bit later than expected. Not a big deal, we still had light and didn’t plan on hiking too far. We were pretty cautious about it though after our Mt. Harvard ordeal. Before we left, we had a few items to take care of.
1. Feed the Brown Dog before he ate us
2. Enjoy the first leaves turning for the fall
The first bit of the hike is shared with the Colorado Trail, something I would love to explore when I have more time. The trail runs from Denver to Durango (4 Corners area) essentially and crosses much of Colorado. On this particular part, we hiked through some still green aspens that were absolutely beautiful during the sunset. Shadow play was everywhere and we enjoyed being overwhelmed in the contrasts between them and the white trunks of the trees.
After hiking about a mile or so in, we saw a good place to set up camp and decided to take it. We weren’t sure what was higher up the trail, but we didn’t want to risk it. With darkness settling in, we quickly set up the tents and got a fire going for dinner. On the way through Buena Vista we had stopped at The Trailhead to pick up a new pot and some dehydrated mac and cheese. Add a little pepper now and we had a delicious dinner.
With our plans for a sunrise summit, we knew we had to be up early, so we were quick to bed after dinner. Hanging the bear bag was an eventful experience though. With many of the trees around us dead or having too short of branches, I had to wonder off about 200 yards to find something sufficient. Using only my headlamp as a security blanket, it took about 10 throws to finally get a branch that would hold. I returned to the tent only to remember that we hadn’t put Casey’s food in the bear bag, so back out I went. This time with Casey in tow, as he now wanted some of the food I was taking. He made for a much better security blanket.
We were up at 3 am and on the trail by 4. With a little more than 3 miles to go, we thought that would be plenty of time to be on the summit by 6:30. Unfortunately, we didn’t realize ow out of shape we were. Having left our summer jobs as a Sports Camp Director and as a Mountain Bike Camp Director, we had stayed pretty fit just by working. We had also spent pretty much every weekend of the summer in the mountains, but hadn’t been up since early August. These two factors took their toll and we failed to summit by sunrise. We did at least make it to treeline in time to catch an unobstructed view to the east.
Its funny to me how simple climbing mountains can be on its most basic level. Approach treeline through a valley. Gain saddle below the summit (usually somewhere in the 13,000 foot range), gain summit ridge, summit. Shavano was no different. Shortly after sunrise we were on the saddle around 13,300 ft.
Shortly after, we were on the summit of Mt. Shavano enjoying an absolutely perfect day. Despite our slow pace, we actually felt pretty good. We spent 45 minutes on the summit, the longest I’ve ever spent on top by far. The day was too beautiful to be rushed.
So we had a little bit of fun on the summit, grabbed a few standard landscape shots, and had to make a tough decision. With our slower pace, do we head over to Tab or leave it for another day?
Sadly, we made the call to not head over to Tab. We didn’t want to deal with Labor Day traffic on 285, so we headed down. It ended up being a better than expected decision as we both got hit pretty hard by altitude headaches in the last couple miles. Christine actually wasn’t able to shake hers for a couple of days. Shavano, while not a terribly challenging 14er quickly reminded us that we needed to keep ourselves in better shape if we are going to continue to challenge ourselves in the high country.
Mt. Shavano Stats:
Elevation Gain: 4,600 ft.
Time: Approx. 8 hours
Distance: 9.5 miles