Colorado Peak Sweep (Parts 33 – 35)

I’m a little behind on my peak plans for the summer. After Longs and Meeker, I had planned to hike another that Saturday, but my body was still pretty wrecked and I was running a 10k at 10,000 feet on Sunday, so I opted for a rest day. The following weekend, it rained and rained and rained, so being on a 14er trail would have been miserable and probably dangerous. But I finally have a few more to report on.

Mt Shavano and Tabeguache Peak (2)

Date: August 27
Summit Elevation: 14,229 ft and 14,155 ft
Performance: 10.63 miles in 6 hours 23 minutes with 5,365 feet gain
Report: This pair has long been on my list because they are so accessible, but every summer goes by and I never seem to make it happen. The weekends in Salida this year have been ticking by pretty fast too and I was worried that somehow I might miss it again. But nope, a gorgeous forecast on the 27th got me out of bed and on the trail early. The Shavano wilderness has lots of good dispersed camping, and if you are traveling with people who don’t hike 14ers, they can roam along the Colorado trail while you do your thing.

As for the summits, there’s honestly not much to report. These two mountains are perfectly average Class 2 peaks in every way. The forested part is nice but not stunning, the trail is average difficulty and not too steep because of its length, the scree and talus sections are minimal and totally navigable, and the views are decent but also not stunning. Seriously, a very average hike.

Maybe there are a few notable things.

  1. A half mile in, the trail gets really steep and is covered in round rocks that are extremely annoying to walk on and rough on the ankles if you’re wearing trail runners. My heart sank at this, worried that the whole trail would be like that. But that section lasts for about .6 miles and then the rest of the trail is fine.
  2. Most of the trail is an even steepness that’s totally manageable. I didn’t stop (other than to pee or add layers) until I reached the top of Shavano. And after the scree field on the way down, I jogged for about two miles until I reached that awful rocky part again.
  3. After the saddle, there are two routes to the top of Shavano. Both are valid. I went up one and down the other.
  4. There’s no discernable trail down from Shavano to Tabeguache, but it doesn’t matter. You can see the summit. Just head that direction down the talus until you reach the next saddle, and then the trail is obvious again. It’s not that far but it still took me a while just because there is no trail and you’re picking your way over boulders.
  5. Although the traverse between the two peaks isn’t that far, only about half the people out that day did both peaks. If you don’t hike a lot of 14ers, doing three summits (because you summit Shavano twice) is still a lot. Consider your fitness level and the weather, and be okay with turning around if the conditions aren’t right.

Mt Massive (2)

Date: August 28
Summit Elevation: 14,421 ft
Performance: 7.25 miles in 5 hours 17 minutes with 3,896 feet gain
Report: I was feeling pretty cocky after Shavano/Tabeguache. On Shavano, I didn’t stop on the way up and passed over 15 parties, I jogged on the way down and passed some of those people again who turned around after Shavano, and I generally felt super strong and healthy. But Mt. Massive kicked my ego back down to size. Sure, doing back-to-back 14ers days is already going to be taxing, but this was really tough. Fortunately, like my back-to-back Missouri and Holy Cross weekend, I had a hiking partner to keep my spirits up.

I purposefully chose the shorter route, knowing full well it would be much steeper than the standard 14 mile route. What I didn’t realize is that the first 1.5 miles up is relatively flat, making the last 2 miles extremely steep. When you turn right at the sign for Halfmoon Lakes, the ascent begins and never stops. For context:

  • Mile 1. 20 min 25 sec, 389 feet gain
  • Mile 2. 45 min 38 sec, 1,176 feet gain
  • Mile 3. 1 hr 34 min 7 sec, 2,058 feet gain. In a single mile!

So yeah, it was steep. I took a lot of breaks, both full on stopping and sitting down for a few minutes, and a lot of smaller stops to let my heart rate slow down and my breathing normalize. But on the plus side, we got down super fast. There is a boulder field section which is tougher on the ankles going up than down, but a lot of the trail is decent, grippy dirt – not super slippery or pebbly – so we made good time.

While this was hard, it was beautiful. The valley you come into after the forest area is gorgeous and I’d love to go back and check out Halfmoon Lakes. The winding trail has beautiful ridgelines and rock formations. And once you attain the false summit, the hop along the ridgeline to the real summit is easy and fun. I definitely recommend this one if you’re trying to choose. If you want to camp, there’s a lot of camping along the six mile road in from Leadville, but there are also a lot of people. This is a busy, busy camping area.

This peak wrapped up central Colorado for me. I’ve done all the 14ers in this area now and need to invest some time in the Sangre de Christos, which is where I plan to go the next two weekends. This peak also wrapped up summer. My face froze above 14,000 (I couldn’t move my lips) and we actually got snowed on for about 60 seconds right before we reached the summit. While at lower elevations the weather is still pleasant, I was surprised at what a difference just two weeks has made at 14,000 feet.

Bonus-ish – Mount Ouray (East Ridge)

Date: August 18
Summit Elevation: 13,971 (Spoiler, I quit at 13,553)
Performance: 6.05 miles in 5 hours 48 minutes with 3,858 feet gain
Report: As I mentioned, Longs/Meeker really wrecked me and I didn’t feel fit enough to do another 14er on Saturday the 13th. But I also didn’t want a whole week or more to go by before my next elevation push. A friend recommended Mount Ouray, a 13er only a half hour from my rental in Salida. So I got up super early on a gorgeous, sunny workday and headed out. The nice thing about 13ers is that few people do them, so you have the trail to yourself. The bad thing about 13ers is that few people do them, so the trails are often not well defined.

From the Gray’s Creek trailhead, the trail is fairly obvious for the first almost two miles. However, I got a little off track where the trail crisscrossed the creek a few times and was glad that I had a downloaded, offline map to find my way back. When you emerge into the bowl, there are some cairns to get you in the right direction, heading toward the ridgeline left of the summit. But then, when you start ascending the talus, it’s choose your adventure. And it was slow going. Really slow. The talus on the slope is wildly unstable. Even massive boulders that look so securely wedged into the side of the mountain are not. They slip and slide, twist and turn, and shuffle around. It’s awful. I slipped as one moved out from beneath me and my foot plunged down into some rocks, giving me a nasty cut, but fortunately I didn’t break or sprain my ankle.

The going was so bad that mile three took me 1 hour and 56 minutes. I opted for a diagonal zigzag over and up. I’m not sure that going straight up and then across the ridgeline would have been any better because when I reached the ridgeline, there was still no trail or flat ground at all. I continued to pick my way across unstable rock for a while but then finally said, fuck it. You can see the summit behind me in the first picture below with a massive rock field to keep precariously working across. It was extremely unpleasant and I didn’t see the point. I got my booty busting workout in for the day and had to get back down to go to real work.

Going back down that same mile was even slower, 1 hour and 58 minutes, though to be fair, I laid back on the rocks for a little while, soaked up some sun, and answered some work emails.

I can’t really say I’d recommend this peak, though maybe the other trail up is better. But I do recommend hiking into the bowl (shown in the big picture below, where you can also see the endless talus I had to ascend). The trail to that point is lovely and the forest is very un-Colorado like in that it is dense and has more biodiversity than other areas. It was also cool to explore the Marshall Pass area off 285, and I bet there are lots more excellent day hikes (and good camping) around there.

2 thoughts on “Colorado Peak Sweep (Parts 33 – 35)

  1. Well done and how funny that you answered work emails on the side of a mountain. Every time we stay in Leadville, Massive is RIGHT THERE, but the less ass-kicking ascent is just so long. Not sure it’s in the cards for us. Lots of other, more manageable ones to do before we have to face that question.

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