Saturday I made my way over to Salida to take a look at a used yurt Tess found on Craig’s List. The drive there took me though Gunnison and via country that I loved living in when I was younger. I arrived in the evening after spending a little time in Gunnison marveling at all the changes that have occurred at Western State College (now University I guess) since I left there. After getting my look at the yurt I decided that driving back over Monarch pass was off the table because the dear were coming out as thick as flies.
I knew I was at the southern end of the Sawatch range and figured I could find the trail head for Shavano/Tabeguache pretty easily. Sure enough I was bouncing up a well marked road (nothing like that 20 years ago) and rolled into my “distributed” camping spot at about 9:00 PM. I set up camp and got down to sleeping as soon as possible. I happened to catch a NOAA weather forecast on the way up which was predicting early T-showers and I wanted to get to the summit and back down below tree level before this prediction rolled in and interrupted my good time.
There’s something about going to bed knowing you’re going to get up to climb a mountain in the morning that makes me sleep like its an sports event. I woke up long before my watch beeped and feeling well rested and eager I decided that I might as well break camp and head for the trail head. There was no stopping me even tough I started about two hours before the sun came up.
Well above the tree line when the sun broke the eastern horizon I was treated to an event that is worth a week of three AM mornings. The sun just creeps up behind you and fill you with an overwhelming sense of joy. You can hear it too, every little bit of life — the pikas, and plants, birds, and even the water — seems to get a charge from it as it clears the dark away and saturates everything. Its a clean feeling too, better than a hot shower.
The air got thinner and of course I slowed down, but I pushed the hill doing my best to make good time. I summited Shavano around 7:00 AM and ate my breakfast (tasty granola bar and some water) sitting in the sunlight.
I skipped Tabeguache because even at 7:00 AM there were anvil heads forming over the West Elks and mountains further east of that. Even thought the distance is much, the climb down the back side of Shavano and then back up Tabeguache is slow going. And then you have to turn around and do it all over again. There’s no easy or safe way out, I turned around and made the run back to the trail head meeting people along the way.