- Date: July 27-28, 2018
- Partner: Matt Odierna
- Height: 14,155 feet
- Range: Sawatch
- Route: West Ridge (Class 2)
- Overall Distance: 8.00 miles
- Elevation Gain: 4,000 feet (TH to summit)
- 14ers climbed: 22 separate climbs
- 14ers remaining: 31
- Road Condition to Trailhead: The last 3.5 miles of the road heading to the Jennings Creek Trailhead are definitely 4WD territory. If you try to do this in a 2WD car, there are several stretches with big rocks that will likely tear up the underside of your vehicle.
Since I am attempting to do all the 14ers as separate climbs under the Colorado Rule, I decided not to try to bag Tabeguache Peak using the standard route going up and over Mt. Shavano. Instead, I decided to go after it using the West Ridge route. Boy, am I glad I did. It turns out this might be one of my favorite 14er climbs so far … it is that much fun.
Driving down to the trailhead on Friday evening, there were intermittent mountain showers here and there. I arrived at the “trailhead” around 6 pm. Be forewarned that it’s easy to miss this so make sure you have a good GPX file or UTM coordinates loaded on your phone or GPS.
This trail is not maintained so expect to have to pay attention and to climb over some deadfall. The first mile is a gradual ascent through an aspen grove until the trail breaks out of the trees and tops out near a small pond, or tarn. Here, I made a left at a cairn and started an ascent up Jennings Creek, which lies in a big, expansive valley. Talus and boulder fields were on either side of the creek, and the valley floor had occasional patches of dense willow. If you try this route, it is not necessary to get into the rocks. Stay low and patiently look for the trail as it winds its way up the valley in and out of the willows.
Eventually, the willows petered out and I made my way up to a grassy bench near 12,000′, having hiked two miles. Here, I pitched my tent, nibbled on some dinner watching the sun go down, listened to some podcasts on my phone, and waited for my climbing partner Matt to arrive later on. Around 10:00 pm, I saw his headlamp coming up the trail. The weather had cooled down considerably. After he pitched his tent, we were treated to an awesome full moon display for awhile before calling it an evening.
The next morning at dawn, we began the climb out of the valley, heading towards a prominent saddle on a ridge. Once on the ridge, you have probably a mile ridge walk east towards an obvious point (Point 13,936′). This portion of the climb gains approximately 1,400 plus feet of elevation, so it is steep. The trail fades and reappears multiple times over loose, crumbly rock but the goal is to go up and over the point. The sun was now clearing the horizon and the views were spectacular; a classic Colorado ridge walk. With Matt leading the way, we arrived at the point.
From here, we could finally see the summit of Tabeguache Peak half a mile away. The remainder of this west ridge route turned into Class 2 scrambling. There is a false summit along the way, but do not attempt to go up and over this. Down climb to your right and go around it on obvious trail. Once you have cleared the false summit, you’ll see the actual summit a couple hundred yards away.
During our climb to the summit, we saw no other climbers. On our way back to the trailhead, we did pass about a dozen other climbers, much less of a crowd than I have seen on a 14er on a Saturday in Colorado. I was glad we had made the decision to camp the night before and do a dawn summit attempt because by the time we arrived back at my car, dark clouds had started to build around the mountain. In terms of overall difficulty, I’d give this route no higher than a 3. However, I would say that in terms of overall beauty, and the overall experience, this route would be right near the top of the 14ers I have done so far. Enjoy the pictures below 🙂