After turning back because we were too tired from the Angel of Shavano the previous week, Angi and I knew we would soon be back to summit Tabeguache Peak. Due to the three day weekend, our plan was to use the Browns Creek approach. Also, we were able to talk my good friends and old roommates, Allison and Brendan, into coming. Since none of us own a 4x4, we were going to backpack in to Browns Lake.
I have always tried to avoid backpacking to a location which could be reached by car, because half the fun is going where other people aren't, but this seemed like a great trip, and was certainly worth it. The lake was not very busy even though there was a Subaru there, so I would imagine the road from Mt. Antero is not too rough.
We left Boulder at 9am Friday morning, hoping to avoid the 4th of July weekend traffic on 285. Although the road was full, everything was moving along well and we arrived at the Little Browns Creek Trailhead by 11. It had been very hot along the front range, and this day was no exception. The trail has some short switchbacks right away, so we knew what we were in for.
After two hours, we reached the crossing of Browns Creek and sat down for lunch. There is a distinct bend in the creek at this point, and we could see quite a few small brook trout in the crystal clear water. I had my fishing pole, but could not manage to catch them. After a few minutes I gave up and we headed off up the trail.
Soon after, we passed through dozens of columbines as we climbed steeply into the gulch. Each steep section we crested seemed to be the last one, but there were always more ahead. Once we were in the valley, the trail was still uphill, but manageable. After a few more hours, we finally reached the beautiful lake after 5 hours of hiking.
There are some campsites on the east end of the lake, but there is a nice meadow to the west end which has many good campsites. However, the west end is accessible from the road, so if it is solitude you desire, stick to the east end of the lake. Since it had been so hot, we headed west to find some trees to pitch our tents.
From the Lake, we had a spectacular view of Tabeguache, Jones Peak, and Point 13,712 to our south. We could now see the route we planned to climb, and while it looked quite short, I knew it contained 3000' of elevation gain. The route did not look like loose scree as I had feared, and seemed to be half talus and half grass to the summit.
We went to bed early, knowing we needed to get an early start on Tabeguache to avoid bad weather. We awoke with no alarm at 6am and got on the trail by 6:30. After a quick hike through the forest, we arrived at the foot of the ascent, and saw what we had in store for us. The initial ascent has some moderately difficult boulder hopping to reach the grass above. We ascended this without much difficulty and slowly plodded up the steep grass above.
As we reached the end of the grass at about 13,000', we could see we had quite a bit of boulder hopping in front of us. To add to this, we were faced with a traversing ascent to the saddle above between Point 13,712 and the Tabeguache Shavano saddle. This ascent was steep, and the large rocks were often loose, and required extra attention to climb.
While scary at times, the climbing never exceeded Class 2+, and we were at the first saddle an hour later. It was an easy walk up the grass slope to the Shavano Tabeguache saddle from there. It was then we noticed the first person we had seen all day, ascending the steep summit of Tabeguache. Standing on the 13,700' saddle, we seemed to be very close, but the last 500' took about forty minutes for our tired bodies to ascend.
Tabeguache has a nice, small summit, and we were lucky to have it to ourselves on this summer day. We sat, rested, and ate for about an hour. I was quite surprised to notice it was actually hot on the summit. There was no wind and bright sunshine which managed to sunburn my shins!
After a rather uneventful descent to the saddle between the Tabeguache-Shavano saddle and Point 13,712, we headed down the rockfield below. We opted to traverse more than a straight descent, which turned out to be a mistake. The rocks were never very loose, but the occasional loose, 600lb rock will certainly keep you on your toes. We continued on down the grassy section, where the flowers were in full bloom.
Another rocky descent led us to the valley below, and we returned to camp at 1 o'clock. Our five hour hike had tired us out, and we got some food and water and lazed around the rest of the day. The next morning, I went down to Browns Lake to try my luck fly fishing. The water was boiling with fish rising, and even though I didn't have any dry flies, I managed to use a wolly worm on top of the water to catch seven fish in a single hour! Later, we packed up and headed down the trail back to the car. The return trip was quite pleasant, with cool early morning temperatures and plenty of downhill.
On the way down we stopped at the 'falls'. There is a small sign just as you enter the steep Browns Creek valley which says 'Falls' and has an arrow pointing south. The falls were nice, about 20', and there were some incredible pools in the creek below. I crossed the river on a logjam and pulled a beautiful brook trout out of the deep, crystal clear pool. We ate and were at the car in about 4 hours of hiking.
See more trip reports, my homepage, etc at http://www.cunap.com/~hardingr