My brother Brent and I spent the first 2 days of our vacation at my Grandfather's ranch near Yampa. We used that time to relax and acclimatize before the big 14er expedition. On Monday evening we embarked on the 3 1/2 hour drive to Salida. The views are absolutely stunning from I-70 all the way down through the Arkansas River Valley to Salida. We stayed the night at the Circle R motel in Salida. It's not the nicest place, but it was cheap and that's all that matters. The alarm went off at 5:15 and were on the road by 5:45. We arrived at the Blank Gulch trailhead at about 6:15 and embarked on the quest for our first 2 summits of 2004.
We strolled through the woods for a couple miles and then headed up the drainage to the base of the Angel. The Angel snowfield is not as difficult as I thought it might be. I had crampons, so it was good footing all the way up for me. Brent just had his boots, so the steeper section at the beginning was harder for him. All in all we had good snow conditions. The snow was soft enough to get good footing, and yet hard enough to keep post-holing to a minimum.
Brent and I left the Angel at the top of the Torso and headed straight toward the summit. It looked so close, but it was an optical illusion. We still had about 1200 ft. vertical to climb. We finally arrived at the summit at about 10:00. When we got there, we both noticed something very unusual. There was literally no wind at all. I mean you could have dropped a feather from 100 ft. above, and it would have floated straight down to us!
The skies were still clear, so after eating a peanut butter and honey sandwich, we made our descent to the saddle between Shavano and Tabeguache. By the time we reached the summit of Tabeguache, the skies were beginning to look a little more unfriendly. The weather was getting progressively worse as we headed back over the summit of Shavano. There were some thunderheads building to the south. Ouray peak and areas west looked as though they were getting pounded. The clouds were getting thicker overhead, and we began to fear the threat of lightening.
We were moving quickly down the face of Shavano, and we reached the snowfield in no time. I had forgotten whether snow is a good or bad place to be during a thunderstorm, but I wanted to get down quickly, and glissading was the quickest descent I could think of. Shortly thereafter it began to dump snow on us. We began to relax a little because we figured if its cold enough to snow, its too cold for lightening. We discovered 3 days later that that was bad logic, but that's another story.
The rest of the descent was uneventful. The snow stopped after 10 or 15 minutes, and it never did rain on us. After the climb, Brent and I had dinner at Pizza Hut, and then we headed up to Buena Vista to prepare for the next day's climb of Mount Princeton. Shavano and Tabeguache were 14ers #10 and #11 for both Brent and me. 3 down (Evans, Shav, Tab) and 4 to go for the week (Princ, Harv, Colu, Sherm).
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