Peak(s):  Mt. Shavano  -  14,230 feet
Tabeguache Peak  -  14,158 feet
Mt. Antero  -  14,271 feet
Mt. Princeton  -  14,200 feet
Mt. Columbia  -  14,075 feet
Mt. Yale  -  14,200 feet
Tigger Peak 13,300ft
Date Posted:  08/26/2020
Date Climbed:   08/22/2020
Author:  jimwei
 4 days in Sawatch Range   

I had four days off this past weekend. Originally planned to hike in the San Juans. Then got lazy and didn't feel like driving that far so changed the plan and decided to attempt to finish the Sawatch Range 14ers instead. I had 7 to go, so it was iffy if I could pull it off in four days.

Drove up Friday after work and camped about 2 miles below Blanks Cabin TH and listened to way too much traffic going up the road that evening and early Saturday morning. Sure enough the TH was completely packed by the time I got there at 5:40 AM Saturday. There were a lot hikers and even a couple runners going up.

Shavano from the trail

I got to Shavano summit at around 8:40 AM, rested a few minutes while ate a snack, then head down the ridge to Tabeguache and got to the top at around 9:20 AM or so. Still tons of people around the summit but I knew I will soon be alone. Antero looked really far and daunting from here.

Looking at Antero from Tabeguache, thinking about going up the gully left of center, instead of following the dirt road up the long way.

I wasn't sure the best way to get down to Brown's Creek. The drainage from the saddle looks kind of nasty so I went up past the saddle a bit and went down the talus field east of the drainage. That was hard on the legs.

Descend from Tabeguache

Then I went back west to attempt to get back to the drainage and the screes were super loose. The drainage was not too hard to get down, just full of rocks.

Looking back up at the descend drainage from Tabeguache

Finally crossed Brown's Creek and refilled water. I only brought 1.5 L and had ran out since the descent took much longer than I expected.

Walked west on the trail/dirt road for a bit then saw the gully that looked pretty tempting. The right side of the creek was full of willows so crossed over to the left and found a decent path up to the treeline then it was easy though slow going up due to tired quads. Passed through a herd of mountain goats staring at me.

Gully going up toward Antero
Mountain goats, had to zoom in so not too clear.

Arrived at Antero summit at 1:23 PM, way behind the ETA I came up with earlier. Antero was a bit of cultural shock, so many people, jeeps, trucks, SUV's and ATV's. It's gotten pretty smoky and Princeton (day 2's plan) was pretty hazy.

Princeton from Antero summit

I really didn't want to go back down the dirt road and mingle with vehicles and dusts so checked Gaia map and decided the dry lake and drainage southeast of the summit will take me to Little Brown Creek. Initially it was easy going then the drainage got steeper but soon found a spring with clean water pouring out. It was a relief since it was hot and once again almost out of water. Further down I had to climb up a craggy point to decide the best path down without cliffing out.

Found this structure below Antero.
The final down hill section to Little Brown Creek. I took the my right side (left in the photo) path down. The other side looked hideous.
Found a work site in the gully.

Then it was a long 4 miles slog to the CT, then a longer 7 miles slog back to Blanks Cabin TH just past 6 PM. Did have an enjoyable last 5 miles while sharing the trail with another hiker named David who's been living out of his 4runner for the past one and half months exploring the mountains.

Camped a bit further down 252 and since I didn't want to drive any further. This time found a spot a few hundred yards from the main dirt road and had a very quiet evening.

Woke up Sunday sore as expected. Drove 40 minutes to Mt. Princeton lower trailhead and found it almost empty save for two cars. This time loaded up with more water (learned from yesterday), and started the hike up the road at around 7 AM. A few cars passed me but otherwise it was a quiet walk. The radio tower parking was almost full, but the 11,200 ft parking area still had some spots. Eventually got to the upper trailhead at 8:45 AM. The trail up the mountain was super easy to follow, eventually became more rocky but very stable which was a relief compare to the day before on Tabeguache.

Princeton from the trail

When I got up to the saddle at 13k, I saw there is a faint trail going to the small peak opposite of Princeton. Another hiker resting at the saddle told me it's called Tigger Peak. After somewhat slow going the slippery final section of the trail, arrived at the summit at 10:45 AM-ish. A hiker on the summit told me there is a way to get down Tigger Peak on the other side, so that got me interested. Loop is always better than out and back. Going up to Tigger was easy by staying on the ridge instead of following the faint trail. Once on the final of the three humps on the summit, the way down became obvious.

Southeast ridge of Tigger Peak, leading down to the end of the dirt road.

From here it was easy to get down to the dirt road, then a slow jog down the 5+ish miles of dirt road to nurse the sore quads. Finished at just after 1 PM. Then it was off to the Arkansas River for a cold river bath and some food. Originally I had planned to do another peak on Sunday afternoon after the forecasted rain, but sore legs said heck no. Camping at Turtle Rock for sit down toilets, no more squatting!

For Monday I had wanted to drive up to Holy Cross to do the loop. But the forecast said afternoon lighting and thunderstorm and I didn't want to get stuck on Halo Ridge for that. So went to Columbia instead. Forgot to set the alarm so woke up and startled to see day light and hurried to pack up and got to the trailhead and started hiking around 7:20 AM. There were some cars at TH but not very crowded.

Hikers above me on Columbia.

The new CFI trail was impressive especially the retaining walls. But once the new section ended the trail got slippery. I passed a hiker who saw my race shirt and asked about it and soon discovered we have a mutual friend from Minnesota. We chatted for awhile then I went ahead and found the summit just before 10:30 AM. The weather looked clear but the hazy from the smoke even though smoke have improved, it still prevented me from seeing weather far to the west.

Yale from Columbia summit

I went down the ridge to the north a bit to get a better view of the traverse to Harvard.

Columbia to Harvard traverse route

The route looked really obvious and it was very tempting but given the forecast, I decided it was to be for another day. However the Bear Lake looks really cool and I certainly had time to explore.

Went down the trail to the junction then took a right toward Horn Fork Basin. The creek provided relief in gorgeous tasting water and I found the turn off to Bear Lake shortly after that. Other than two fishermen at the lake, I was alone. The lake is beautiful and the rock formations on the ridge to the west was super cool.

Bear Lake and the continental divide ridge to the west.

I went south on the lake plateau and arrived at a point overlooking Horn Fork basin. It was a nice prospective of the gorgeous basin.

Horn Fork Basin
Closer view of the continental divide ridge. Wonder if anyone traversed that before.

Jogging back down the trail, I caught up with the runner from Minnesota and we went down together and I gave her a lift back down to her car which was parked 3 miles down the road. This was her third and final 14er on the trip, after Massive and Elbert.

Monday evening my wife drove up and joined me at Turtle Rock. We got up super early at 5 AM but still fumbled around the camp way too long and didn't get to Denny Creek TH until just before 7 AM. The trail is beautiful but the lack of elevation gain in the first 2 miles worried us greatly.

Wildflowers along the Yale trail

At around 13,200 ft I saw the three really cool looking mountains profiled behind my wife. Turned out these are the Three Apostles.

Three Apostles from the Yale trail.

The summit ridge had a fun scramble and I talked my wife into trying it and she had a blast!

Playing on rocks on Yale summit ridge
Playing on rocks on Yale summit ridge

It was a super enjoyable way to finish the trip, climbing Yale with my wife.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions
Excellent report
08/28/2021 11:06
and seemed you had lot of fun! Some beta will help us in the future - we finished almost all Sawatch save for the 4 collegiate.

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