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Sunrise from Tabeguache Peak

Sunrise from Tabeguache Peak, Sawatch Range, Colorado

Sunrise from Tabeguache Peak, Sawatch Range, Colorado

Tabeguache Peak and Mt. Shavano are two of the Fourteeners that are usually done as a pair in a single day. In fact, the most feasible route to the summit of Tabeguache is actually over the summit of Shavano. That posed a dilemma: what would be the best way to shoot sunrise from each peak? I had already decided that I wouldn’t count a peak as “done” if I shot sunrise from a nearby Fourteener, then hiked over to the second Fourteener and shot some additional photos a few hours later. I needed to stand on the summit of each peak at either sunrise or sunset. I considered shooting sunset from one peak, bivouacking on the summit and shooting sunrise from the adjacent peak the next day. I also considered doing a sleepless 24-hour blitz, shooting sunrise from one peak, then spending the entire day on the summit of the adjacent peak, shooting sunset, and descending after dark. I rejected both options after deciding they entailed too much late-afternoon lightning risk. The best option, I decided, was to hike in and camp along a small, intermittent stream at about 10,840 feet, then climb each peak in the dark on successive days and shoot sunrise from the summit.

In late June I hiked in and set up camp. I figured it would take four hours to summit Shavano, then another hour and a quarter to descend 600 feet to the Shavano-Tabeguache saddle and gain 500 feet to the summit of Tabeguache. After a brief after-dinner nap, I got up at 10:30 p.m. and headed up the well-worn trail.

Peaks like Tabeguache and Shavano pose no technical difficulties. Shooting sunrise from the summit simply requires a decent level of fitness and a willingness to sacrifice a night’s sleep. I summited Tabeguache at about 4 a.m., half an hour ahead of schedule, and began trying to capture images of the first hint of golden light along the eastern horizon while the stars above still shone brightly. As always, the return of light and warmth lifted my spirits after a long, solitary hike in the dark. When the sunrise light faded, I headed down to the saddle, then back up to the summit of Shavano, where I paused to plan the following morning’s compositions. Then I pounded back down the trail to my camp in about two hours and took a long nap.

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