Peak(s):  Carbonate Mtn A  -  13,663 feet
Date Posted:  08/24/2020
Date Climbed:   08/21/2020
Author:  RJ_Greenhorn24
Additional Members:   BlindWanderer
 A smokey day and carbs  

Peak: Carbonate A

Distance: 6.28 miles RT

TH: Jennings Creek 4wd

Time: 7-ish hours (with multiple stops & summit beers)

On Friday 8/21/20 we planned to climb Tabeguache via the West Ridge route from Jennings Creek. Thursday night we drove up after work, passing no one on the way up to the 4wd TH (this would change coming down on Friday). The road was easy enough in my stock 05 SR5 4Runner, after having done Hermit pass the weekend before this road seemed like a breeze.

Friday morning we set out with headlamps around 5:30 and by dawn (6:15ish) we were at the tarn turning North into the valley where the old Southwest ridge trail is closed. When planning I would drop a waypoint because if you reach this spot in the dark you likely won't see the tarn and the closed trail is still very obvious and could be easily taken. Also in a previous report I vaguely remembered someone saying these steps were part of the old trail and not to use them, which is half correct. They are part of the old trail but the new trail goes right around them. In the dark I saw them and got confused about which way to go to stay on the correct trail (we seemed to be climbing up quite a bit so I was worried that I had missed the tarn and we were going up the closed SW ridge trail. So, when you see these just go along the left of them on the trail, then it will cut between them and finish up on the right of them.

Taken on the way back, you can see the trail to the left and where it cuts between them to swing right. These are shortly before the tarn turnoff.
The tarn where you turn North into the basin

The new trail winds you through the willows, over fallen bristle cones and along the talus on climbers right. At one point the trail disappeared and reappeared on the other side of a talus field. There was a trail segment leading into the willows that led to a camp site, we mistakenly took that and had to back track and find the real trail. (See my GPS pic below, the first waypoint on the route from the TH is where the camp spot was). I built a cairn where the trail turns right into the talus, though I'm sure many will make the same mistake we did.

After regaining the trail it stayed pretty obvious all the way through the basin and up to the saddle. This part reminded me of a smaller version of La Plata's Southwest ridge route: Treeline, long hike thru a basin, hell wall up to the saddle (although this Hell Wall was not near as bad as I had experienced on La Plata a few weeks prior ).

Hiking through the basin, this is just past where the trail climbed up into the talus. Luckily if you wander into the camp spot like we did you can spot this segment of trail to the right and the route becomes obvious. You just have to grunt back through the willows.
Looking back on the talus area (left) and the camp spot (small open patch to the right with one tree in the middle)
From that point the trail weaves around the willows and is very easy to follow
Nearing the end of the basin, this is looking East to the big 13er bump that you have to gain to reach the final ridge to Tabeguache. It looked much smaller from down in the basin than it did from the saddle (odd).
At the end of the basin you reach mini Hell Wall - not near as bad as La Plata's. Not as steep, long or loose.
Looking back down mini Hell Wall from the saddle, not too bad at all.

When we arrived at the saddle we looked up to the big 13er (un-named and not counted as anything cool, not even an UN 13,###) which separated us from Tabeguache's ridgeline. It looked like a typical long boring Sawatch talus slog. We looked left and saw the unique ridgeline up to Carbonate... I'm sure you know where this is going.

We decided we could always come up the normal Shavano route to tag Tab, and that a Carbonate A/Cyclone combo looked much more appealing for the day. After a quick confirming "eenie meenie minie moe" it was set in stone; we were going left instead of right.

Sloggy route up to Tabeguache's West Ridge
Saucy looking route up Carbonate A's East Ridge. The true summit is the ugly looking cliff face to the right.

There are faint trail segments whole way up this ridge but for the most part it's just a "pick your own adventure" peak. We hung mostly towards the ridge until we got near the top and started veering North to reach the tundra. Near the top is some redish rock, once you're above this everything is loose and a potential rock slide, there was no winning.

Above the first jagged cliff band looking down towards the saddle.
Just below the reddish rock, above this is where EVERYTHING gets really loose (see next pic)

The talus starts off pretty blocky and progressively gets smaller, either way the whole section is loose. As i said we veered right to reach the tundra sooner but the traverse over to it was quite entertaining. I half wonder if going straight up may have been a better choice.
We reached the big broad summit, there were 4 bumps so we wandered to each of them and of course the last one had a summit cairn. The smoke was getting much thicker than when we started :( This is the view towards Antero, at the saddle we were able to see Princeton faintly, but now it was completely hidden.
Our stats and track to the summit.
Sitting on the South edge of the summit to stay out of the wind.

We enjoyed some summit beers and discussed our plan for the rest of the hike. We had planned to tag Cyclone since it was literally RIGHT THERE, but the smoke was becoming quite the nuisance so now we have an Orphan (boo!) We decided to just enjoy the beers, lack of views and then head back down to the saddle.

The hike back down to the saddle was fun and we were able to stick closer to the ridge on stable rock more than on the way up. The top loose part was crap either way you cut it.

At the top looking back to the saddle.
At the end of the loose hill, nearing the redish rock cliffs.
And the final stretch to the saddle. Nothing too exciting but if you stick to the ridge you can make it a bit more fun (as usual)
Playing on the ridges
At the saddle looking back up, and wouldn't you know it, the smoke cleared out quite a bit :( We should have just toughed it out and gone for Cyclone, who is so disapprovingly staring at us in the right of this picture.
Well, too late now. I'm not going back up there. It's brew:30 on the saddle.

We had a leisurely stroll back to the TH, checking out all the awesome Bristlecones on the way down.

Back in the basin just before dropping down to Willow city
Willow City
Looking back up the basin
And more Bristlecones
A baby Pika keeping guard of the Talus fields
You guessed it....
Some flowers
And more flowers. Unfortunately these were all the wildflowers we saw, I bet a few weeks ago this basin was full of them but it's getting late in the season now.

We made it back to the car around 3 and packed up to head down. The worst part of the day was heading back down the narrow 4wd road. It was now Friday and everyone and their dog (literally) was headed up. My 4 runner now has a nice cluster of scratches on the passenger side from the bushes (thanks, guy in the old beat up 4Runner who flew passed me and gave me a dirty look as if I was still in his way and not completely shoved in the bushes).

Rude weekend warriors aside, this was a fun day and we will be back to tag Cyclone and Lo Carb... on a Tuesday ;-)

Happy hiking all!

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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 Comments or Questions

Great route
08/25/2020 20:38
That's a great route for Carb or Tab. Love the trees!

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