| Shav Tab- angelic glissade
As is my habit, about Spring Break, my thoughts turn to the mountains, and I start checking the snowpack charts and various routes on 14ers to plan my summer. This summer began to look like the snow might never melt, but when I read that Shavano was looking to be the first to melt off, I started planning. Sunday would be the best timing for me, and so Saturday night I took off, Starbucks in hand to keep myself awake, Neko Case to sing to me, and arrived at the trailhead right at midnight.
There were plenty of cars, so I was not surprised that at 5:15AM, the parking lot looked more like Cherry Creek mall than a remote parking lot in a forest. I forced down a cold banana and was on the trail at 5:25. About a half mile into the hike, I realized I left my ice axe in the car- too late now. Then as the route swung around to the east side, there was an amazing sun behind the thick haze of the wild fires down south. The color looked strange- like a dark, reddish orange juice. So I reached for my camera, but no batteries- I left them charging in Denver. What else could I have forgotten? I checked, and I was indeed wearing pants, so I continued upward. Mostly the trail was dry, except for some snow fields just below timberline, but they were icy and steep enough that I would have pulled out my ice axe if I’d had it. Once into the basin, there was more snow, but it was softer and also mostly avoidable. There was only about a five minute stretch where I missed my axe.
About five solo climbers on both the standard and the Angel routes seemed to converge on the summit of Shavano at the same time. I could feel in my legs that this was the first climb of the summer, but the excitement of the summit pulled me along. I arrived last at 8:30, and we all sat together, eating, and weighing in on the climb, the Angel and the glissade, Tabeguache, and the hazy conditions from the wild fires. There was Chris P, Claybird, Matt, and Mike- all visitors to 14ers.com, although not all had posted. We stayed until 8:45, before starting the traverse. The Shavano side was dry, but going up Tabeguache was all soft packed snow- perfect for kick stepping. Even though I felt some fatigue going up Shavano, I felt better here- stronger. I remembered a friend of mine in San Diego running her first marathon, and I sent her some positive thoughts while pushing myself up my own mountain.
We made good time, and after enjoying the views from Tabeguache, we were able to glissade back down to the saddle from Tab. The snow was about perfect- soft enough to stop with your legs, hard enough to keep you moving. Chris P decided to go off on his own toward the ridge to the east of the traverse, and the rest of us were back on top of Shavano by 10:20ish.
We met quite a few climbers coming up, and from the summit we decided to make for the Angel’s left arm (facing the mountain) for the longest continuous glissade. Clay and Mike had nylon pants, but I was in my already ripped cotton REI pants. By the bottom, I was sopping wet, and didn’t get feeling back into my butt cheeks until just about Fairplay. Still, it was a tremendous ride- several hundred feet in just about a minute.
This day is typical of why I love to climb. As I write this, I’m thinking there’s nothing wildly entertaining to mention about the day, but I was so happy the minute I got out of my car, and I only got happier. I thought about a lot of people along the way, met other good people, the views were spectacular, I felt strong, and getting back to my car, I wondered what better way there is to spend a day. Don’t you love the tired feeling in your legs when your car comes into view and the fatigue mixes with relief? Thanks to my four new friends for climbing with me- see you on the next one!
All pictures by Clay:
Early morning conditions on the Angel:
Sun peaking over the east ridge:
Tabaguache from Shavano
Tabeguache summit- looking at Shavano
The walk out:
Shavano from the road out- see the angel!
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):