Trailhead: Angel of Shavano
Elevation Gain: 6,545'
Time: ~14 hours
Camera: Canon EOS-M
I wanted to get in one more 13er hike before the big snow storm hit the next week. Originally a couple Sangre peaks stood out as possibilities, but the Avy danger was considerable, and it also seemed to be the bulls-eye of the the deepest snow from the last storm. So I thought about Pt 13,712 and Jones Peak via Shavano and Esprit Pt. There was recent discussion on the winter route, and I decided that the Angel of Shavano trail head may be the easiest to get to, as the normal summer one might not be plowed yet. My chains were ordered, but hadn't arrived yet. So after a fullfilling day of climbing at Shelf road with friends, I made my way to the trailhead for a decent rest.
The road is open to the trailhead, and just a little beyond, but the trailhead parking itself is not plowed. A high clearance vehicle drove around the lot, but my Subi would not make it. There is a nice pull-out at the campground, but it's marked no parking for plow turnaround. So I ended up parking for the day just beyond the turnaround, on the road, right next to the 240 road end of maintenance sign.
Strapped on my snowshoes from the start. Today they would not be training weight. Walked over to the trailhead and started up the Colorado Trail for a short distance before turning off and bush wacking up the slope to start the ridge up Esprit Pt. The Colorado Trail, at this point, was decently packed down, and I hoped the trench continued all the way to the regular Shavano trail, if not a bit further for my intended descent off Jones Pk.
The ridge up Esprit Pt started off rather dry, but quickly had highly variable amounts of snow. I kept the snowshoes on from just above the dry slope till treeline, going over rocks, trees, punchy sun crust, and deep powder. The ridge itself is never ending straight up steep. You gain the majority of elevation from the trailhead up to Esprit Pt, and so it took a really long time to get up there. On this side, it was rather windless and fairly warm.
Sunrise on the ridge
Foggy Mt Ouray and neighbors
Approaching treeline on the never ending ridge
Above treeline, I strapped the snowshoes onto the pack and proceeded to boulder hop my way up. Much of the ridge is fairly windblown, but other areas take some care to cross (to not post hole next to rocks). The final ridge line push up to Esprit Pt got a bit narrow with the cornice, and was more exciting than expected.
Ridge up to Esprit Pt
Taylor & Aetna
Esprit Pt summit, with Shavano peaking out
From the summit of Esprit Pt, there's a minor amount of elevation loss before the steep slope up Shavano. No way to avoid crossing some knee deep snow in places, but overall it was an easy crossing and ascent up Shavano. A ram slowly crossed in front of me, frequently stopping to stare at me. It allowed me to get pretty close before running off when my trekking poles made a bit too much noise.
From here, the wind really picked up and I went from a bit too warm, to kinda chilly (before I started back up the slope with Shavano).
Tabeguache and Shavano from Esprit Pt
Sangres from Esprit Pt
Ram sighting - very curious as to what I was up to
Tab's south face looking almost skiable
Shavano's south ridge
Solo summit of Shavano, and didn't look like anyone had been there yet today. A lot less windy than the last time I was up there to ski the Angel in blizzard like conditions. From here I get my first view of the ridgeline between Pt 13,712 and Jones Peak. Hmmm looks a bit rocky, might have some scrambling along the way, better drop a summit of Tabeguache off the list, so I can spend my time on the upcoming route finding. Too bad, since the summit of Tab from the saddle is soooo close!
Tab from Shavano
Pt 13,712 to Jones Peak ridge... looks interesting
Tab from saddle
The slope up to Pt 13,712 goes rather smoothly as I jump from protruding rock to rock. The sun is getting lower, and the shadows longer, allowing for some nice photography. Except in the Tabeguache direction. Looks like Tab is getting enough snow for an eventual ski this upcoming spring!
Pt 13,712 from saddle
Tab's NE slopes
From the summit of Pt 13,712 I snap some pics of the surrounding peaks, and get the first view of the difficulties ahead. It's now looking a lot spicier than I had planned for this mellow, but long ridge run today. I wasn't sure if the first tower - narrow knife edge like ridge "went" with the snow. I was wearing my LS Glacier boots, and the soles tend to get very hard and slippery at these temperatures, so walking on snowy rocks with exposure made me kinda sick. So I spied out the lower snow traverse. It would be steep, and possibly deep snow in places, but if I stuck close to the rocks I didn't think it would be all that bad.
Antero and Mt White
Carbonate to Cronin ridgeline
Ridge to Jones Peak - Looking very spicy!
So across the upper snow slope couloir I went, trenching in places to my hips. Looking down, it looked like it could be a great ski line, and right off the summit of Pt 13,712 as well. Not sure what the lower drainage approach would be, I vaguely remember Roach saying it was not a good route, and to avoid at all costs.
While the first part of the traverse was "ok", the second was very much not ok, in fact it was rather scary. The rock is so friable, that as I was using it to scramble back up to the ridge line (to avoid the deep snow), it just broke apart. So in many places it was like swimming uphill in deep snow. I was very ecstatic to get back up onto the ridge on the other side! I now hoped the worst of it was over...
Starting the low snow traverse
Steep snowy couloir - Looks like a great ski line
Looking back on 13,712 from partway across lower snow traverse
The next section of ridge, while narrow and rocky, went for a little while. I even saw tracks from a ram or other 4 legged beast. As I was approaching the next significant drop, my heart sank. There were snowy rotten cliffs on both sides, and then the ridge just dropped. Went vertical or worse, overhanging. I walked back a few feet to where the tracks went. It looked loose and it appeared the dang animal just leaped off the cliff to the slope below. B@$!#*d!
Now a few alarm bells were going off in my head. It was getting late in the day, I wasn't sure if this was the last of the ridge difficulties or not. I didn't want to spend the last of my daylight, to only get into a worse situation. So it was turn around point. Looking at a summer TR, there was almost no way to descend with the snow safely solo. At least not at my abilities or without a rope (not that a suitable anchor could be found). I wonder now, if doing the loop in the opposite direction, and having this section as an up-climb would work better.
On the return, I started to go back down to the snow traverse, even though I really didn't want to go that way. A few feet down, I decided to check out the ridge a bit further. Initially it looked like overhanging knife edge with loose rotten rock, but as I got closer it got better. I went slowly and lowered my potential energy to help with my slippery soles a bit. Overall the ridge line is the way to go, it's just a bit exposed in places.
Returning along narrow ridge back to 13,712
Long shadows on ridge to Jones Peak
I felt incredibly relieved to be back on Pt 13,712's summit, though now I knew I would be racing the sun to get back. So I put it into gear and started the long return journey. Got to Shavano's summit for sunset, and onto Esprit Pt for civil twilight. From there it was a headlamp fueled steep never ending descent down the ridge back to the trailhead. It was so hard to be so close (horizontally) to the trail head, but yet have ~4,500' to drop! I was going to Taos NM that evening to go skiing the next day with a friend, and I was staring longingly at the lights of cars along 285 in the San Luis Valley below me, wishing I could magically just end up there in my warm car. So I counted down the 1,000's of feet, and started to get really excited as I dropped below 10K.
Back at the trail head, it looked as if there were quite a few others snowshoeing along the Colorado Trail that day, so the trench is in for a few miles at least!
Longer shadows on ridge to Jones Peak - my tracks visible
Mt White - I think I spot a ski line! Soon...
Unintended Shavano at sunset summit...
My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
Caution: The information contained in this report may not be accurate and should not be the only resource used in preparation for your climb. Failure to have the necessary experience, physical conditioning, supplies or equipment can result in injury or death. 14ers.com and the author(s) of this report provide no warranties, either express or implied, that the information provided is accurate or reliable. By using the information provided, you agree to indemnify and hold harmless 14ers.com and the report author(s) with respect to any claims and demands against them, including any attorney fees and expenses. Please read the 14ers.com Safety and Disclaimer pages for more information.