| Shuckin' and Jivin' on Shavano, AKA The Road Continues
SHUCKIN' AND JIVIN' ON SHAVANO, AKA THE ROAD CONTINUES....
....An epic tale of suffering, perseverance, betrayal, redemption, and heartbreak on one of Colorado's most deadly Norwands..........Not really. Well, except the suffering part.
Dawn. The three of us (Sean, Mattie, and Hiroki), are nearing treeline on Mt. Shavano's East Ridge, having spent the last 45 minutes slogging up steep snow from our high camp at 11,336 ft. The sun is just rising over the eastern horizon, the entire world is shrouded in silence, the vistas that surround us are breath-taking, and all I can think of is Nancy Kerrigan. Specifically, I'm thinking of Ms. Kerrigan sprawled on the floor outside the Olympic Training Center all those years ago, having just been clubbed in the leg by a neanderthal hired by her competitor and Leader of White Trash Nation, Tonya Harding (allegedly), wailing "Why, why, WHY?!?!?". Although I am not currently being assaulted, this is a sentiment I can easily identify with. Why in the WORLD am I subjecting myself to this? I could be home in bed, anticipating a nice Saturday with the family, warm food and cold beers, Jeopardy.....Instead, here I am, tired, cold, feeling like my heart is going to burst out of my chest, and knowing we still have a LOOONG way to go to reach the summit. I watch Mattie take another step up, sink to his thigh in powder, slide backwards another foot, and say something not suitable for print on this family-friendly website. Meanwhile, Hiroki is about 30 ft. above us, on skis, on TOP of the snow, looking at the two of us on snowshoes like we are complete idiots.
Me: "Want me to break trail for a while, Mattie?"
Mattie: "Go for it."
Cue Nancy Kerrigan.....
Hey, this isn't so bad.....
But this is.
So as I wrote last year ( you can read about it here:http://www.14ers.com/php14ers/tripreport.php?trip=11784&parmuser=seano732&cpgm=tripuser), I celebrated my long hiatus from mountaineering with a spectacular spring solo climb of Mt. Sneffels. And as amazing as that climb was, there is something about sharing your climb with a partner (or what I call the shared suffering index) that was....missing. Enter my best friend Matt. Mattie is a fellow firefighter, an Ironman (which tells you right there he has the appropriate mental deficits for winter mountaineering), and an all around great dude. With absolutely ZERO mountaineering experience, Mattie joined me in the winter of 2011 for a spectacularly epic fail on Mt. Yale. And again in winter 2012 for a failed attempt at Shavano. Despite not summiting, we had great trips, learned a lot, and for some unknown reason (cue Nancy!), were eager for more. This despite Mattie's wife asking on a regular basis when we were gonna climb Mt. Never-Make-it-To-The-Top again. That woman is hee-larious, I tell ya. For this trip, however, we were able to enlist a third partner, a secret weapon known to the very few; our ace in the hole that increased our chances of success exponentially. We were going to bring.......The Machine.
Flash back to last May. I'm in Upper Yankee Boy Basin at sunrise, resting and signing the register. As I put pen to the sign-in log, I can't help noticing the previous entry. Hiroki. From Durango. Dallas Peak Ski. From two days before. It can't be, I say to myself. Hiroki lives in Boulder. I haven't spoken to him in years. What are the odds that my friend and climbing mentor, who I selfishly fell out of contact with a decade ago, would have been in this exact same spot a mere 48 HOURS AGO?!! I jotted down his info and continued on....
Well, dear reader, it was him. After some basic internet stalking, I was able to reconnect with Hiroki after many years. My wife and I made the drive up to Durango and spent an evening with him and his awesome girlfriend over beers at Lady Falcs. It was like we had missed each other over a long weekend, not 10 years. It was fate. It was awesome.
And why, you ask, do we call him The Machine? Quite simply, he is the fittest, most accomplished climber I know. Currently on a quest to ski The Centennials, The Machine has been to Denali, Patagonia, Yosemite, and all places in between. As I said earlier, he was my mentor, and taught me what it means to be a mountaineer. So, would he be willing to join Mattie and I for another shot at Shavano??? A quick phone call should be all it takes.....
Me: "Hiroki, what's up dude? Wanna meet Mattie and I on Friday for Shavano?"
Me: " We'll be there around 1030, pack in, camp, summit on Saturday. What do you think?"
Hiroki: "I think it sounds like a sausage fest...."
Hiroki: "But I'm in."
Sweet! Away we go!!! Wait. The wife might have something to say about this. No prob, one more quick phone call, right? RIGHT?!
Me: "Hey baby, how are you? Hope you're having a TERRIFIC day...."
Wife (suspicious): "What is it exactly you want???"
Me: " Well, that hurts, but Mattie, Hiroki and I....
Wife: "Just make sure it's on a weekend, ok?"
Wife: "So I can get a babysitter and go out with my girlfriends while you freeze on the side of a mountain, that's why...."
Me: "Ummm, aren't you worried???"
Wife: " I'm worried about this report I have due by COB, so, seriously, make it on a weekend. Love you!"
And away. We. Go.
Mattie on the road. Shavano summit a LONG way away.
1030 am. CO 252/250 junction. The drive from ABQ went smooth. Met Hiroki right off of HWY 285 just as planned. His first words to us were: "Dudes, it's frickin hot. Let's go rock climbing." And he was right. It was hot. And dry. And where was the snow?!?! Compared to last year, the Southern Sawatch was looking.....Spring-like. Sweet! We should be able to make it all the way to the trailhead, right? RIGHT!? Ya.....no. Tried to take CO 252, but it was blocked by the same, God-forsaken snowdrift as last year, about 2.5 miles from the actual TH. But wait, I said, we can take 250, the alternate route, no problem. Said so on the Internets, I declared.
Which is why we are currently trying to dig TWO vehicles out, fifty feet down the CO 252/250 junction, on the 250 side, under a blazing winter Sawatch sun. GOOD. TIMES. I won't bore you, dear reader, with all the details, but we spent over an hour digging ourselves out, using three avy shovels, pine cones (!), and an old blanket from the back of Hiroki's Subaru (don't ask). Back down CO 252. Hiroki parked at the top of the last hill leading down to the drift, but Mattie got his SUV to the bottom, which would turn out to be a critical decision, as you'll soon see (oooh, foreshadowing). Loaded up our packs, and started down the road to the TH. Mattie and I booted it, Hiroki on skins.
Weather is bomber!
Nearing the Trailhead
Start of the trail. Trench is in.
We took a short break at the TH, strapped on our snowshoes (except for, well, you know), and started up the trail. Our initial plan was to get as close to treeline as possible, but due to the earlier shenanigans, we agreed we'd go until 5/530ish, then look for a campsite. Right off the bat, I was hurting. I had spent the better part of the last week with bronchitis (or as Mattie calls it, wussitis), so i became intimately familiar with watching the backs of Mattie and Hiroki in front of me. Like this:
Finally, at 5 o'clock, when we had passed the turnoff to the Angel of Shavano basin, I'd had enough "fun" for one day. I wanted food, drink, and most importantly, getting that fuc!@$g pack off my back. My altimeter read 11,336ft. I remember when I first started winter camping, I had no IDEA the amount of work required once you actually stop moving.... But with the Ironman and the Machine, things went quickly. Stomp out a platform. Set up the tent. Unload the packs. Collect clean snow. Dig out a cooking area. Fire up the stove. Melt snow. Melt more snow. Melt MORE snow (hearing Nancy again...) By 8:00, the Machine was out, we were fed and hydrated, my legs were smoked, and we settled in for a surprisingly mild night... Apologies for the blurriness, still working on the new GoPro.....
Plenty of room....
I woke up once to go to the bathroom, and the stars are simply....unbelievable.... Shut up Nancy, I thought, and crawled back in, to continue kicking Mattie in the face all night (allegedly).
Ahhh, the alpine start.... Alarm off at 0500. Coffee. Food. Dress. Moving just after six. And OH MY GOD, who put this frickin trench in?!?! Sustained 35-40* snow right away.... I seriously thought about saying screw this, I'll be in the tent, see you two lunatics after... But of course, I didn't. We switchbacked up the south side of the East Ridge by headlamp, me personally wondering whether we'd hit treeline or I'd have an AMI first..... Dawn, and all I can think about is Nancy Kerrigan.....
The Ironman and the East
Glorious treeline! Like a switch, the angle eases, the snow disappears, and the views really begin to open up. One caveat about the route we took to treeline... I would not want to be on that slope after recent snowfall or heavy wind-loading... The top is east-facing, and prime avalanche terrain....When we were there, we were breaking through about a three inch crust on top of unconsolidated shiite. Be careful. Be aware.
Soooo... at treeline we stopped, de-layered, ate, and ditched our snowshoes.
We have no idea what Hiroki is doing....
Afterwards, we had one fairly sizable snowfield to cross as we traversed towards the saddle south of Shavano's summit.... We all booted it. An ice axe may have given comfort to some, as a slip would have taken you all the way down into the basin. Later, I asked Mattie how he felt on that particular stretch, and he said he just focused on one foot in front of the other....Duh.
Traversing to the saddle.
The weather was absolutely unbelievable. From treeline to summit, I did the whole thing in base layers and my bibs. In fact, as we neared the saddle, I began to feel slightly dehydrated. This became worse the closer we got to said saddle. We were able to weave north up another short snow field to just below Shavano's false summit and took another refueling break. The views were sublime, and as an added bonus, we saw some straggling bighorn sheep from a large herd to the south, several of which took a keen interest in Mattie at close range ( but who wouldn't?)... Sorry, video no linky....
Nearing the false summit.
THIS. IS. WHY.
This is why, Part II
The last hour to the top was truly Kerrigan territory.... I was beat, the route seemed never ending, and I'm pretty sure Hiroki was jogging at some point... But finally, at 1015, almost 4 hours exactly from our camp, we stood on top of Mt. Never-Make-It-To-The-Top.... And it was SPECTACULAR!!! Oh, did I mention this was Mattie's FIRST 14er????? (summit, that is).....
Summit of Mt. Shavano. 01.25.14 1015hrs.
So of course Hiroki says he's going to Tab, are we going? It took me all of exactly .00007 seconds to say "No thanks, we'll see you at camp"..... Matttie agreed, and down we went. 2 1/2 hours to down to the tent, and the Machine came bombing down the Angel 20 minutes later. His description of the traverse? "Pretty reasonable". Take that for what it's worth.... Pack upped all of our stuff, terrifically enjoyable slog to the car (sarcasm), said adios to our main man Hiroki, and drove back to Albuquerque. And you guessed it, that sucked.
So we got back to Mattie's car, only to find out that some asshat had tried to pass him on the shoulder, probably overcorrected, and caved his driver and rear passenger door in. No note, no "i'll stay here until I can make this right", no nothing. Nothing except a sucky end to a great trip. Thanks, resident Chaffee County doucher, The Machine thinks he knows who did it, and I firmly believe that Karma is a Biotch.....
Oh, and Hiroki climbed Antero the next morning. Solo. WTF!?!?!?
So that's our story, thanks for reading, time for some shout outs:
For Mattie: J, A, A, & A..... What man wouldn't want to come home to THAT family......
For Hiroki: K. All of Hiroki's Durango peeps... His family across the Sea... His family here; A man is only as great as the people who surround him.... Or in his case vice versa....
For Me (Sean): B, K, & K. The impossible is possible because of you...And let's face it, the BEST part of ANY trip is ..... Coming home....
And finally, thanks to the members of this community, to Mr. Bill Middlebrook, and the people that have left too soon: Rob, Terry, and especially Steve; as we climb we are always closer to you....
Now I'm done. Thanks for reading. Peace.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):