| Angel of Shavano Ski Descent
Mt Shavano (14,229')
Angel of Shavano
4430' Vertical, 8 Miles RT
The Angel of Shavano has been a route I have wanted to ski for a couple of seasons now, but for some reason it seems that the southern Sawatch has been melting out before I got the chance. This year I wasn't going to wait for that to happen again, and when I saw a post looking to ski the Angel the first week in April, I jumped at the opportunity. As the day got closer our group grew, and I met smason505 and 3 people from summitpost at the trailhead late Friday afternoon to set up camp for an early start. We left camp around 4.30AM and started our way up the initial sections of trail through spotty snow in a foggy mist. As we started to ascend the main Mt Shavano Trail the snow slowly increased and the patches got larger and closer together until around 10,500' where it became continuous, but now the fog was starting to break. Soon after this point we met upon Scott Patterson and two others breaking camp for their Angel climb. We continued on through the continuous but well trenched snow until we left the main trail around 11,100'. Above this point the snow was not as consolidated as we tried to follow a skin track but continued to posthole with regularity. We finally were breaking the trees and were able to get up on a large talus morraine and out of the postholing. From here we got our first glimpse of the sun over the inversion that covered the Arkansas Valley below.
As we continued on to the top of the morraine we got our first view of the Angel snowfield, and to our delight, she was "in".
We crossed the gentle but firm snow in the basin below and then donned crampons for the ascent of the body. Here there was good firm snow and the crampons got a good bite. Short rests every 40-50 steps kept the rhythm going and soon we were at the junction with the two arms. By now the weight of the skis and boots in my pack were starting to feel their affects on my shoulders and legs, but we continued on until we reached the top of the head and a large boulder which served as a great place to take a break.
Our group ascending the body:
Here we ditched the skis and boards and had a quick snack as a brief snowshower blew through. The winds really picked up and much to our dismay, Sam's snowboard took off and blew into the Angel! It slid out of site, and the realization that all the effort of carrying it was lost set in. At the same time Kevin was having blister problems, and he and Sam kept watch over our gear at the rock while Ann, Brian and I continued for the summit. The snow was still too firm to ski, so it was a good way to buy some time for the sun to warm things up. We reached the top in about an hour, exhausted, but glad we decided to continue on. We stayed briefly for some photos and quick sip of water, but the wind chased us off.
Antero from the summit:
When we got back to our gear cache we were surprised and elated to see Sam on his snowboard. Scott Patterson had caught it while it slid past him and carried it up! We all geared up and started our descent. The upper part of the head was still a little firm, but just soft enough to get an edge. As we got to the top of the body, the steepest part at about 30 degrees, the snow became almost perfect. About 1" of good soft snow covered the entire face and the turns came easy.
Looking down the body:
The best turns of the whole descent. We quickly skied through the flats below and on to the trees. The conditions were variable here, firm in spots, soft in others, and sometimes bottomless sugar near trees and fallen logs. We all had our share of mishaps, but safely made it back to the end of the continuous snow around 10,500'. From here we hiked back down the trail through a light snow that was just enough to cover the ice patches. It was a slippery descent, but we all made it back to the cars in one piece. It was then off for a victory pizza at Amica's in Salida!
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):