| Shavano--East Slopes--
Trip date: Saturday, May 31.
Road to Trailhead: Clear; no snow.
Snow on trail: A great deal in stretches from 11,000 to around 12,000.
Dogs present: Yes, at least two were seen descending from top.
Beginning at the Blank Cabin trailhead, the trail had no snow as we walked along the Colorado Trail. From the fork where the Shavano/Tabegauche trail veers to the left, up through the next few hundred feet, there was still no snow. At probably 11,000 feet, snow was encountered, and postholing in stretches was inevitable. Still, the trail was somewhat traceable. At the point where you reach the talus field (see the Shavano route description by Bill Middlebrook), and begin the turn right (generally north) there was still a little snow, but about 300-400 feet north of the talus field, the trail was completely hidden by snow, and we were left to find our own way up the mountain until we broke tree line and could see where the trail crossed the Angel of Shavano. The Angel of Shavano, for those who are not familiar, is a glacier that for a certain part of the year resembles the head and outstretched arms of an angel, as if reaching towards the sky. We caught back up with the trail just above tree line and crossed the glacier, then took a bit different route up to the northernmost point of the saddle, the the normal trail with partial scrambling up to the summit. It was a very clear day and all peaks you could hope to see were visible.
The wind is at its worst on the saddle, which is about 13,400 feet or so. The summit for us was relatively peaceful and wind-free. There were several hikers descending by glissading down the portion of the glacier that forms the angel's left arm, down through the rest of the glacier. How much longer that will be possible is tough to tell. I don't know that snowshoes would have helped much with the snow. The higher portions of the snow fields were very hard and crampons would have been very useful for certain stretches. We used neither snow shoes nor crampons. Gaiters and at least one walking pole would be a good idea. As this is the banana belt region and it was a very nice day, I had on only thin canvas pants and one layer on top until we had ascended almost to the saddle. Approaching the saddle I pulled out my wind jacket, though.
I will say that the ascent took us much longer than we thought, mostly due to the snow hiding the trail and the difficulty in getting through the snow in order to get above tree line. We met at least one hiker who had gotten lost in the snow, and another that had to turn back at around 13,200 because he had expended too much energy getting through the snow. We had intended to continue on over to Tabegauche Peak from Shavano, but a late start and the delay in the ascent forced us to drop that idea. If you are going to attempt both, especially before all the snow melts, I would advise a very early start.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):