| Spring weather, Winter Snowpack
Andrea and I on the summit of Mt Shavano; Saturday, March 6th
Approximate stats: 15 miles, 5400 feet, 12.5 hours.
A little after 3am on Saturday we were out of bed, packing the jeep, and driving down towards Buena Vista. CO Road 140 and 250 and both in good condition... 250 gets snowy after a little while, but we were able to drive almost all the way to the intersection with 252. At that point we parked the car and started skinning just before 6am.
We caught a really nice sunrise to the east, then the sun came out in full force and we knew it was going to be a gorgeous day. It took about 3.5 miles of skinning to reach the summer trailhead. The road is fairly well packed down, and someone managed to get a souped up 4x4 up to the summer trailhead, packing it down even further.
The next section was through the forest, and a few folks (MountainMicah83 and others) have helped make a nice trail over the past few weeks.
When we reached the angel snowfield, it felt like summer. The sun was really burning. I thought Andrea would be freezing, coming up here from Tennessee only 36 hours earlier, but she was down to a tanktop in no time. It made us very excited for ski mountaineering in the upcoming months!
Around 12,500 feet, it became a bit to icy to make good progress on skins, so we threw the skis on our packs and started booting up. Our progress was slowed a bit due to the fact that we had to stay off to the side of the snowfield at times (heard some whoomphing and collapsing that we didn't like).
After a series of breaks we finally hit the summit. The views were second to none! There was no wind on the summit, which was a very welcome surprise. We hung out for a little bit then decided it was time to ski. Since it was already getting a bit late in the afternoon, we obviously decided against the traverse to Tabeguache and back. So, I'll be back in another month or so to get that one.
We dropped our skis about 100 feet below the summit. If you're wondering whether its possible to actually pull off a true summit descent right now, the answer is YES! But, your skis are probably going to take a bit of a beating. The top 50-75 feet is pretty tricky, but it can be done. Since we're not trying to ski all the summits, we figured there was no point in destroying our gear.
Some shots from the descent...
The descent was.... ICY! I know there has been some talk on the forums about whether the BD whippets are worth it... well, I hit an unexpected patch of ice on the angel's arm, started to slide, but was able to get some purchase with one of my whippets and arrested my slide within 50 feet. So yeah, in my opinion, they are worth it. Andrea actually bought them for me as a Christmas present, so she got to see first-hand that they paid off! Regarding the snowpack, its definitely still very much a winter snowpack. The top 4-5" is extremely hard, then there is a weak layer, below that there is a larger (10-12") slab. It definitely not something you want to ski super aggressively... we took our time, skied under control, one at a time, to designated safe zones.
After skiing through the forest back to the summer trailhead, we were granted with a surprise that was perhaps the highlight of the day... we were able to ski continuously (except for 2 quick side-step sections) all the way back to my jeep. We got back just in time to see an incredible sunset...
Overall, a long and somewhat humbling day... but totally worth it. I'll probably be back to ski the angel in better (softer) conditions later this spring. This was actually the first 14er I've done in calendar winter. MVP of the day was definitely my girlfriend Andrea... she comes up here from sea-level and within within a day is always just killing it... this was her first time skiing a 14er as well. I was really impressed with her (especially when she started kicking my butt on some sections of the bootpack). Its awesome to have a backcountry/climbing/skiing partner that you trust and have 110% confidence in.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):