Arrived at the Blanks Gulch trailhead Saturday mid-day with my friends Chauncey and Ivy. Parking area was pretty full, but we found a couple of spots close by. We intended to hike up a a couple of miles and camp out overnight and summit Sunday.
We hiked up to just below the stream and set up camp. The bottom couple of miles is pretty steep and rocky. Slow going with heavy packs with all of our gear. We found a great camp spot that was about a hundred yards off the main trail that was very secluded. We set up camp, dropped our gear and then hiked up to the stream and went up to just past the crossing to see where we could fill up our water bottles in the AM. Went back to camp and enjoyed the evening watching the wildlife scamper around our camp.
Woke up around 4am, had breakfast and got ready to start out. Left camp at 0500 with light packs. Left our camping gear and non-essential equipment at camp. The trail is in pretty good shape until after you pass the stream. As it heads uphill from their, the trail starts to get rocky again, steep in many places with alot of loose rocks. We plug along, breaking tree line about an hour later. We then start the long traverse along the ridge that runs above the Angel of Shavano snowfield. We finally make it to the ridge that runs up to the summit of Shavano. The wind was pretty strong at the bottom part of the ridge.
The ridge gets steeper from there and rockier. Approaching the summit, the trail at times is hard to follow. We spent some time looking for cairns to make sure we stayed on trail. It is apparent that many have created their own trails heading up the final summit approach. The final approach was basically climbing a huge rock pile. We reached the summit around 1000. Originally we had planned on sumitting Tabegauche as well, but decided to try that another day. The clouds were starting to build and we still had to hike down, pack up camp, and hike down the last couple of miles with heavy packs.
The hike down went quicker than the hike up, but was still not easy. Very rocky and loose. We finally arrived back at camp, took a short breather, packed up camp and all of our gear and headed back down to the trailhead. For me, this was the toughest part, being tired and carrying a heavy pack down to the trailhead. A long and grueling day, but enjoyable non the less.
Typical trail conditions on the lower portion of the trail
Home away from home
Looking south at sunrise
Rocky trail approaching the tree line
Salida/Poncha Springs in the distance
Top of the Angel of Shavano snowfield, trail in the distance
Trail along the traverse above the snowfield
Pike's Peak in the distance
Looking up the summit from the ridge
The "rockpile" final climb to the summit
Me and Chauncey at the top
Monarch ski area from the summit
Looking southwest from the ridge