(WINTER) HOLD ON! If you don't have much high-elevation, winter climbing experience, be careful in your planning and take a partner. Even the "easy" 14ers (Quandary, Sherman, Grays & Torreys) can be deadly in winter.
On U.S. 285, one mile north of the U.S. 50 and U.S. 285 junction near Poncha Springs, turn west on County Road (CR) 140. This turn is about 21 miles south of Buena Vista, and across the highway from the entrance to the Salida airport. On CR 140, drive 1.7 miles and turn right on CR 250. Drive 4 miles to a "Y" junction. CR 250 goes right and Forest Road (FR) 252 starts on the left. Stay left on FR 252 and continue 2.9 miles to another small junction near a cattle guard. Cross the cattle guard and drive 0.2 miles to the Shavano+Tabeguache trailhead. The old Blank Cabin trailhead is now closed and gated. The trail starts behind the restroom, travels through the forest, and intersects the Colorado Trail near the old Blank Cabin trailhead.
The "Angel of Shavano" is a snow feature that sort of looks like an angel with arms and wings - Photo #1. It's located in the center of Shavano's southeast slopes and is frequently used as a spring snow climb and ski route. In some years, it's possible to climb snow up the Angel and then continue on snow up to the East Ridge and to the summit. The Angel-to-East Ridge combination (Photo #2) provides the best possibility for continuous snow from the summit down into the Angel. This route describes a climb of the Angel and then directly north up to Shavano's East Ridge and left to the summit. If there is no snow present above the Angel and along the upper east ridge (Photo #3), you may prefer to climb the standard South Ridge once you are at the top of the Angel.
From the new Shavano/Tabeguache trailhead (Photo #4), start up the trail (behind the restrooms) and hike approximately 0.1 mile to reach a trail junction. Turn right onto the Colorado Trail and hike along a fence above the old Blank Cabin trailhead - Photo #5. Near the corner of the fence, cross a cattle guard and continue 1/4 mile (Photo #6) to another trail junction - Photo #7. The Colorado Trail continues straight and the Mt. Shavano trail begins to the left. Turn left and continue into the forest on a great trail - Photo #8. If there is heavy snow cover, the hike up through the forest can be confusing if you aren't familiar with it. If this is the case, a GPS with pre-loaded route/waypoint data or some careful map preparation will be quite helpful.
Hike over 3/4 mile up into the forest (Photo #9) to a point where the terrain levels near 10,600'. In this area, pay close attention to the trail because it can be hard to follow. In one area, ascend a small hill and pass a large rock. In early summer, water may be running over the trail here. Continue across a large flat area near 10,700' and hike along a small stream near 10,800' - this stream drains from the basin below the Angel. Near 11,000', the terrain flattens out a bit as you continue west-northwest. At approximately 11,100', leave the main trail by turning left and hiking west along the broad drainage in the forest. To the north, you should be able to see a steep, treed slope that forms the north side of the drainage - the main trail goes in that direction but you want to turn left and continue through the forest without a trail. If you are unsure about where to turn, continue on the main trail to 11,200' where it makes a hard right to climb east up the hill. Turn left here and hike west into the drainage to your left - Photo #10.
Without a trail, continue west through the trees on easy terrain. Locate the stream draining out of the basin and follow it west and northwest toward tree line. If there is snow coverage, just take the path of least resistance through the forest - Photo #11. The terrain never gets too steep, just some small hills. Near 11,600', pop out of the trees near the center of the basin below the Angel - Photo #12 and Photo #13. Consolidated snow coverage provides some easy trekking. Continue around a corner and above 11,600' to get your first head-on view of the Angel - Photo #14. This is a good area to turn on your avalanche beacons and study the snow conditions ahead. Generally, the slopes on the left side of the Angel hold snow that is more likely to break loose.
Continue up the center of the basin to reach the bottom of the Angel - Photo #15. Once you are at this location, you may notice that the gully is not as steep as it looks from a distance. As 14ers go, it's a pretty basic snow climb and ski/ride. Begin your ascent of the Angel - Photo #16. The steepest terrain is between 12,200' and 12,600', which is also the narrow part of the Angel's body - Photo #17 and Photo #18. Taken on a different climb and in early summer, Photo #19 is a look across the Angel from the standard trail. Continue through the upper body and to the head where you finally get a view of the summit - Photo #20. The terrain becomes easier above 13,300', near the top of the Angel - Photo #21.
If you run out of snow, this is a good area to decide if you want to use the remainder of Shavano Route #1 (standard) to gain the summit. If there is more snow above (right of the summit), the most direct route is to continue north up the slope (Photo #22) and gain the East Ridge (Photo #23) on the saddle between the summit and Point 13,617' - Photo #24. Turn left and hike steeper, rocky terrain up toward the summit - Photo #25. It's difficult to see the exact summit until you are just a few feet below the top - Photo #26. Photo #27 and Photo #28 show some of the great views from the top of Shavano.
Skiing the upper East Ridge: Photo #29, Photo #30, Photo #31
Into the Angel: Photo #32, Photo #33, Photo #34, Photo #35, Photo #36, Photo #37
Down through the body: Photo #38, Photo #39, Photo #40, Photo #41
Down into the basin: Photo #42, Photo #43
Looking back: Photo #44, Photo #45
Heading into the forest: Photo #46
When the road is dry, most passenger cars can drive all the way to the trailhead.