Peak(s):  Mt. Shavano  -  14,229 feet
Date Posted:  04/14/2007
Modified:  10/01/2012
Date Climbed:   04/14/2007
Author:  summitbound
 Mt. Shavano-Angel of Shavano Coulior   

Spring is here, well at least in the Metro area it is, and the itch to climb another 14er was growing stronger. As usually it was a Herculean effort for lovenit and me to coordinate our schedules, I guess that's to be expected from two married guys with families, jobs, etc. However, we were able to finally settle on the weekend of April 14/15. April is still pretty early in the hiking season and so I had been doing some research on what 14ers had trailheads that were accessible. I finally settled on Shavano and Tabeguache as a good choice, with Antero as a possibility for the following day,

According to the weatherman, Mother Nature seemed to not approve of our choice as they were predicting that Denver would get as much as foot of snow, double that in mountains. Lovenit would have had to leave his home in UT by noon on Friday in order to make the 6 hour drive to Salida. We decide late Thursday night that the smart thing to do was to cancel the hike.

As fate would have it, Denver ended up with zero and I mean zero snow. Still having faint hopes of resurrecting our hiking plans I called Lovinit early Friday morning, just catching him before he headed out the door. He was still game, so we made plans to meet at the Y junction. I had to work all day Friday so I rushed home and hurriedly tossed all my gear into the truck and headed for the hills.

While the storm did not hit the metro area it was still dropping some snow in the mountains and I ran into some pretty good snow crossing Red feather pass and my buddy said Monarch pass was also a mess. The weatherman promised that the storm was on its way out and Saturday and Sunday were supposed to be banner days, as it turns out he was right.

I met up with Lovenit at the Y junction at about 10pm and we decided to just hang out there. We downed a few brews and chatted before crashing in the back of our trucks. I don't know what the attraction is with that road but between 11pm and probably 1am about 4 different vehicles drove up and then back out. I woke up at about 4am freezing cold. I fired up the Bronco and the temp gauge said 7 degrees. Burr!

After we both were up and had readied our packs we decided to just take one vehicle up to the trailhead. The road had anywhere from 6-8" of new snow on it and it was some slippery driving but we managed ok. After arriving at the trailhead we discovered that we were the only ones tackling the peak that day.

Breaking trail up the Colorado Trail.

The morning was clear, crisp, and cold and I was eager to get moving down the trail in order to keep my toes warm. The Colorado trail portion of the route had about the same 6-8" of snow on it and we made decent time to where you break off and head for Shavano. It was after this point that things started to a little tougher. The trail was no longer as wide or intuitive as it had been and the snow continued to increase in depth the higher we went. We lost the trail more than once but we knew the general direction we wanted to go so we just bushwhacked our way up, up, and up.

Snow is getting deeper as we gain elevation and you can see why route finding becomes an issue.

We went straight up and over a ridge only to have to lose some of our precious elevation gain on the other side. But at least we were able to locate the trail once again. We knew that 11,100 was the turn off point for leaving the main trail in order to gain the Angel of Shavano Couloir, we broke out the GPS to monitor our progress and at the prescribed point we broke off and headed up the valley. We went no further than 100yards when waist deep post holing convinced us it was time to break out our snowshoes.

Looking back down our tracks just as we top out of the valley below the Angel

The post holing stopped but slogging up the steep valley in snowshoes and heavy packs was no treat and it really took its toll on us. By now the day had warmed up considerably and we were both sweating like crazy. It also seemed like we were never going to break out of tree line, in fact we were wondering if the summit was in the cards for us.

Looking back down the basin just before the Angel and out into the Valley, Salida is down there somewhere.

Finally at nearly 11:30 we broke out of the trees and were greeted with a view of the Angel. There was too much snow to really be able to see her, but from studying photos we knew we were in the right place. We stopped here and ate some lunch to refuel our now depleted reserves. We also kept an eye on the ridge line and the blowing snow coming off of it. We had seen a similar sight on our ascent of Pikes Peak and those winds turned out to be brutal. We were not looking forward to a repeat of that.

Looking up the Angel, as you can see with all the new snow its hard to see her.

We were able to snowshoe a fair distance up the Angel before it became too steep and we paused at a convenient rock out cropping to swap our shoes for crampons and ice ax.

Lovenit climbing the Angel

The Angel is steep but nothing compared to the Y Couloir on Pikes. We made decent progress until we must have reached a point during the day were the sun had warmed up the surface enough to make it no longer able to support us and we began sinking up to our hips. We quickly exited the coulior and made our way up the patchy snow on the ridge to the right.

Sick of post holing and off onto the ridge, still steep.

Our pace seemed to be slowed to crawl but we could now see the ridge line and the summit of Shavano pulling us onward. Just below the ridge line we had cross one last snow field (the right arm of the angel?) and the waist deep post holing across it proved to be an endurance challenge.

Last push to the summit, the rocks sticking out are deceptive because the snow between them is at least a couple feet deep.

We stopped at ridge just below the final push to the summit, exhausted from our efforts but it was getting late in the day, and if we wanted even a single summit, we had to will ourselves to keep moving. The last 500 feet proved to be a tricky endeavor we had to rock hop from slippery boulder to slippery boulder all the while trying to avoid stepping into the sometimes waist deep snow the filled the gaps between them. Oh and did I mention how tired we were? It was one step rest, another step, rest.

Summit view small cornice made for a nice pic.

Finally at 4pm we were standing on the summit of Shavano. We gave each other a high five, took our obligatory summit photos, and dug around in the snow until we were able to locate a suitable summit rock. The views were spectacular, in every direction we were treated to one snow capped vista after another. It's amazing how different 14ers look from summer to winter.

After a brief rest we talked about what our next step should be. Originally we had hoped to cross over to the summit of Tabeguach but we took one glance at the snow covered ridge line, looked at our watches and based on our waning energy reserves said "not today".

Bailing off the summit our tracks looking back up at the top

Back down the Coulior, it sure would have been nice to do a glissade down this instead of post holing.

We dropped off the summit and back into the Angel attempting to glissade several times but the snow simply would not support our weight. Great, more post holing at least gravity was on our side. Then sun was fading as we headed down the Angel.

Sunlight is fading. Look middle of pic just below sun line for the "dots" representing the rescue training group.

On our way up we thought we had heard voices coming from below us but never saw anyone. As we reached the bottom we saw several people who were part way up the slope practicing some rescue skills. They had camp all setup and were staying the night. We on the other hand still had many miles to go so after a brief "hi" and a thanks from them for us breaking trail the entire way up (lucky us), we sped off.

Still lots of snow to deal with on the hike out and it was slushy.

The group that had followed our trail up had not been on snowshoes so we thought we would be able to follow the trail back down without needing them. After falling through the sun weakened crust and sinking to our waist numerous times we said "bag" this and put out shoes back on. The rest of the trip back down was just an exercise of willing one foot in front of the other. Finally after at total of 11 hours on the trail we arrived back at the truck completely exhausted but pleased to have another 14er summit under our belts.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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