Peak(s):  Mt. Shavano  -  14,229 feet
Date Posted:  11/09/2006
Date Climbed:   11/08/2006
Author:  KirkT

 Shavano - Blank Gulch Trailhead  

I would like to preface this report by saying a couple of things first. I have only been climbing since late August. I am a 37yr old male who has not done too much in the last 20 years to keep myself in shape. I have been fortunate enough in my life to have a fast metabolism and have always been in good general shape. This was also my first Sawatch 14er.

First thing I should say I learned, you can't be on the trail head at 8 am if you leave Denver metro at 5:45am. I arrived at the Trail head at 8:45. Blank Gulch from 285 all the way to the trailhead was in excellent shape. It was dry and dusty and not too rough considering. It took about 15 minutes from the time I left Hwy 285 until I reached the trailhead. After I used the restroom, got dressed, conversed with some hunters that were leaving I finally hit the trail at 9 am. The weather was exceptionally nice with temperatures in the 40's with highs expected in the 60's. There was no wind to speak of. The forecast was for strong winds above 11000 ft. I packed extra clothes in my pack and hung them on my belt just in case.

This particular route goes through a thick forest. It took me 1 hr 45 minutes to finally reach treeline. The route through the forest does not waste any time gaining elevation. I flet like I was on a stairmaster. There was spotty places of snow in the lower portion of the route where the sun could not melt it. It was at not at all difficult to go through. There were a couple of places of ice so I had to watch every step. I will say that a couple of times the trail was hard to find so I had to be alert. About three times I went the wrong direction, but it was easy to go back and pick up the trail.

After hitting treeline I was treated to a large herd of big Horn Sheep. There were several large Rams staring at me as I followed the trail along the side of the mountain. This part of the trail again had very little snow to speak of until about 12500. There were several places that snow had been blown across the trail that you had to walk through. The wind was beginning to blow a bit at this altitude and I could hear it howling around the saddle pretty good.

When I reached the saddle the wind was blowing fiercely. I would estimate that the wind was at least 50 mph with stronger gusts pretty often. I proceeded to put my jacket, gloves, and hat on and proceed towards the summit. The trail to the top was much harder for me to follow as the snow at times covered the trail. I lost it several times so I decided to just scramble myself up the south face to the summit. This took a little longer I suppose but the class 3 scramble was defintely worth it. It gave me a feeling of actually climbing instead of just hiking up a mountain. Did I already mention the wind?? It was blowing like crazy. Several times I was literally crawling to keep from getting blown of that damn mountain. I finally made the summit at 1:20. It took me 4 hours and 20 minutes to summit this darn hill and I had planned on doing Tabeguache originally. I quickly figured after doing some time addition that there was no way in hell I was going to make the other summit. Besides my freakin body was hurting at this point and that West wind was not letting up one bit. That would be at least a 1 1/2 hour traverse in the wind not to mention the way back over Shavano again and the Descent down to the trailhead. Hell no was I going to attempt that. So I decided to eat some lunch, take some pictures and head back down after 25 minutes on the summit.

The descent obviously went much quicker than my ascent. I decided to ascend the East face to cut out some time and find the trail at about 13000 ft. and to also avoid the wind as much as possible. I finally reached the trailhead at about 4:15. uuummm yeah good thing I did not attempt Tabeguache. It was beginning to get dark fast. All in all it took me 4 hours 20 minutes to summit, 25 minutes on top and 2 hours and 30 minutes to return to the trailhead. My freakin body was aching after this one. Up to this point I have only climbed Front range and Mosquito range peaks, this one definitely taxed my poor body... The plan for this winter is definitely to get in better shape if I plan on doing the rest of the powerful peaks. I may try Princeton or Yale next week if the weather holds.

blank gulch road

Shavano south slopes

Mt.Antero, Princeton, and other Northern Sawatch peaks.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

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