Peak(s):  Mt. Shavano  -  14,229 feet
Date Posted:  07/28/2008
Date Climbed:   07/26/2008
Author:  Mel McKinney
 Lucky Charms on Shavano  

After flunking out of summiting Shavano two previous weekends this summer, I decided to go for a third attempt with two other local climbers, Media Dude (Gabe) and wallace.dan (Dan). They turned out to be my good luck charms, especially Dan, who was on Gabe's third and successful attempt of Columbia a few weekends ago.

We drove down to the Blank Cabin trailhead after work on Friday, arriving at 9:00 pm and threw our tents down in a meadow in the dispersed camping just past the trailhead. Gabe crashed in the passenger seat of my car which, unbeknownst to me, reclines back to a flat position for comfy sleeping. Good to know.

We awoke sometime around 3:30 am due to a car alarm going off somewhere (not mine luckily). Since 3:30 was about the time we had planned on getting up, it was like a hotel wake up call and just as annoying. We were ready to hit the trail around 4:30 and started off in the pre-dawn. The air felt muggy and it was very warm below treeline. Occasionally we felt a drop of rain or mist.

The beginning of the trail had some standing water and mud (Colorado Trail portion). Not so much fun to deal with in the dark being half-asleep, but it didn't slow us down. I'm not sure exactly what time we reached treeline, but Gabe estimates we did approximately 2,000 feet in just over an hour. We were able to get some shots of the sunrise glow to the southeast. The clouds from the previous night hadn't dissipated yet.

Sunrise looking South to San Luis Valley.

Hero pose photo

We stopped for a break at treeline to get some sustenance. Of course we were a little chilled after the effort and sweat below treeline but were soon warm again.
We stopped again about 40 minutes later for a water break just below the final saddle push which is steeper than the previous trail. At this point, one man passed us who had a great pace and we could see more people on the way from treeline.

Trail at treeline

Just below saddle looking back

The final summit push isn't too bad as far as effort, but I did feel like I was going in a circle 'round and 'round the summit. The trail from the saddle goes to the west side before making its way to the southeast side. There's some switchbacking and good trail on the west side and then I felt I needed a sharper eye to find the final portions of trail toward the southeast. Some very easy scrambling too.

Gabe & Dan on trail below summit

Just below summit

Finally the summit for me. I'm not exactly sure what time I arrived (forgot my watch) but Gabe and Dan got there about 25 minutes before me. I decided to hang out on Shav and wait for them to bag Tabeguache. I have a few friends who need to get that one and I'll come back with them. Plus, it was nice just to sit and look all around.

The summit proper

View to the Tab/Shav ridge

The clouds still weren't burning off to the east as of 9:30-ish but within an hour they had all but disappeared. Wisps of clouds were forming to the southeast and made for great photos. At various times the views were blocked but only for a few minutes before the fog burned off.

Where's Tab?

To the north was Antero with Princeton peeking behind. Further north I could see Yale, Harvard and more, plus the Elk Range was in view.

Antero photo. Can also see Yale & Harvard.

Elks to the N.W. & Tabeguache in foreground

The San Juans were visible to the southwest, but very faintly. Monarch Pass and ski area were visible too. I really enjoyed getting a different angle of the Sawatch (looking north versus looking south).

San Juans to S.W. Uncompahgre & Wetterhorn

Monarch Ski Area and Pass

Unfortunately, someone had decided to leave a broken glass bottle on the summit block. Boo!! If you pack it in people, pack it out (especially if it's broken glass)! I picked up what I could, including a 5 inch piece of glass that would have left a mark.

Don't leave this behind!

Otherwise, there were some great people up there. I met LadyCU07 who had asked about camping in a thread the week before. Very nice to meet her. Go CU! Also, a fun group of cheddar-heads from Madison, WI who cracked open the Spam for a summit snack.

Yum! Canned ham goodness!

I found the register canister, which of course sports a sticker. There wasn't room to sign, but a trail description print-out previously had been inserted for people to use, along with a photo of a man standing in the rain (Possibly in Oxford, England). The back read, "Rest in Peace, our brother Joel."


Gabe and Dan radioed that they were almost back from Tab. Shortly, I headed back down to the saddle and they caught up to me in the Shav. saddle. We took our time taking photos of whatever caught our fancy. For some reason I was having a hard time with my ankles. I twisted my right a few times on the way down and then my left ankle felt left out… Ouch! Twisting your ankle really blows. Gabe and Dan were nice enough to stop occasionally to let me catch up.


We got back to the car just before 2:15, which translated as "Beer:30" The wheat beer Gabe had picked up from Rosie's Brewpub in Leadville was yummy and hit the spot! We hung out for an hour talking with other campers and hikers, listened to some tunes, broke camp and hit the road.

Cheers to us!

We stopped at Pizza Works in Buena Vista for some chow. The salads were inhaled and the pizza was excellent. I dropped the guys off at Dan's car in Leadville and they headed out to camp and climb Oxford, Belford and probably Missouri too.

Random photos:

Alien plant. What is this, anyway?

Me trying to look like I'm giving Shavano the right hook.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions
emcee smith

07/28/2008 20:26
Sorry I missed you way back on June 28th, your first flunk? Glad that you made it up and back safely, ankles aside.

Great Report


Might have seen you..
07/28/2008 22:09
...and you might have heard me. I was over on Tabeguache at about 8:30, and saw quite a few people on or near Shavano‘s summit. I echoed a few Sasquatch calls off of the surrounding mountains.

Your odd plant is the alpine thistle, Cirsium scopulorum. Some people call them frosty balls or Rocky Mountain Thistle:

Congratulations on knocking out another Sawatch summit.

Mel McKinney

Frosty balls?!
07/28/2008 22:28
He said ”frosty balls.” Un-huh, huh, huh...
Seriously, I think I heard you as I was nearing the summit. Dude, you‘re quite loud.

Yeah, emcee...that was my first flunk! Sorry I missed you too.

Chicago Transplant

Nice job!
07/28/2008 23:48
Nice to see that the third time was the charm for you! That crazy alien plant is horribly sharp, I‘ve slipped on loose scree before and put my palm in one. My hand was full of itchy prickers, definitely try not to touch them!


Way to go!
07/29/2008 00:32
Good job, Mel! Let me know when the Tabeguache quest will be!


Fellow Flunkee Congrats
01/19/2011 03:38
It‘s funny how some peaks frustrate so many people...
Shavano, two tries. Tab took three, Columbia two.
Way to go, Mel.


Great work!
07/29/2008 13:22
Nice work Mel. I have a few rematch mountains myself!


Tab is going DOWN!
10/11/2008 21:33
Hi, Mel. I was looking through some old posts and TRs and saw that you haven‘t got Tab yet. I remember some casual talk a while back about us possibly meeting up to tackle it. I‘ve missed it twice now, so I‘m developing a grudge. Maybe someday we can combine forces to take that bast**d down.

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