Peak(s):  Mt. Shavano  -  14,229 feet
Date Posted:  06/17/2010
Modified:  06/18/2010
Date Climbed:   06/05/2010
Author:  jedrejcic

 Shavano - First climb of the year  

Well, actually this was the second climb, but the first one was an unsuccessful attempt on Sherman earlier in the year, when the snow prevented full passage to the trailhead. That day we all struggled against some strong winds, and faced an extra 5 or 6 miles of hiking over snow due to the place we had to park, and ultimately ended up having a blustery picnic somewhere at about 13,000, and returning home quite spent. But this is a different story.

RockFarmer and I drove out to the Shavano trailhead on Friday evening with the intent to give both Shavano and Tabeguache an honest attempt starting in the early morning on Saturday. Everything was about as perfect as you could ask for - the weather was clear, and the temperature nice and warm (but not too hot). We slept at the trailhead until about 3:30 am or so, and we were rolling by 4 as I recall. We were just about at treeline when the sun started to light up the sky with a blazing orange glow, and we raced trying to get a clear view of it, but we weren't high enough at the time. We settled for a nice little view between some trees, and had some food. When we started walking again, it only took about five or ten minutes for us to be completely above treeline, so we missed an opportunity to see a splendid sunrise without obstruction, but honestly it was nice to see even through some trees. As we ascended the southeast slope, we came upon a small group of mountain goats that completely surprised us - I think we were pretty intent on keeping one foot in front of the other, and next thing we knew there was half a dozen goats right next to us.

Very soon after that, we were crossing the snow which made the Angel's left hand.


It was around this time that I remember the wind starting to gust occasionally. It was the annoying kind that just comes up at 30 knots out of nowhere and tries to sweep you off your feet, and then it would lay low until the next time that you forgot about it, and then tackle you again when you were least expecting it. Given the circumstances and all the nice weather, we were happy to deal with only the gusting wind. We kind of split up for a bit - I took a more direct path up to the saddle, and RockFarmer crossed a couple of more snow banks in order to stay on the proper trail, and we met up right as the saddle turns into the last several hundred feet of elevation gain before the summit, and the wind here was pretty harsh. It was a steady force you had to deal with, and also with the occasional turbo-gust. We tried to let Shavano block as much of this as we could while we made our way up the last part of the slope. Every so often we sat for a minute and took in the views...


Next thing you know, we were at the top. We took a nice look at the peaks on the far side, and took a long look at Tabeguache. It seemed both very far away, and so very close.


I convinced RockFarmer that we should at least walk over toward Tabeguache and descend about 250 feet and see how we felt about continuing at that point. Well, we did just that, skirting the edge of the mountain hoping that some of the wind would be blocked. By the time we got toward the end of the ridge, we had a good view of the descent to the saddle on the way to Tabeguache. We also had a good view of the mountains back home:


We firmly decided that we were already spent, and decided to start the trek back. This turned out to be a little bit more difficult than we had hoped. Instead of climbing back up to the summit of Shavano, we just skirted around the eastern side of peak, and tried to keep our elevation fairly constant until we met back up with the trail. This turned out to be quite difficult given the terrain. The boulders took a lot of maneuvering to traverse, and many of them were unstable, making for a rather treacherous path, and resulting in a bruise or two. We never got back to the saddle on the south side of Shavano, but instead performed an even trickier descent of the steeper southeast slope, and finally met back with the trail at about 13,200 or so. This was a very informative off-trail diversion - I will stay on whatever trails are available in the future, because the amount of work was certainly increased when off-trail, and I was very happy to be on the flat and solid ground of the trail when we finally got back to it.

We got back to the trailhead at around 3pm, as I recall. We relaxed a bit, changed some clothes and had a bit to eat, and got back in the cars to head home. Here is a view of the mountain as we were headed out:


All in all, a superb way to bring in the summer. Beautiful day, gorgeous views, and everyone returned home safely with some pictures and a few muscles that deserved a rest.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

Good job.
06/21/2010 12:45
I was on that same boat last year having to make that difficult decision to not continue on to Tabeguache. I was fighting a strong, consistent 60+ mph wind and was drained of my willpower because of it. It is still a great hike and I will look forward to re-summiting Shavano when it comes time to get Tabeguache. I still love that view down to Salida and Poncha Springs from above treeline.

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