Peak(s):  Mt. Shavano  -  14,229 feet
Date Posted:  08/09/2010
Date Climbed:   08/07/2010
Author:  demosthenes14

 Rocky Mountain High: Mt. Shavano (Standard Route) for Flatlanders  

My ascent up Shavano (my fourth Fourteener) ranks as one of the best hikes, right next to last year's trip up Quandry. As a flatlander, I thought I'd share my experience & some observations on the climb.

August 7 was the scheduled date for my Shavano ascent, a Saturday after a week of late-summer thunderstorms and chilly weather had blasted through the mountains. This weather kept the status of the climb rather in limbo (we feared having to descend early) and so forced a super-early ascent. My climbing buddies – relatives of mine from central Colorado – and I slept in the Salida area and rose at 4:30 A.M., cramming bags with gear in the pitch-dark on the way to the trailhead. The road into the Shavano trailhead winds its long and rocky way through a cow pasture, over a number of cattle guards. At one point, after driving for more than half an hour, we stopped to check our progress – peering at the map, and checking road signs. Be forewarned: the trail inwards takes between twenty and thirty minutes to complete. A sign for fuel, leading off to the left, indicates you are nearly there; the "small junction near a cattle guard" mentioned in the official directions is one leading into the road you are on, not another road branching off yours. About 5:30, we reached the trailhead, and as the sun was rising, we were headed up the Colorado trail, and then up the Shavano trail in the glow of early-morning light.


In some ways, the ascent towards treeline is the hardest part of the entire trip. The trail itself is direct and easy to follow; unfortunately, it is so easy primarily because it winds its way up the mountain amidst a huge pile of rocks. All kinds of rocks litter the trail – little ones no bigger than pebbles and ones larger than a man's fist, rocks fixed in the ground and others that roll out from underneath when you step on them. Image Added to the rocks as an obstacle is the lower trail's grade. Above treeline, the trail levels out somewhat, climbs again, levels out, and oblingingly circles upwards in a series of switchbacks. Not so below treeline. Here, the trail ascends unrelentingly upwards through rock and stone towards treeline. To balance out these difficulties, the initial ascent offers great vistas: peering eastward and southward as the trees thinned, we gazed back at the sun rising over Shavano as we noshed on gorp.

My hiking buddies and I pushed on past treeline up towards Shavano's peak, mindful of the threatening weather of the past week. By 8:00 or so, we had reached treeline. After quitting the last few scraggly trees, the trail levels out briefly and allows swifter progress towards the summit. At this point, the exposure is rather pronounced. My flatlander friends periodically wonder whether you can fall off a Fourteener (picturing me, I suppose, toppling from a cliff halfway up some mountain), but the exposure here gives one the feeling of hiking along the rim of the world. Image Halfway across the traverse, the trail becomes notably steeper. Do not be fooled by the pictures, which apparently show a nice trek across a smooth green field. Actually, the dirt path directs hikers quite steeply up the side of the saddle – a grueling and slow ascent. Underfoot, loose dirt slows your climbing even more. The saddle once gained, the trail again levels off and allows another "breather" before the final pitch upwards towards Shavano. Image Image

Along the final 500 feet or so of elevation gain, the trail upwards disappears into a rock scramble. Fortunately, the wind – extraordinarily fierce along the saddle – disappears as hikers turn along the south east side of Shavano for the last part of the ascent. Large boulders, very similar to those found on Princeton, cover the lower parts of the summit. At this point, my buddies and I put away our hiking poles – extremely useful on the lower parts of the journey – and scrabbled upwards through the boulders. At times, we glimpsed what one fellow hiker called a "trail-y thing" – patches of dirt that confirmed we were in fact headed in the correct direction. Mostly, however, the boulder-covered summit eludes a direct ascent and requires hikers to pick whatever way they feel best through the stones, exercising different muscles and ascending ever closer to the top.

At the summit of Shavano, we found no thunderstorms but in fact a gorgeous sunny day, remarkably wind-free. From the peak, we admired Tabeguache (which we did not climb), Antero, and the Monarch ski area. Below us, the clouds were slowly building. Image After an hour or so resting, we turned around and headed downwards – slowly at first down the rock scramble, and more quickly down the saddle and through the woods. The rocks and dirt perhaps present more of a danger on the descent than on the ascent: they have a nasty tendency to trip up quickly-descending hikers. I myself fell once, and tripped a number of times. The descent took perhaps 3 hours. Highlights included the gorgeous summit, the rock scramble at the top, and some of the vegetatation along the traverse (note the green flowers). The peak itself took about 7.5, not including the hour basking in the sunlight on the summit. Overall: a glorious day high in the Colorado Rockies.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

Great Report
08/09/2010 20:23
Do you think my husky will have trouble during the scrambling section?


Re. husky
08/09/2010 22:45
It depends on how agile your husky is. My climbing buddies had two smaller dogs which they did NOT take, owing to the steep grade and extensive rocks. However, there was a large black lab on the summit who appeared to be enjoying himself and certainly made it up OK. As long as your dog can do a bit of jumping and reaching, I'd guess he'd be OK. Either way, best of luck!

   Using your forum id/password. Not registered? Click Here

Caution: The information contained in this report may not be accurate and should not be the only resource used in preparation for your climb. Failure to have the necessary experience, physical conditioning, supplies or equipment can result in injury or death. and the author(s) of this report provide no warranties, either express or implied, that the information provided is accurate or reliable. By using the information provided, you agree to indemnify and hold harmless and the report author(s) with respect to any claims and demands against them, including any attorney fees and expenses. Please read the Safety and Disclaimer pages for more information.

© 2017®, 14ers Inc.