Mt. Shavano - 14,229 feet
|Mt. Shavano Winter Ascent (Jan 25, 2020)|
Mt. Shavano – Winter Ascent (Jan 25, 2020)
The Blank Gulch trailhead will likely not be an option as the road to the trailhead is not maintained in the winter. We checked it out, and we would have had a 3-mile hike to make it to the trailhead (TH). We elected to start at the Angel of Shavano TH and follow the Colorado Trail to the Blank Gulch TH. This cut off ~4 miles round trip. The Colorado Trail (from what I understand) is well traveled in the winter, making this an easy option. GPS could be used as a backup to find your way as well. The trail was broken for us, so this made for easy navigating.
Our intent was to follow the Blank Gulch trail and take the east ridge up to avoid any possible avalanche territory. However, we missed our turn to take the east slopes trail. On our way back we looked for the trail up the east slopes but couldn’t find it. We’re fairly certain that it not been broken. We ended up ascending the Angel of Shavano. Avalanche risk at and above tree line was moderate (Colorado Avalanche Information Center) when we started, and we continued to assess conditions as we traveled. Good decision or bad, we all came out fine. Obviously assess conditions and risk for yourself as they will be different when you climb.
The day was a long slow grind with little relief from the constant incline. As we ascended the Angel we were able to go about halfway up with microspikes, thankfully others in our group had crampons and created a nice staircase for us. However, we were about 2hrs behind them and the snow began to soften due to the sun. It started to get very difficult to get a foothold, so we finished through the scree field. This was slow but felt much safer. An uncontrolled slide down the Angel didn’t seem like a fun time. We were fortunate to see two groups of bighorn sheep on the way up. They were laughing at our slow pace.
This angel can be a devil and once you reach the saddle you get to hit the steepest part of your day to make the summit. You are rewarded with great views and there’s room on the summit to get out of the wind and have a beer and whiskey if you like. We were incredibly lucky and had blue skies all day, low wind and temps were probably in the mid-20s. My friend and I took 8 hours to summit and 4 hours to get down, so it was a long day. We’re in good shape; our friends that are in phenomenal shape had a 10-hour day.
Best of luck and I hope this was at least somewhat helpful in planning a winter ascent.
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