A strong appetite, average palate, and weak writing, mixed with outdoor adventure.

A strong appetite, average palate, and weak writing, mixed with outdoor adventure.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Mt Shavano


  • Route: Angel of Shavano
  • Distance: 7.5 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 4,600 feet
  • Start time: 5:30 AM
  • Time: 4.5 hours up, 2.25 hours down

Standing tall at the southern end of the Sawatch Range, 14,229 Mt Shavano dominates the western skyline of the Arkansas River Valley. Given its aspect and location, Shavano can often shed its snow earlier than others peaks of similar size. Yet, in late spring, a snow feature known as the “Angel of Shavano” forms, allowing for nearly 3,000 vertical feet of climbing on snow. Native Americans thought this to be an Indian Princess who, after sacrificing herself to end a drought, returned each year to provide water.

Pictured below is the Angel, with less snow than we experienced, but it shows the arms and head in clear relief. Photo compliments of Rex Headd.


Alan and I drove up Friday night and in what is likely a combination of redneck meets efficiency we slept beneath his truck. This saved us the effort of setting up a tent, yet kept the sporadic precipitation from falling upon us.

The morning dawned humid, which put an unwelcome chill in the air, and we could already hear the wind howling at higher altitudes. We hike fairly quick and thus reached the base of the Angel to be greeted by shadows, wind and wind driven snow. Much of the haze in the picture below is wind driven snow.


Alan was feeling great and making it look easy. I was lagging, cursing the altitude and the effort of walking uphill with a headwind and questioning my decision to enjoy the liquid refreshment the night before at Amicas. With little to be done about it I simply headed up. That is me in the picture below, getting hammered by one of the many squalls that poured over us. The trip up was constantly breezy, but it was punctuated by violent winds that knocked you around, especially since their direction was not consistent.


We hit the summit at 10 AM, to be greeted by even stronger wind and snow. When we removed our goggles and balaclavas for summit shots, made your face sting. The summit pictures were squinty affairs.


We made short work of the descent by plunge stepping and hugging the edge of the left arm to minimize exposure to avalanche danger. IMG_5870

As always, I felt great on the descent. With the specter of elevation gain behind me and a comfort level on snow, we jogged down most of the Angel. The sun came out when we neared the bottom and the effort combined with the albedo of the snow had us quickly shedding layers.

It was a solid effort and the 4th 14er on the year, which I think is likely a personal record for early in the season. Pictured below is the view of Shavano from near US 285. It is a sight we will see often this summer as we travel to the southwest part of the state to climb other high peaks.


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