On Monday, Jeremiah Meizis , Chris Lawrence, and I took advantage of some great weather and promising avalanche conditions to ski Mt. Shavano in the Sawatch Range. Mt. Shavano lies just south of the collegiate peaks and is home to the famous "Angel of Shavano," a popular snow climb/descent in the late spring.
Our day started off by foolishly trying to reach summer trailhead by car. Unfortunately the road is not plowed in the winter and the snow was blocking the road just over 3 miles from the trailhead. We turned around and eventually opted for the winter trailhead and after our morning detour we were officially on the trail at 9:30am.
After hiking the first half-mile or so we were able to start skinning our way to the summer trailhead. None of us knew the area well so we took our time and stopped frequently for the first few miles to check our maps. After reaching the summer trailhead we headed east and quickly starting gaining elevation.
We opted to follow the popular summer route, the east slopes, to avoid climbing through what we assumed was rapidly warming avalanche terrain. As soon as we gained the ridge we realized that the slopes we were avoiding were nothing more than wind scoured scree fields.
Navigating the rocks was, without a doubt, the most memorable part of the day and for all the wrong reasons. There is just something about post holing between rocks at 13,000ft that makes you never want to do it again. Our route through the rocks slowed our progress immensely but did allow for some impressive views while we stopped for a snack.
We eventually made it to the saddle below the summit and climbed to 13,600ft which was the highest point we could ski down from . We discussed dropping our skis and tagging the summit before heading down, but due to our late start and the ferocious winds we opted to change over and descend.
On the descent the saying "earning your turns" took on another meaning as we fought a 2-3 inch breakable crust from top to bottom. Due to the wind chill being well below zero we didn't linger to take too many photos.
It took us about an hour and a half to reach the summer trailhead where we switched back over and skinned the rest of the way back to the car. After a mandatory stop for dinner in Salida we were on our way back to the springs. All told our day consisted of 11 miles, 4,600 ft of elevation and took us just over 9.5 hours car to car.
It wasn't one of the best days of skiing I've ever had, but it was definitely one of the most memorable. Tomorrow we are headed to Mt. Quandary and hopefully we'll find some better turns up there!
A collection of stories and adventures from the FAMS director and instructors.