Mount Shavano
Descent Route: North Ridge To Angel Of Shavano

Elev: 14,229?
Ski Descent #52
January 14, 2007

Climbing and skiing fourteeners is all about timing, and never has that timing been more right on for me than on Shavano. This hulking peak lies at the southern end of the great Sawatch Range, and for reasons of complex meteorological science, Shavano gets blasted by winds and rarely holds good snow for skiing. Last spring the peak was devoid of snow, as it was so far this winter. But a solid winter storm blew through Colorado last weekend, and winds were forecast to diminish. Christian Pondella and I left Aspen Sunday morning praying to the mountain gods that Shavano would at least give us a chance.

We arrived at the Angel of Shavano trailhead late, at 10:20 a.m. and proceeded to ski across the Colorado Trail for less than two miles before heading west. It was still snowing when we left the truck and was minus 4 degrees. We actually made a mistake here and went up a jeep road instead of continuing another half mile north to the proper Angel trail. This mistake took us straight up a big ridge just south of the Angel of Shavano basin. Once we got to treeline the skies began to clear and we realized our mistake. Instead of dropping down into the basin we decided to stay on the ridge, and in the company of a herd of ten bighorn sheep, we climbed up towards the summit ridge on loose boulders. Shavano has a big vertical relief; over 5000?, and we felt every bit of that as we crossed a broad plateau en route to the summit pyramid. Temperatures were well below freezing, but thankfully the winds were very light. We summitted at 4:30 p.m. and quickly got geared up to ski. On the climb up I realized that I had forgotten to place my memory card back in my computer, so I relied on Christian to capture photos of the descent.

We were excited and relieved to find good snow patches on the north side of the ridge, the side that faces up the Arkansas Valley. We worked our way down these patches, occasionally stepping across grass and rock bands to connect them together. Once we were down to 13,700? at the top of the Angel snowfield, we dropped directly down into the bowl on firm, wind-pressed snow and had a fun, 3000? vertical ski back to the intersection of the Colorado Trail. At this point is was dark out so we made the final descent through the forest and back across the Colorado Trail with headlamps. When we arrived back at the truck at 6:30 p.m. it was minus 9 degrees and we were exhausted from the effort of climbing and skiing such big vertical in such cold temperatures. On top of my excitement for having completed Shavano, we learned that the Patriots had beaten the Chargers, so it was an excellent day all in all. We drove back to Salida to eat and stay the night, intent on driving over to the San Luis Valley and Blanca Peak early the next morning.

With 52 of the 54 fourteeners now behind me, I fell asleep praying for good luck the next day on Blanca. We had been there last week to ski Little Bear, and knew that significant new snowfall would be our only key to success.

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