Mount Shavano (4337m) is the southernmost fourteener in the Sawatch Range in Colorado, and it has a famous snow feature that resembles an angel with up stretched arms. I did not see any angels, simply because it was too late in the season. I was also disappointed to know that the shortest route to bag both Shavano and Tabaguache (4314m) was closed due to environmental concerns.
This was going to be my seventh day in a row with peak bagging, so I was awfully tired before I finally managed to get out of the comfortable sleeping bag at 06:30. It was a beautiful morning at the Angel of Shavano Campground. But to my shocking surprise I found out that the Jennings Creek Trailhead and the southwest ridge of Tabaguache Peak had been closed due to environmental concerns (erosion). Thus I found myself at the wrong campground and was in a hurry to drive back and find the new trail approach to Shavano. An early start is always important in order to summit before the frequent thunderstorms set in, and this can sometimes be very stressful.
I had to drive almost back to Poncha Springs, before I found a road sign to the new trailhead of Mount Shavano just some few kilometres west of the city on US 50. Unfortunately I did not take any notes of how I got to Blank Gulch Trailhead, but I remember that there were signs several places, making it a relatively easy task to find the trailhead. The parking lot and the facilities at Blank Gulch Trailhead were closed due to renovation and improvements, so there was a temporary parking lot 200 metres to the north. The elevation here was 2995 metres.
I had wasted a lot of time in the car that morning, driving in total 30 kilometres from the campground to the new trailhead, thus I was not ready to start the hike before 08:00. There were only 2 vehicles at the trailhead, and therefore I expected a hike in solitude.
Mount Shavano (4337m)
I started on the well-trodden Colorado Trail and continued less than one kilometre on this before I reached a well-marked junction. I turned left onto the Shavano trail and continued into the dense forest. The trail was rather steep but it was easy to follow through the woods. I passed a middle-aged man who seemed to be short of breath. Then I reached the tree line at 3600 metres and got ahead of two other persons, a young couple that seemed to have a relatively good pace. Here the trail continued on the north side of the basin that holds the famous Angel of Shavano symbol, or actually two snow gullies that looks like an angel with up stretched arms. But late in August the gullies barely contained any snow at all, so I could only see remnants of the famous angel. I had a short break trying to figure out how the angel looked like early in the season, before I continued on the good trail to the saddle between Mount Shavano and Esprit (Point 13630). Here the trail turns north onto Shavano’s south ridge, and I continued on the increasingly steeper talus slopes to the summit, which I reached 10:20.
No people on the summit, I had it entirely for myself. This was the first time during the last week that I actually had been alone on the summit, even though it still was August (31st) and high season in Colorado. But it was midweek.
Tabaguache Peak (4314m)
I rested for 20 minutes before I continued down to the saddle between Mount Shavano and Tabaguache Peak, and then to the latter summit. This traverse was nothing more than easy class 2 scrambling. Here I was resting for another 20 minutes, gazing at the surroundings and applying more sunscreen. Yes, it was a beautiful day. In the distance I could also see that the young couple had reached the summit of Mount Shavano.
It took me approx 30 minutes to return to Mount Shavano, and once more I rested here in solitude. The couple had probably started to descend before I returned to Mount Shavano, and they had apparently no intention to proceed to Tabaguache Peak like I did.
On my way down Shavano’s talus slopes, I again met that exhausted middle-aged man. Earlier that day I was not so convinced that he would manage to haul himself to the summit, but now he looked better. Just above the tree line I also passed the young couple, and the man asked me if I was about to set a new record. No I said, I’m not even running.
I arrived the parking lot at 14:20 and it had taken me more than 6 hours to complete this combination, most likely far away from any speed-records. Anyway I was quite tired after 7 days in a row with hiking and climbing. Tomorrow was certainly going to be a day off, and a well deserved one.
(I’m referring to the YDS class rating system throughout this article)