A Taste of January in June: Shavano Summit Ski

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Date: June 1, 2009
Partner: Wes Martin
Route: East Ridge to Angel Snowfield
Stats: 4,600‘ climbed, 2,500‘ skied, 7.5 Miles, 7 Hours

Anyone ever gone for a Shavano summit ski descent in June? Well after seeing a few TR‘s it looked like one could be pieced together, and I was especially eager to get back at Shavano after a ski attempt in March ended in failure.

Wes was up for the challenge and, having never even summited Shavano, he was in for a double reward. I picked him up from his house in Morrison at 3:00am and we were off down 285 towards Salida. The drive went quickly, thankfully he was willing to drive some so I was able to get in a short nap. The road to the TH is in great shape, my Civic made it up there with no issues whatsoever.

The previous attempt, March 2009. Photo by Stuart Clark.

The March attempt was a good lesson in sunhit timing. Stu and I didn‘t factor in the additional 2.5 miles we would need to hike to get to the summer TH, which put us at the base of the Angel around 10am with a transitioning spring snow pack, much too late for a safe ascent/descent. We called it on account of potential avy danger.

This time we started off from the true TH at 6:15am with a relatively stable spring snow pack ahead of us, already I was feeling a successful day was in the cards. Quick work to treeline landed us below the Angel in about an hour and a half, continuous snow began at 11,700‘.

A morning stroll through the woods.

The Angel of Shavano showed herself shorty thereafter.

Uncertain of the weather which had taken a noticeable dive since we began skinning, we picked up the pace a bit. Thoughts of electrical activity plagued my mind as the snow was super wet and was likely falling as rain down below.

Photo by Wes.

The snow cover looked super sparse up top, I was beginning to doubt that it was in. Looking at pictures from a TR on Sunday night, I was optimistic. Seeing the upper mountain in person gave me a different sentiment. Nevertheless we carried skis to the summit to see if something could be pieced together. Looking down at the line I began to wonder if, given a little ingenuity and a lot of P-Tex, it could go…I touched the summit block with my pole and traversed towards the summer route, the pictures tell the rest.

Skiing the upper 300′ of Shavano in June, rocky to say the least. Photo by Wes.

Making it work through a rock field of epic proportions. Photo by Wes.

Much to our surprise and satisfaction, we were able to make it work from the top.

Navigating towards the Angel with diminishing visibility and flat light.

Once in the arm the snow became deeper and turns could be had without fear of bottoming out. This is where the real skiing (if you would define it as that) began. The weather had us thrown for a loop; I‘ve been in whiteouts before in April and early May but early June? The snow was falling in big, wet flakes and the temperature was steadily dropping. Time to get out of here!

Wes heading down the arm in full whiteout conditions.

…and looking back up at me. Photo by Wes.

We’re in the body now.

Photo by Wes.

…and at the end of continuous snow at the bottom of the Angel.

After exchanging AT boots for shoes, we began the 3.5 mile hike out under snowy skies. Wes and I were amazed to find that as much as 3 inches of snow had fallen since we began our hike in. Route finding back to the car was a breeze, we arrived at 1:15pm on the dot for a round trip time of 7 hours.

And now for a comparison…

Taken at 12:10pm.

… and this photo was taken an hour later.

A look back at the peak on our drive out.

Feels good to get this one done! Thanks for reading.

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