Shavano + Tabeguache Ski

This season is truly one that just won’t quit. Storms keep bringing in more snow every week, and this week was no exception. A couple days prior, several inches of new snow blanketed the Sawatch. I’ve been wanting to ski Shavano this year, since even in decent years it often isn’t in from the top and reports suggested it was good to go. Despite having a newborn at home, leading to chronic sleep deprivation, I planned for a 1am alarm to go ski this pair of peaks with John. Getting to bed at 9:30 meant I had a solid 3.5 hours of sleep in store before another big day in the mountains – less than I’d like but entirely doable.

Of course, infants have their own schedule. James decided he was hungry at 11:30, and so I was out of bed with a rock-solid two hours of sleep. Since John and I weren’t meeting until 2 to head out, I had plenty of time for a midnight feeding, and watched some cooking videos on youtube with James to pass the time. 2 eventually came around, and we got on the road.

We were on-trail at 5:30, hiking in shoes for the first mile and a half or so. When we reached the bottom of the Angel of Shavano, we switched over to ski gear and got on our way up.

When things got steeper, we made the mistake of trying to sidehill back and forth to keep skis on our feet, wasting time and getting in to some precarious positions. Once we threw our skis on our packs, progress came quick and easy.

So easy, in fact, that we did some hill sprints.

The altitude didn’t get to either of us this day, and we made steady progress towards the summit – which we were both thrilled to get to without a false summit. Tragedy struck on the way though, as a gust of wind ripped my hat from my head and immediately out of view, down in to the wrong drainage. I remarked to John that if that was the worst thing that happened all day, that’d be all right – and immediately worried I’d jinxed myself.

Wanting to keep the pace up, we didn’t stop on top of Shavano and kept moving towards Tabeguache. We had hoped to ski down to the saddle, but the ridge was too bouldery to allow that.

We took a quick break at the saddle for a bite to eat, figuring the wind would make a stop on top of Tabeguache unpleasant – and to make it easier to summit, rip skins, and get moving back towards Shavano.

The climb up to Tabeguache is only 400′ and was skinnable the whole way, so it went very quick – in only about 15 minutes. The ski was fast and fun, and only a couple minutes later it was time to head back up.

The ridge back to Shavano is half a mile with 500′ of elevation gain, and we both just put our heads down and got through it.

Half an hour later we were on top, though not without incident.

When I got back to the summit of Shavano, I noticed I’d broken the main buckle on one of my boots, that also functions as the lean lock. I must’ve bashed it on a boulder on the traverse.

Fortunately I always travel with some ski straps, and was able to strap the locking nub in to place. Between that, the stiff tongue, and cranking down the booster strap as tight as possible, I got things tight enough that I didn’t feel much of a difference for the ski.

The ski off the top of Shavano was a little firm thanks to the wind, which was greatly preferable to being too-soft.

As we got lower conditions softened to near-perfection, and we were down a couple thousand feet in only five minutes.

Of course the ski out through the trees can change a great day in to a sufferfest very quickly – though this year that hasn’t been the case. My only guess is that the deep snowpack resulted in much better consolidation than we see many years, and the tree-ski was actually fun and quick.

Skiing down farther than you hike in is always a bonus, and we made it an extra half mile and 500′ or so. This left only a mile and a thousand feet to lose back to the car in shoes, which went very quickly.

It was another great day out, in a year I didn’t think I’d be able to take advantage of. I’m up to 33 14ers skied now, with a few more to go before I hang it up for the year. I’d largely abandoned the project years ago, but here we are again.

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