Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Mount Shavano

On Thursday night we picked up Andrew at Denver Airport around 7:00 p.m. (we were originally hoping to get him about 6:30). His airplane was late and then we went to the wrong terminal. We had a long drive ahead of us, the Hampton Inn & Suites in Salida, 3 hours and 17 minutes away, per mapquest. Andrew hadn't eaten and we needed food for the hike, so we stopped at a Safeway store along the way and picked up some food. We arrived in Salida around 11:30 p.m. We had another long day scheduled to begin the next morning, a hike up two fourteeners: Mount Shavano and Tabeguache Peak. The trailhead was about 15 miles from our hotel and a 40 minute drive. We left the hotel shortly before 6:00 a.m. and arrived at the trailhead to start hiking about 6:40 a.m. It was a nice drive, more deserty and southwest looking than what we have been seeing further north in Colorado, down quite a few miles of dirt roads. There were only a few vehicles parked at the trailhead, at 9,750 feet elevation, when we arrived. We had not been hiking too long when I could see that Andrew was probably not going to make it. He was exhibiting signs of altitude sickness that I know all too well. He was short of breath early on, sluggish, and had a headache, and we had hardly gotten going. Andrew was excited about Sam's and my  mushroom adventures on the Mount Harvard trail and we immediately went into mushroom finding mode, one of our favorite pastimes when we are with Andrew - his passion for mushrooms is contagious. The ground was not as moist, and there was not as much rotting vegetation, as on the Harvard trail, but we did find some mushrooms. The first real interesting find was a bunch that looked like min-coral, that Sam found. 
I'd never seen anything like it in the wild. Then we found what Andrew was particularly wanting to find: the king bolete mushroom, edible and going for about $50 per pound in stores. 
In fact, Buena Vista, Colorado was having a King Bolete Mushroom Festival the next weekend which Andrew really wanted to attend. 
We found one very large king bolete, then a bunch of smaller ones in the vicinity and Andrew was in mushroom heaven. 
I kind of figured that between Andrew's altitude symptoms and the pull of the king boletes, that Andrew would not make it to the summit. We followed an interesting trail, first hooking into the Colorado Trail along a wood fence line (picture from Sam), 
then breaking off and heading uphill on a trail that was sometimes hard to follow (picture from Sam). 
We walked rather leisurely with quite a few mushroom stops and were a little worried about thunderstorms that were supposed to hit about 11:00 a.m. When we reached about 12,000 feet, just before treeline, Andrew announced that he was not going to go any further. I was going to miss him on the hike, but I knew he would have more fun with his mushrooms and that his altitude symptoms would have made his day miserable if he'd continued on. From there the trail stretched out in a beautiful straight trail (picture from Sam), 
with a very nice climbing ratio that made it easy to hike and gain altitude at the same time: one of the nicer ones I've encountered on the high peaks (picture from Sam). 
We approached and then hiked through the area where the snow angel of Mount Shavano lives. In the spring when the snow begins to melt, the snow angel of Shavano appears. 
She has a slim body, what almost looks like a crown or laurels on her head, and her arms outstretched in an upward "V." The two pictures of the angel are taken from the internet. 
I found a story about "The legend of the Angel of Shavano" in the December 2004 Colorado Central Magazine. We were too late for the snow angel, she'd already disappeared. We passed several women that were part of a hiking group from Kansas and reached a saddle at 13,400 feet between Shavano and an unnamed 13,630 foot peak. 
A man from the Kansas group was a head and it looked like he was going very slow on a route to the summit of Shavano. I could see the outline of a trail to his left, that was less direct, but looked more used, so I stayed to the left (picture from Sam - Tabeguache Peak is in the background). 
There were a number of faint trails through this area of loose rock and scree. We started to close the gap and eventually caught up with the man as we swung around to our right toward the summit. The summit was a large lump of rocks, like Harvard, although they were not as large and involved less scrambling (picture from Sam). We reached the summit of Shavano, 14,229 feet in elevation, after a hike of a little more than 4.5 miles. 
We got a couple of photos of Sam and I on the summit. 

A different view of the summit, looking back while continuing on to hike Tabeguache Peak (the next post). 
Next, a view of Shavano from part way up Tabeguache Peak. 
A closeup of the summit of Shavano, as seen from Tabeguache Peak.
Shavano, like Mount Harvard, is a nice hike. From a distance, the mountain itself is pleasing. Its bare summit, along with the bare peaks of the surrounding mountains, varying in height, flanked by green trees, is aesthetic. 
From another vantage point, Shavano (the peak in the center) clearly looks larger than the unnamed peak to its left. 
In the evening, after our hike, we watched a thunderstorm engulf the mountain. It was beautiful in the shroud of mist and occasional lightning. 
The drive to the mountain, along the dirt roads with a forest and terrain of a southwest nature is interesting. The forest growth was relatively thick and had variety. We did not see any large mammals, but we saw numerous birds, including several gray jays, and many tree squirrels. I've already mentioned the nicely built trail. The summit itself, with its rock massif is relatively impressive and the surrounding view is nice, not as spectacular as some, but the proximity of the other peaks, including Tabeguache adds interest. 


  1. That snow angel is really your wife reminding you to be safe and come home. Didn't you know that? Nice pictures of Andrew with his mushies, and of you and Sam.

  2. First it was "hiking hell", now it's "mushroom heaven". I'm learning all kinds of new wilderness terms.

    Those mushrooms are interesting. I hope the three of you managed to eat them and will give us a foodie report on wild mushrooms!