Sunday, August 21, 2011

Mount Sherman

The night after we climbed Mt. Belford and Mt. Oxford, I promised Andrew and Sam that they could sleep in the next morning. It had been a long day and we were tired. Andrew wasn't feeling very well and my two big toes were heavily blistered. I had serious doubts about doing any hiking at all because of my toes. I didn't want to injure them any more than they already were. We had planned to do Quandary Peak, but a couple we met on Mt. Belford recommended against it as it was a Saturday and they said it would be extremely crowded. They recommended we do the back route of Mt. Sherman out of Leadville. She said there would not be many people at the beginning, but we would meet quite a few more people when we hit the ridge and got the hikers coming in from the standard route on the other side. We were sleeping in a motel in Frisco, and Mt. Sherman  meant driving a greater distance, then having to travel back to Littleton that night where we had a hotel and then dinner reservations at the Fort. I was concerned that with the driving, we wouldn't have time to do the hike. I let the boys sleep until 8:00 or 8:30. I decided to drive to Leadville where they were having the Leadville 100 mountain bike race. I was kind of hoping that it would be so crowded we wouldn't be able to get through and it would prevent us from hiking. Not so, so we stopped and ate a nice leisurely breakfast at the Delaware Hotel. After breakfast we drove to the end of town, turned left on Monroe Street, then right on Toledo Street and followed it about 3.8 miles out of town. We hit a fork in the road and took the dirt Lake County 2B road and followed it 3 miles to the trailhead at 12,000 feet. Mt. Sherman is huge. As we drove up the road all we could see was a very large, long and nearly flat topped mountain. 
As we rounded the corner to our left, we could see the summit off to our left. 
To our right, we could see the trail winding around the south side of the Mt. Sherman massif. 
Andrew decided he didn't want to hike with us, rather he would walk lower and look for mushrooms. So Sam and I set out about 11:20 p.m. and I was concerned about having enough time to summit and return to the car. I had no detailed route information. All I knew was that Mt. Sherman was rated the easiest of the Colorado fourteeners and we would have a little over 2,000 feet of elevation gain. I decided we would have to turn around by 2:00 p.m., no matter where we were, and be back to the car by 4:00 p.m. We found the trail which is not marked and started to cross Iowa Gulch, a small valley, then out of the green grass and foliage and onto the rock and scree trail which wound south and then east out of Iowa Gulch. I was still having doubts about the hike and considered turning back. We got a different view of the Sherman summit
which looked pretty impressive.
But the ibuprofen and acetaminophen kicked in and my toes became less of an issue. As we rounded the south end of the massif we were looking up at  13,748 ft. Mt. Sheridan, a large rounded mountain 
and we continued up the gully between Sherman and Sheridan. We encountered a couple coming down the trail. They said they'd made the summit in 1 hour and 40 minutes and confirmed the trailhead was at about 12,000 feet. I felt much better about things. The trail continues up some pretty ugly terrain in the gully with very little vegetation, very few large rocks, and some old telegraph poles coming down the side. 
So far it was not a scenic hike. It was fairly steep and I was worried how my toes would fare on my way back down. 
We switch-backed up the left side of the gully 
until we reached the Sherman/Sheridan saddle at 13,100 feet. 
There we met lots of people coming up from the other side of the mountain, although nothing like what we experienced last year when we did Grays and Torreys Peaks. The couple we'd seen previously warned us that what looked like the summit wasn't, that it was further along. We started northwest up the relatively loose talus trail 
and found it pretty easy hiking. 
We were following a very rounded mountainside and encountered lots of people, the most on this trip. At about 13,600 feet the ridge narrowed
 and there were some spots with some pretty decent exposure on both sides, 
much more than what we encountered the day before on Belford and Oxford. 
This made what had been a pretty ugly hike so far much more fun and memorable. We eventually hit a really flat area 
and had been warned that we needed to continue on along the flat for some time until we reached the summit. We eventually saw the summit in the distance, quite obvious by the flapping American flag and the people around it. 
We reached the 14,036 foot summit at 1:13 p.m., 1 hour and 53 minutes from when we started, 2.25 miles from the beginning. 
It was without a doubt the easiest fourteener I've done. In fact, Mt. Baldy is much harder, although it has much less exposure. From the summit we looked down and could see where our car was parked and got a good view of Leadville and Turquoise Lake in the distance. 
We spent 5 minutes on top, then started back down. 
It was pretty easy going down 
to the Sherman/Sheridan saddle 
at 13,100 feet 
and the scree was big and loose, for the most part, and I was able to avoid jamming my toes into the ends of my tennis shoes. Views from the east side of Sherman 
and the standard route. 
and another route down at Iowa Gulch where our car was parked.
The gully between Sherman and Sheridan is where some poles would have come in handy. In order to minimize the impact on my toes, we headed straight down from the saddle, not following the switchbacks. There was enough loose scree and grass that I was able to walk and slide sideways on my feet. We eventually hit the trail and followed it, but I was able to minimize the impact on my sore toes. We got back to the car at 3:00 p.m., just 11 minutes faster than our way up, although we did take a rest break on the way down to drink some water and eat a little bit. Like Belford and Oxford, the trail is rated class 2 and I believe it should be class 1. It is a good trail all the way. This would be a great first fourteener. It is also a great fourteener for a short day or a rest day. 

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