Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Mount Sherman-Sheridan-Gemini Peak

Mount Sherman
Colorado finally got a good week of rain and the state wide fire ban has now been lifted.  The recent week of monsoon type weather in the mountains left its share of damage.  Originally Brian and I wanted to make a trip up Mount Massive near Leadville, but the day prior a sink hole 100ft deep closed one of the highways into Leadville and we didn’t want to deal with road closures.  After a brief chat on the phone we decided on Mount Sherman for the week.   The weather looked good at only 20% chance of thunderstorms in the afternoon and there was a chance at adding a few other mountains to this climb.  So, this actually started looking intriguing to me since there was an opportunity for multiple summits.  What I have read and seen on Sherman in the past months didn’t leave me too tempted to put this mountain up on my list, but now after being up there I was very happy we decided on it.

Sherman on right, Gemini behind
It was Brian’s turn to drive, so we were both hopeful that his Subaru would get us up to the main gate.  As our usual we met at the Meyer Ranch Park on hwy 285 at 4:15am to ensure we got a early start on the mountain.  On my drive up just before the interchange of 470 and 285 I saw two very large Elks with very large racks milling the ground on the side of the freeway.  So, technically I can put this in the book as viewed wildlife for this trip.  We met up at the car park and were off right on schedule.  We are getting very used to the drive over to Fairplay, which is a starting spot for most Mosquito Range hikes.  The crux of the drive was the 10 miles on the dirt/washboard road to the gate.  We arrived early, being the first to make it and the Subaru did great.  Any vehicle that isn’t a low rider could make it to the 12,000ft gate for this hike.   

In the recent weeks I have beat the hell out of my feet, so earlier in the week I found some North Face hiking shoes at REI and today would be the test.  It felt odd to leave the car in what felt like shoes when I’m so accustomed to using a boot.  But, as I have found out in Colorado when there is a trail there really isn’t a need for those heavy boots.  The shoes were perfect for the trip and my feet didn’t hurt afterwards which was a beautiful feeling.

When we got out of the car it was freezing!  I changed from shorts to pants and by 6:15am we were off on the old mining road up towards Sherman.  We could see a line of cars coming up the road and had a good idea this would be a busy mountain today.  I was surprised at the incline on the road right past the gate.  Like usual, I had the blood pumping early.  The first mile is all on an old road that meanders through a bunch of old mining buildings which were neat to check out on our way down.  The thing I really liked about this hike was that you could see Mount Sherman for most of the hike.  The hiking was really easy and before we knew it we were on the saddle that divided Sherman and Sheridan. 

Gemini Peak-center

Once gaining the ridge the route turns into a Class 2 trail through rocks.  The only issue we had was there was still frost on most of the rock so I found myself ice skating quite a bit.  With careful foot placement it wasn’t too bad, but I can’t imagine coming down this in the rain.  The ridge was long, and reminded me a lot of the ridge heading up Mount Cameron.  After a good climb you gain the top, but not the summit.  After gaining the plateau on top there is another ¼ mile to the true summit.  I doubt it was that far, but that’s what it felt like.  I think in a book I read a plane has actually landed up here, but don’t quote me on that.  We made the summit of Sherman a little after 8am, less than 2hrs from the car.  I was very, very happy with that time.  We had the summit to ourselves.  The sky was still crystal blue and the conditions were great.  We didn’t hang out too long; we wanted to climb one to two more 13ers while we were up here so we took off to Gemini Peak.

Pika on Gemini

Gemini is an unranked 13er, not getting the 300ft of prominence from Mount Sherman but it is a named and interesting looking peak.  We made it over to the base of the rocky mountain and what looked like a couple hundred feet to the summit was probably 80-100ft.  The rock was wet and somewhat loose, but I was able to maintain the class 2 ranking by just using my trekking poles for balance.  In no time at all we were on the summit.  I would say about a 30minute hike or so from Sherman’s summit will get you to Gemini.  Someone had put a lot of work into a large wind shelter on the summit; thankfully we didn’t need it today.  By this time we could see the first of many to summit Sherman.  I started to hear a little chirping and soon was able to locate a Pika in the rocks.  He was very much into whatever Brian had on his shoes and let us take many photos of him.  We actually thought he was going to follow us home at one point but he eventually retreated back into the rocks.

I can say I wasn’t looking forward to summiting Sherman again, but it was on the way back.  By the time we made it back to the summit there was probably 20 people up there.  We decided to take a break for a few minutes.  Brian being a Chicago native and me a life long Bears fan took in something you don’t see every day in Colorado; a man sporting a Butkus jersey on the summit.  He said he wears a Bears jersey on all his 14ers.  I just laughed, that’s true pride..haha.

It was somewhere around 10am, so we thought we better be on our way to Mount Sheridan.  Brian was moving very well down the ridge today.  He thinks he is just more comfortable in trail runners, and I would have to agree.  I was slower in my shoes today, in my usual boots I know they can take a lot more beating so I am more free to let gravity take over.  Today I was the slow poke on both ends of the trip.  In no time at all we were back down to the saddle making our way across to the base of Sheridan.  From the saddle it is about a 600ft gain to reach Sheridan’s summit.  What a slow rocky road to the top too.  Not as well beaten, because few people probably venture up Sheridan with Sherman right there.  But the views from Sheridan were the best of the day.  It was amazing looking towards Elbert and Massive then all the way around to Sherman.  I highly recommend anyone heading to Sherman to at least put in a little extra effort to get up Sheridan.  The wind shelter on top someone could have lived in.  I think a brick mason may have started the project.
Mount Sheridan from Sherman

We didn’t linger long on Sheridan.  After my last two weeks of dodging thunderstorms I had no desire to make it a third.  Clouds were forming but nothing bad, it still being only around 11:30am we had a good amount of time to descend.  We decided on a more direct descent into the mining area where we knew there were a couple old roads we could connect with.  This section was tough with the shoes, the one part of the day I wish I had my boots on.  It didn’t take too long to hook up with an old hiking trail.  This trail didn’t appear to get much use, more of a boulder trail I would say.  It lead us through the higher mining structures and onto the road.  A leisure walk down the road checking out the old shacks and before we knew it we were back to the car.

After our hike today I would call Sherman the easiest 14er thus far.  It was not as rocky at Democrat, a hair longer but overall easier.  I enjoyed the views immensely and would plan to come back for a winter climb sometime.  I’m loving the fact that my body does not feel broken the day after.  So, it only takes 15-14ers to get broken in…hahaha.  I guess for some people.  The big thing is wearing proper gear for the conditions and trails.  If I were in hiking shoes most of this year I may still have a few toe nails left.  Let’s hope for Massive next week, if not there we will be hiking something out there.
GPS Track

Date: 7/10/2012
Starting Elevation:  12,000ft
Mount Sherman Summit: 14,009ft
Gemini Peak Summit: 13,921ft
Mount Sheridan Summit: 13,743ft
Total Gained Elevation: 3,025ft
Distance: 7.1 miles
Time:  4:57 moving, 1:10 stopped 
Climbing Partner: Brian

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