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Mount Sherman
Elevation: 14,036 feet
Climbed: Sep 26, 2004; Jun 7, 2009
Mountain Range: Mosquito Range
Colorado Rank: 45th
Class Rating: 2
Latitude: 39.225000
Longitude: -106.169000

Trip Report

Jun 7, 2009
Although Mount Sherman is one of the easier 14ers to climb, high winds on the ridge and summit were brutal. I snapped a summit photo, then bailed off the east side of the summit, rather than descending the ridge.

Sep 26, 2004
Knowing that snow had fallen in the Pikes Peak region earlier in the week, I wanted to fit in one more late-season climb on a relatively easy peak. Difficulty ratings on any mountain are relative; easier is a more descriptive term, since no climb deserves to be called easy.

Quandary Peak was a potential climb on my short list, but knowing that Quandary is on the snowy side of the Continental Divide near Hoosier Pass, Mount Sherman was my back-up plan. I would make a game-time decision on which peak to climb, depending on how much snow appeared to be on those mountains.

I decided to get up extra early and drive to the trailhead the morning of the climb, rather than drive out the night before and sleep at the trailhead. By 4:45 AM, I left the house, ready to drive west on Highway 24 to Hartsel, then northwest on Highway 9 to either Quandary Peak or Mount Sherman.

As I descended Wilkerson Pass into South Park, I dipped into thick fog. Driving through the fog in the sleepy early-morning darkness was an ethereal sensation. My speed dropped as I pierced the fog that shrouded Highway 24 from Wilkerson Pass to just east of Hartsel.

By the time I reached Hartsel, I had driven out of the fog. Continuing to Highway 9, I turned northwest toward Fairplay. There was enough light now to gauge the amount of snow on the mountains ahead of me. All of the mountains were snowier than Pikes Peak had been the day before, but Mount Sherman seemed to have less than the others. Reaching the intersection of U.S. Highways 9 and 285, about one mile south of Fairplay, I turned left onto 285 for 1/4 of a mile, then right onto Park County 18. I passed the Fourmile Campground at about 8 miles, continuing on to the old Leavick townsite at just under 10.5 miles. The road does not stop at the townsite, but continues on for close to 2 miles to a locked gate. I chose to stop at Leavick, which is recognizable by the many dilapidated mine buildings on the right side of the road and the huge, flat parking pullout on the left side of the road.

Gerry Roach, in his book "Colorado Fourteeners", described the abandoned Leavick townsite as the Fourmile Creek Trailhead, although I was the only climbing party that started from this lower point on the road. All others drove on, parking at or just below the locked gate. My starting point at Leavick made for a nice 8-mile round-trip climb, beginning at an elevation of about 11,338 feet.

I parked in the large pullout across from the townsite and began hiking at 7:30 AM. From the parking area, Mount Sheridan was clearly visible to the west-northwest. To the west-southwest, the very interesting shape of Horseshoe Mountain captured the morning light. The first part of the climb was up the four-wheel-drive road, which was a bit rougher than the road I had traveled, but still very passable. As I approached treeline at about 11,650 feet, Mount Sherman came into view. I continued on for a little over one mile, arriving at the locked gate at about 12,043 feet.

I passed the old Dauntless Mine at about 12,270 feet. As I climbed higher, I began to encounter snow, still on the ground from a snowfall earlier in the week. As I climbed, I passed abandoned mine buildings, and the snow became less patchy and started to cover several sections of the trail. The cold wind began to blow, so I pulled the hood of my wind/rain shell over my head.

At about 12,850 feet, the trail turned to face the saddle between Mount Sherman and Mount Sheridan. As the snowy trail climbed toward the 13,165 foot saddle, I passed the abandoned Hilltop Mine on the left side of the trail. Reaching the top of the saddle, I continued north, then northeast, as the saddle ended and Sherman's southwest ridge began.

The section of the ridge from about 13,500 to 13,900 feet was the most interesting, as the snowy trail picked its way along the ridgeline. The wind was cold and punishing at times, but during those sections when the trail passed an obstruction, the wind would disappear and the weather was enjoyable.

The last 100 feet of elevation gain was very gentle, as the southwest ridge docilely rose to meet the summit of Mount Sherman. The snow along this ridge was about 12 inches deep, with the wind creating drifts of various shapes and sizes. Reaching the summit, the wind continued to blow as I set up my mini-tripod for some summit photos. Spindrift found its way into my open gear, as I tried to stabilize the tripod on snow drifts and then bound into the frame before the self-timer released.

As I enjoyed the view from atop the mountain, another climber arrived on the summit. He lived in Leadville, CO, which was visible far below just west of our location. Continuing west beyond Leadville, snow-covered Mount Massive dominated the scene. South of Massive, with the tip of its summit in the clouds, rose Mount Elbert, Colorado's highest mountain. Further south, La Plata Peak jutted into the sky.

Turning my attention to the north, Mounts Democrat, Bross, Cameron and Lincoln rose in close proximity to each other, with Quandary Peak rising somewhere north beyond that cluster of mountains. In all directions, snow-capped mountains brightly reflected the morning sun. As the wind abated, I decided to spend some leisurely time on the summit, sitting in the snow, eating my lunch and enjoying the scenery. I spent 45 minutes on the summit, arriving at about 10:30 AM, and beginning my trip down about 11:15 AM.

The trip down was pleasant, since the day was warming up nicely as the wind decided to take a break from its earlier assault. I peeled layers of clothing as I descended onto the snowy, sunshine-laden saddle, passing a Boy Scout unit on its way up the mountain. Descending over the saddle in the snow was very enjoyable, since the snow was now soft enough to easily cushion the direct descent down the mountain.

As I dropped lower and lower on the trail, I noticed more and more clouds, until soon the mostly-sunny morning had given way to a partly- to mostly-cloudy early afternoon. The snow became more patchy as I descended, until soon, I was again hiking along the four-wheel-drive road. The last two miles to the truck was a pleasant hike, dropping back into the trees at about 11,650 feet and then hiking along tree-lined Fourmile Creek.

Rounding a final bend in the road, the truck finally came into view. Arriving back at the truck, I grabbed some snacks and water, took off my boots and socks, and sat in the open pickup bed. I enjoyed the sun, which occasionally reappeared, while scanning the mountain side with my binoculars.

By 2:00 PM, my truck was pointed toward Colorado Springs, with my radio tuned to the Denver Broncos - San Diego Chargers game. The announcers kept referring to the perfect football weather in Denver, with a game-time temperature of 70+ degrees. As I looked in my rearview mirror at the receding snow-capped mountains, I marveled at the difference created by many thousands of feet of elevation gain and a couple of hours of driving time.

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