Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Sheep Mtn. (12,397 ft.)
UN 11510

30 June, 2010: Another piece of (annoyingly) unfinished business. I had made two previous attempts at Sheep Mtn. and, possibly, its companion peak, UN 11510. For different reasons, neither attempt succeeded (although I did climb the third peak in the group, UN 11749, twice!) . Both of those attempts had been made with snow on the ground, so I decided that, with summer really here, it was time to expiate the jinx with the greater speed that summer conditions would surely allow.
Sheep is a relatively obscure mountain, mainly because it isn't easily visible from towns or roads. Even the access road I took in to climb it offers no view of the peak: You just have to know it's there, hiding in the distance. All the same, it is a ranked peak, in fact the second highest ranked peak in Teller County. So it had been on the peakbagging radar for some time.
The climb is actually straightforward and undemanding--Class 2. I started on FS 376 a few hundred yards from the gate below the reservoirs and headed up the obvious gully to the west. This leads to the long southern ridge of UN 11749, which I didn't repeat. Instead, I followed a degraded old road along a traverse across the southwest face to get high enough to cross the drainage to the west without immersing myself in the boggy parts. (I mostly succeeded.)
From there, a little rock hopping gets one to the east ridge of Sheep Mtn., and the first views of its summit. It's about three miles from the road, and I got there in about two hours. There are nifty rock outcroppings on all the several ridge points along the way, as well as the summit itself. Contrary to reports, I found no register.
To get to UN 11510, I followed the ridge down for a short distance, then just dropped off into the trees on the north side, to get into the valley of Boehmer Creek, which separates the two peaks. There's no trail, and only a little visibility, so I was mostly just traveling blind, based on what I remembered of the views from higher up. I got through the flat, willowy area along the creek pretty well. I spotted a small footbridge while descending, which got me across the creek with dry feet. After that, it was just a matter of climbing back out of the willows to cross the dirt road that runs up the drainage, and improvising a switchbacked path up the west side of my second peak.
Again, this was not a technically difficult ascent, just a steep walk-up. However, the true high point is a large boulder which would be quite difficult by itself. Fortunately, a tree grows right next to one of its vertical sides, and a downed trunk leans over a big crack on another side. I used the former to climb up, and the latter to get down. Very cool. The two-and-a-half mile traverse between the two peaks took me roughly another two hours.
I attempted to get back to the car by simply swinging around the west side of UN 11749, to rejoin my ascent route on the degraded road. Abundant timber, however, fooled me into going much too far west, and I ended up topping out on a saddle of Sheep's east ridge, making for a return leg of slightly over four miles. Nothing like a little route-finding adventure. Still, it was an enjoyable morning in nearly perfect weather, and two more ranked peaks in the bag--peaks which both see relatively few visitors! No pictures on this one, though.
Long life and many peaks!


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