Saturday, October 13, 2012

Mt. Sherman (14,042 ft.)

These are the things we do,
not because they are easy,
but because they are hard.”
--John F. Kennedy

22 September, 2012: After many years (eleven, to be exact), the day had finally come. Back in 2007, Trisha and I had both decided that it was time, instead of merely continuing to take targets of opportunity in our quest for the fourteeners, to select something easy to hold out for last. This was a deliberate attempt to make it easy for family members and friends who were not avid climbers to join the celebration. We looked at our lists of remaining peaks (which were almost, but not quite identical). I chose Handies Peak—the only really easy peak I had left. She picked Mt. Sherman, which is not only easy, but close to the population centers of Denver and Colorado Springs. (I couldn't finish with Sherman, since Suzanne and I had climbed it many years earlier.)
So, knowing that we might be racing the coming of cold weather, we decided to turn right around after our climb of Handies, and plan on Sherman for the very next weekend.
We met my brother Michael (who, as it turned out, was the lone person other than Suzanne from the “friends and family” category who showed up) at the bottom of the Fourmile Creek Road and motored on up the the trailhead at 12,000 ft. That's one reason this peak is easy: Almost any car can drive the very good dirt road, maintained for the benefit of both homeowners in the area and a working mine high up, all the way to its end. This leaves only 2,100 feet of vertical gain to get to the summit.
I almost couldn't believe it, but the weather held for us. We headed out (along with dozens of other climbers) under sunny skies just before 8 am MDT. Wow, it's been a long time since we had the luxury of starting that late!
Although a gate on the road defines the trailhead, the first part of the trail is still really a road. Indeed, the whole east side of the mountain is laced with a multiplicity of 4WD-type roads, most of which function now as alternative routes for climbers. We inattentively followed a group of other climbers, while we gabbed amongst ourselves, and quickly diverged from what is actually the ideal route by following one of these road segments when we should have turned off on a trail leading to the north! The result of this mistake was that we climbed a steep, rough, and loose stretch of rock directly to the remains of the Hilltop Mine, when an easier, but longer, route exists. But we got there.
Once at the mine, you are at almost 13,000 ft., and close to hitting the crest of Sherman's south ridge, the route to the top. Once we started into the switchbacks just below the ridge, I took off on my own, hoping to get to the summit far enough ahead of the others to go on and climb Gemini Peak (13,951 ft.) and, possibly, Dyer Mtn. (13,855 ft.). I also wanted to be on the summit when Trisha arrived to provide photographic documentation.
In places, the ridge was both steeper, and narrower, than I had remembered it. That's what 19 years, and 40-odd fourteeners in between will do for you. All the same, I got to the top well in advance of my companions. I paused only briefly before continuing on toward Gemini. (Gemini is the highest 13er summit in the Mosquito Range, but it is technically unranked.) I soon convinced myself that I was facing a dilemma, however. I was beginning to slow down, following the exertion of gaining the summit. I didn't know just how far ahead of the others I really was. Fearing that I might not make it back to Sherman before Trisha got there, I reluctantly turned around, giving up on my extra credit peaks for the day, in order to insure that I would be there for Trisha's big moment.
As it turned out, I waited something like half an hour, and still they hadn't showed up. Since I knew that Michael in particular was making a big physical effort for this climb, I became a little concerned. I finally decided that it was incumbent on me to head back down the route to make sure all was well. Fortunately, I only hiked south along the summit ridge for a few minutes before they made it up past the last steep section and came into view. They were moving very slowly, but they were moving. After we exchanged waves, I returned to the summit, camera at the ready.
I would soon learn that while there were no actual mishaps, Trisha described her shepherding of Michael up to the top as “babying.” 'Nuff said. But all was well that ended well, and the three of us set about celebrating, eating lunch, and taking pictures. As planned, I also made a video of Trisha's last few yards, which can be found at:

The stills are at:

Unsurprisingly, the descent was anti-climactic. Trisha sped on ahead to re-join Suzanne as soon as possible, and Michael and I plodded down at the best pace he could manage. ATC, it really wasn't too bad, and we were back at the cars in under two hours. We were all tired (the day had started at 2 am...), but we all felt good. Trisha had finished. She has 54 peak pins and her “flaming boot” pin for the grand slam of fourteeners. It all felt pretty good.

Long life and many peaks!


Blogger Frances said...

Instead of buying a new car intended for road trips like this, you could opt for what used cars Denver owners offer instead.

6:46 PM  

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