TH: gate on Fourmile Creek Rd.
RT: 5 or so miles
Vert.: ~2,100 ft.
participants: cftbq, trishapajean, Michael
most important stat: Trisha's finisher!
From a mountaineering point of view, there's little that's impressive or spectacular to tell about Mt. Sherman. It's generally looked down on by experienced climbers, as being too easy to deserve more than a passing mention. But it was precisely because it is relatively easy that it was chosen—several years ago—for this climb. After launching our 2009 climbing season with Uncompahgre, we spent the rest of that season, and all of the next two, doing fourteeners that were among Colorado's most challenging to save this one as trishapajean's last.
We kept our fingers crossed all through the late summer, hoping that the weather would hold long enough. Amazingly, it did. Since it was the finisher, we were joined, for the first and only time, on this climb by my brother Michael. Michael had previously climbed only one fourteener, thirty years before. And that fourteener was...(wait for it)...Mt. Sherman . Suzanne, still getting back into shape, would also start out with us and see how far she could get. And of course, as on all but the most difficult climbs (like all those ones we'd been doing for the past three years...) the crew included Cimarron the mountain dog, going after her sixth fourteener.
We arrived at the trailhead, primed for a lazy day, at nearly 8 am MDT. It's been a looooong time since we headed out that late!
Almost immediately, we made a dumb mistake. You might think you couldn't get off-route on Sherman, but we did! The proper (meaning easiest) route diverges from the graded road on a use-trail climbing traverse to climber's right at about 12,500 ft. But, not paying much attention to the big picture, we just continued to follow several other parties straight ahead on the road. This led us to the base of a steep trail section on amazingly loose talus, which leads directly to the remains of the Hilltop Mine and over the small knoll on which it stands. But the truth is that the longer route looping out to the north and using, intermittently, sections of the road to get around the mine knoll, is far easier on the feet.
It was on that lousy section, which we nicknamed the Stairway to Mordor, that altitude-related problems finally got to Suzanne. She had to turn back, but only after having gotten farther than the weekend before, and after having made a great effort to see Trisha's finisher first-hand.
The remaining four of us continued on, and soon found ourselves negotiating the set of switchbacks leading up onto the summit ridge. Once there, Michael and Trisha urged me to power on ahead, partly because they knew that I had been playing with the idea on going on to climb Gemini Peak, and also to get me to the summit to act as official photographer for the finish. (One of the many comedy-of-errors aspects of the morning was that I had ended up with the only truly reliable camera in the group. Michael had managed to leave his in his car, and Trisha discovered while on the trail that her batteries were running low.)
The ridge was steeper and more challenging than I remembered from my first climb of this peak, nineteen years earlier. I also didn't remember it getting as narrow as it does in a couple of places. Still, I made fairly time on my own, but I kept wondering why I wasn't faster. I wouldn't occur to me until much later that the abundant smoke in the air that day wasn't doing my oxygen transport efficiency any good!
All the same, I crossed the summit shortly after noon MDT, and briefly set off toward Gemini. I turned around rather quickly, though, not because I was worn out, or because I wouldn't have like to tag it, but because I didn't know how far ahead I had gotten. This day was about Trisha, not me, and I wanted to be absolutely sure that, when she arrived at the top of Sherman, I was there to take the this-is-the-only-chance-you'll-ever-get pictures. And the video. So I returned to the summit, rested, ate, talked to a few of the hundreds of other people there, and waited. And waited...
At last, I really began to wonder about the welfare of my missing climbing partners. Could one of them have twisted an ankle and be climbing along? Could Michael, too, have succumbed to altitude sickness and be in need of help to get down? After all our planning and the good fortune of the weather, could some other weird fluke have prevented Trisha from getting her last peak? Especially if aid was needed, I had to know, so I shouldered my pack, picked up my poles, and headed back south along the summit ridge, trying not to worry.
Fortunately, my worries evaporated in just a few minutes. Just as I approached the point where real serious descending would begin, the three missing hikers popped, very slowly, over the lip. We recognized each other immediately, so I turned around (much relieved) and headed back to the summit to get my camera ready.
We spent quite a bit of time on the summit, even though the views were nearly non-existent. I made a short video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BtJvNNZ6BBM&feature=youtu.be) of the final approach, and took a bunch of summit pictures.
The trip down was anti-climactic, but we made decent time, all things considered. We corrected our ascent mistake and bypassed the Stairway to Mordor. We were all more tired than we (or at least I) had expected when we got back to the trailhead, especially Michael. It was the end of an amazing, decade-long adventure, and it felt pretty good! A few pictures (many didn't come out well, for whatever reason) are at:
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):