Mt. Sherman: Our First 14er
Mt. Sherman (named after the Civil War general) is in Colorado's Mosquito Range, south of Breckenridge and east of Leadville. Thanks to my friend Bob's recommendation, we set off before dawn this past Saturday (July 2nd) so we could be on trail before 9am -- and, more importantly, off the summit before noon to avoid the risk of summer afternoon thunderstorms.
We followed Four Mile Creek Road about ten miles off the highway (nine of which were over rutted gravel) and parked a half-mile short of the 12,000' elev. gate. Trail reports from 14ers.com indicated that the road was dry all the way to the gate, and no additional traction was necessary to cross the few snow fields on the southwest ridge route. I'm very glad we brought the hiking sticks, though!
The Mosquito Range was rich in precious metals, forming a high barrier between the rift valleys of the Arkansas River headwaters (to the west, near Leadville) and the South Platte River (to the east, near Fairplay). Mt. Sherman's Hilltop Mine produced more than 10 million ounces of silver (valued at over $300 million in 2010 prices). So abandoned mines are a common sight on Mt. Sherman.
Several shelters are still standing, showing that the mines weren't abandoned until the past couple of decades. The Hilltop Mine was in operation until 1982.
Despite being in the height of summer, there were several snow fields to cross en route to the summit. Fortunately the pack was firm enough that we simply had to follow the footprints of our predecessors.
Jarrett was pretty winded after the first half-mile of the trek, but quickly found his groove and his second wind. By the time we passed 13,000' above sea level, Jarrett turned into a mountain goat -- leaving old guys like me and Bob in the dust (until we told him to stop and take a drink to, y'know, stay hydrated..... and let us catch up!)
Mt. Sherman's Southwest Ridge Route is rated as a "Class 2" trail in the Yosemite Decimal System: still a "hiking trail" (vice a "climbing trail" that requires ropes and harnesses), but with some exposure and some portions requiring the use of your hands.
Looking left and down (to the west) from 13,600' shows a much more difficult approach.... Class 5 ascents in the Yosemite Decimal System are indicative of near-vertical faces requiring technical free climbing with belaying and other protection for safety (and are further stratified into more than a dozen sub-classes). Jarrett has scaled a Class 5.7 ascent before (see here).
Jarrett reached the summit before me. Here he is signing the log book indicating he has successfully ascended a 14er! By shortly before 11:00am MDT, we had reached our goal (and found two Geocaches along the way). Our MotionX GPS track can be viewed here.
On top o' the world, 14,036' above sea level!
But then we had to go back down....
Thankfully the snowpack just below 13,500' was well established for a glissading descent! Just like at the water park (except for the snow that ended up in all of my pockets....)
A great day all around, and a great start to many more ascents of Colorado's 53 "14ers"!