| Mosquito group tour
I'll preface this by saying that last year a small group of us did Grays and had a blast doing it, so we decided to climb another 14'er this year. Our original plan was to climb Snowmass and do the whole backpacking/camping thing, but after 2 of the 4 of us couldn't make it, and the recent death on that mountain coupled with our relative inexperience in climbing 14'ers, we decided that the 2 of us remaining would instead do some easier peaks and try to bag more than just one. We had settled on the DeCaLiBro tour and wanted to do one more since we had time, so we decided that we would do Sherman too, as a warm up.
Mt. ShermanWe left Northwest Arkansas around 11:30am and drove straight through to the trailhead just outside of Fairplay. The road was fairly easy to find thanks to the directions on here. Then we made the long trek down the washboard dirt road 10 miles to the pulloff just past the first old mine building. We arrived there at 2am on Saturday morning and decided to sleep in the car until the sun came up, then finish the remaining mile with better light as it looked to get a bit more rough. As 5am rolled around, cars and trucks started rumbling up the road past us, so we woke up and started driving up. The road does get a bit more rough, having to navigate around lots of rocks and dips, but we made it to the lower parking area of the trailhead in my Honda Civic without any issues.
After eating some breakfast, we decided to set up camp and get settled in to relax for the day, with our plan being to climb the following morning. Unfortunately, anywhere directly outside of the parking area is littered with feces and toilet paper. That was a little disappointing. I know there aren't any toilets at the trailhead, but there was piles and toilet paper everywhere. We brought our shovel and buried any messes we had to make and i wish others would have the respect to do the same. So, anyway, we got camp set up and did a short hike up to the first set of mine buildings. At this point, we were definately feeling the elevation, as it was hard to just get to those, we were sure how well we'd do on the actual hike. Coming from 1,000ft to 12,000 and doing anything is pretty tough. We came back down and hung out for the rest of the day. Some nice ladies that reside in Denver, but are from Alabama, were the only other campers there that night and they graciously shared their bug spray with us, as the mosquitos were rampant and huge!
We woke up at 4am and started getting ready for our hike. It was a chilly 38 degrees. It actually felt pretty good considering it was a sweltering 105 degrees back in Arkansas. Our goal was to be the first ones on the summit, and we figured 4am would give us a good enough head start. 30 seconds into our hike we saw headlamps on the summit. So much for that! I will say that for us, the first part of this hike was the hardest. Once we got to the first flat area around the pond and below the hilltop mine, the rest of the hike didn't seem too bad. After getting just above the hilltop mine and following the trails and cairns, the trail disappears below a small snowfield and we had to do a little searching to find the trail. We were able to identify it and traverse the snowfield which was rock solid ice that early. It wasn't bad at all, we just had to stay in the holes made by previous hikers. After gaining that and getting to the saddle, there were two routes, as listed. One group took the trail to the left, we took the one to the right. They will both get you there, but the one to the right seemed more direct. There is a little bit of exposure as you get to the top which made it a little more fun, and a little under 3 hours in, we reached the summit. The group who was there when we left the trailhead, a group from India, now living in Colorado, has left at 2am to do the full moon hike. They were great and took our picture and we took theirs. All the hikers we've encountered have always been so nice. After a short rest, we started our way down. It took about an hour and a half down, and by the time we got to the parking lot, we were drained and i had a horrible headache, i presume from lack of acclimation. We broke down camp and headed to Breckenridge for some lunch, then grabbed a hotel in Silverthorne to relax the rest of the day.
After being drained from Sherman (i know, its easy, blah blah blah), we we curious how the other circuit of 4 would go. We left Silverthorne and got to the trailhead at Kite Lake around 2pm. In case you have trouble, the road is directly across from the South Park Saloon. This dirt road wasn't nearly as bad. We got to the trailhead to find that there was hardly anyone there, so we had the campsite of our choosing, for $13 that is. We got camp set up and walked around the lake a little bit and eyed the peaks surrounding us. It got pretty windy that afternoon and night. We were able to get a small amount of cell signal and get a weather forecast. It showed about a 4-hr window between 4am-8am before the chance of rain would start, so 4am it was. Several people ended up showing up and camping that night, but we went to bed at dusk and were up and on the trail by 4am. We felt much better this day, after camping a few nights at 12,000ft and getting some time under out belt. We made it to the Democrat saddle much easier than the previous hike. After a few minute rest, we started up Democrat, going in spurts and resting as we needed to, as we knew we'd need the energy throughout the day. About 1/2 way up, some local guys zoomed right past us. So, we werent gonna be the first again, but we tried. We reached the break-over for Democrat, and in short order, we continued to the summit. We were joined by a young woman and her dog, and swapped picture opportunities, then headed on our way. By the time we made it back down to the saddle, there were 15-20 people either on the saddle, or getting close. We didn't pause and started right up the trail to Cameron. About halfway up, i hit a brick wall and felt drained. My partner continued up and i took my time. After reaching what i thought would be the summit, i found it to be a false summit. I wasn't comprimised as i was expecting it. Still, tired, it sucked. I could see the next mound in the distance and gained that after taking it slow, only to find another false summit, then another. Ugh! After the last false summit, i could see the trail leading up the back side of the ridge, and remembered that in the trailfinding guide, and eventually made it to the top of Cameron. While the views from Cameron are beautiful, it is, as reported by others, dull for a summit. It was windy and chilly, but it did feel good. How could i be this exhausted already?? I was obviously not in good enough shape, but i made it halfway. The others didn't look near as daunting, and they proved not to be.
After dropping off of Cameron and heading over to Democrat, you go downhill just to gain it back, but it isnt nearly as severe as the first 2. A little easy climbing at the summit of Lincoln gets you to the top and it has some neat views with several famous peaks and an old mine you can see on the opposing hillside. We did see what we thought was a goat quite a distance below us, but the locals on the summit said it was a rock. I zoomed in and took a picture, and after review later, it ended up being a goat. After another short break there, it was time to head to the last peak of the day, Bross.
This one wasnt bad, but by this time, my legs were like jello. At the break-off of trails, everyone we saw was heading to the summit and not the bypass trail. After driving 1,000 miles and only needing one more to finish the Mosquito group, and seeing everyone else doing it as well, we decided to go ahead and grab it quickly. We made it up to the summit in short order, paused for a picture, then retreated down the trail. Sorry if it offends anyone, but nobody was bypassing it.
Now, to the part that we read everyone talking about. The trail down Bross. We read the horror stories about it being loose and such. I guess we kinda discounted it. Some said it was horrid, some said it wasn't bad. I guess we fall right in the middle. The first half of the trail down is hard-pack with loose pebbles on top. It was definately challenging, but since we had trekking poles, it wasn't really bad, but we had to sidestep a good majority of it. Then you get to the part of the trail where it is decending directly down the ridge before you cut across the gully. This part was fairly scary. It was a huge bald spot of hard pack with rock footings sticking up here and there. if you were to start sliding, you might be in for a long cartwheel down a steep scree ravine. We were able to make it through there fairly quick and safe, then make the decent down the gully to the final part of the trail. Lots and lots of sidestepping. There were tons of people without trekking poles. Im really glad we had ours. I saw one young lady bust her tail on one section. She didn't have poles, but didn't seem to be injured and kept going.
Clouds had been rolling in since we got to the top of Cameron, and they were all starting to get that grey tinge, so we knew we were racing the storms by the time we got down. We finally got down, completely and totally exhausted, around 1pm. It took somewhere in the neighborhood of 7-8 hours for our complete circle. We broke down camp and limped back to the car with our stuff, and right as we were packing the trunk, lightning started striking to top of Bross. We made it out right before it started pouring down. Got back down the dirt road and started making our way back towards Arkansas, stopping in Kansas for the night on the way home.
We had originally wanted to also do Elbert, but due to some work related emergencies, my hiking partner and I, who are also coworkers, had to head back. It was a great trip and we had a good time, even though we left exhausted, but accomplished. 5 peaks in 3 days coming from 1000ft. We have 6 now, because we are definately counting Cameron, we dont care what anyone says!
Some panoramics and misc pics from the trip below.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):