"Is this safe?"
Those were the first words out of SurfNTurf's mouth as he greeted me on his front porch at 5:30am Saturday morning. Curtains of white were descending upon Denver, and I felt more inclined to grab my planks and Epic Local Pass than my ice axe and microspikes. Despite the heavy snow in town that morning, SurfNTurf, Breanna, Dillon and myself drove up to Fairplay and met Brian Thomas and upstatehiker for an attempt on Mount Sherman. Driving up the snowy Fourmile Creek Road, we met up with Terry (tmathews) about 0.9 miles below the Leavick Mine site and geared up. The snow here was maybe 8-10 inches of powder over a packed base, and it got deeper as our group of seven set off up the road around 8:30am.
Looking up the Fourmile Creek Road
The group hiking up
Most of the group started in snowshoes and stashed them near the gate on the road. We then changed into microspikes as the terrain steepened. Conditions above the gate were anywhere from 2 inches of powder to knee-deep drifts. It didn't seem that any consolidated snow was sitting under the powder, as we regularly slipped downhill on the loose scree underneath.
Terry after the gate
Jeff made some wands the night before in case of a whiteout. While conditions weren't too dire, they were used nonetheless.
We meandered towards the mine buildings, trying to avoid deep postholing and elevation loss when possible.
Looking up toward Sheridan
Once we passed the highest mine buildings, we were faced with the decision to take the direct snow climb to the ridge or the long, gradual route that switchbacked above the mine buildings. We all had microspikes on, and elected to take the direct line to the ridge. It wound up being much shorter than we had all anticipated, and the slope was composed of great step-kicking snow; firm enough to take weight but soft enough for good purchase with boots. We gained the ridge quickly and stared up at the summit ridge.
Dillon approaching snow climb to the ridge
Breanna, Jeff and Terry
Looking up the summit ridge
The forecast had called for cloudy skies with 1-3 inches of snow, but visibility had improved on our approach. Alas, that changed in an instant when we reached the ridge, as the wind picked up, the clouds moved in, and we all agreed the temperature dropped ~15 degrees in a ~90 minute time span with the loss of the sun.
Jeff, Breanna and Terry in deteriorating conditions
We continued climbing the ridge, while the conditions changed from blue sky above, to foggy and everything in between. It made for some neat conditions and really gave you that "milk bottle" feeling!
Dillon on the ridge
Dillon climbing the ridge
Looking back at Dillon and Terry
The final push
The ghostly figure of Dillon appears.
Dillon appears out of the smoke
We reached the summit around 2:35pm, and lingered in the whiteout only to take a few pictures and grab some water. The only view we caught besides those of the greater Sherman massif was a 30 second glimpse of the upper reaches of Massive and Elbert. We knew we would have to boogie if we wanted to reach the cars by dark, and we started the descent around 2:50pm.
Approaching the summit
Dillon, myself and Terry on the summit
Terry descending the snow slope from the ridge with Dillon having glissaded below
White Ridge looking cold
A chilly hike out
We scurried down toward the road, and once we hit the gate thoughts of food and beer sent us into cruise control. Upon reaching the cars around 4:50pm, Terry informed us that his dashboard was reading a temperature of -3F. By the time we reached Fairplay for a post-climb meal, it had dropped to -11F! Thank goodness it was uncharacteristically calm up there.
It was great climbing with you guys, lets do it again soon!
If you have questions about the road / route conditions, feel free to PM me. Thanks for reading!