| Mount Sherman - Fourmile TH
Julie and I decided to start our summer 14'er season today with an ascent of Mount Sherman. Neither of us had ever visited this peak, having previously passed it by for more "interesting" locations. Regardless, since it is still very early on in the peak season, we figured it would be a good time to take a stab at one of the easier ascents.
We decided to approach Sherman from the Fourmile Road, though we arrived at the trailhead at a time that could, at best, be called fashionably late (10:45am). Since I typically work a late swing shift, I often fall into the category of folks who just don't wake up when they should to climb the higher mountains!
Nevertheless, I was still surprised to see that there was only one other vehicle in any of the parking areas (a 2wd passenger car that had driven the entire way to the locked gate at the upper parking area). In fact, we ended up having the mountain entirely to ourselves for almost the entire time. We actually ran into the only other person we would see on this day just 5 minutes from the trailhead. This hiker stated that she had not made the summit (due to her concerns about the weather), but explained that she talked to two other people who made the top earlier in the morning. We decided to climb on, estimating that the current cloud cover wasn't of the threatening variety.
As we began our ascent we found that the road up until Dauntless Mine was pretty much snow-free, and hit or miss snow fields would be present on the route between there and Hilltop Mine (these were easily avoidable for the most part).
Since neither of us had climbed Sherman before, and because we forgot to consult our guidebook, we weren't positive about the "normal" route to the summit. We both recalled hearing that most climbers approach the summit ridge to Sherman by climbing almost directly from the Hilltop Mine area to the low point on the Sherman/Sheridan saddle. Whether or not this is the normal mid-summer approach, after visually scouting this area we decided that it was a very unappealing way to approach the peak on this day. From our vantage point it appeared that a sizeable cornice was overhanging a large snowfield below the saddle, and given our late/warm start, neither of us were interested in climbing below this thing! We instead located a safer alternative to the climber's right of the saddle. This route led us higher on the mountain through a mixture of rock and snowfields, essentially ending at a point near where the Sheridan/Sherman Saddle joined the shoulder to the southwest ridge of Mt. Sherman.
Once we gained the summit ridge we found an easy walk over firm snow and rock towards the summit. After taking some family photographs on the top (it was our puppy's first 14'er!!!), and signing the register, we ate a quick lunch and descended by the same route we had climbed. There are certainly some tempting spots for a glissade descent, but Julie didn't feel like putting her butt in the snow today, so I agreed to follow her down with the dog (this time)!
All told, the climb was a great success. It was wonderful to climb such a close-in peak and have it all to yourself (a rare occurrence in my experience). I was also pleased that our weather cooperated given our late start... We had almost balmy temperatures down low, and if it wasn‘t for a wind of probably 20kts on the ridgeline, I doubt I‘d have even worn my fleece. Hopefully I can squeeze in a few more weeks of uncrowded hikes before the tourist season really gets warmed up!
By my estimation, the climb is ¾ snow-free by now, depending on how you approach the peak. The snow was quite soft by the end of our descent, but this didn't surprise me given our late start time. Nevertheless, we both wore mid-weight hiking boots for the climb, and neither of us opted to carry our snowshoes up the mountain. Julie wore gaiters, and while I carried mine, I found them to be unnecessary. I carried my ice axe on my pack, but never found any occasion to want/need it on this particular climb.
We started our hike from the "upper" parking lot (where the road leading to the mines is gated). The entire road to this point was completely snow-free, and could potentially be driven by a passenger car (I did see one parked at the gate). Still, I would probably recommend that people driving low clearance vehicles park about ½ mile further down the road, before things get a bit rougher! We drove to the gate is a stock Jeep Cherokee with no problems.
Arvada to TH parking: 1hr 45min (construction on US 285 probably cost us 10 minutes)
TH to Summit: 2 hours, approx. I forgot to check my watch immediately when we arrived at the summit, but I would guess we were climbing for about two hours at a moderate pace.
Total hike time: 4hr 15min. This time includes a lunch break and photographs, so you can probably shave a sizeable chunk off if you are in a bigger hurry than we were (as you can imagine by our near-afternoon start time, we weren't exactly moving to prove anything today ).
If anyone wants additional photos for this route I can e-mail them to you! I tried uploading this report once already, and I think it had trouble with the pictures.
Family photo on the summit (Julie, Juno, and Kevin):
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):