| Closing Out Winter on Mt. Sherman
14,036 Feet (46th highest in Colorado)
Winter Route from the Leavick Site, 11,240 Feet
March 13th, 2010
Approximately 7.5 Miles Roundtrip
Approximately 2,850 Feet Elevation Gained
Greenhouseguy (Brian), Derek Freed, Chris, Todd (Zoomie83)
Closing Out Winter on Mt. Sherman
There are already 176 trip reports for Mt. Sherman on 14ers.com, so this mountain needs no introduction. I've hiked it on bluebird days, I've hiked it in the fog, and I've hiked it in near hurricane-force winds. I've even hiked it by the winter route in early spring. Somehow, the calendar-winter ascent had managed to elude me. The weather looked ideal for Saturday, so I gathered my peak-bagging support group and headed for the Mosquito Range.
We were counting on Fourmile Road being plowed to a point about one mile below the old Leavick town site, but we were lucky and it was plowed all the way to Leavick. The road should be passable all the way to the summer trailhead within a couple of weeks.
The Hilltop Mill at the old Leavick town site
Mt. Sherman is one of the least distinctive fourteeners; it's basically a high point on a ridgeline. Its neighbor Horseshoe Mountain, a centennial thirteener, is easily recognizable from many miles away. We started our hike with a great view of Horseshoe Mountain.
Horseshoe Mountain viewed from the old Leavick site
We didn't need snowshoes on the road, and other forms of traction were optional. Todd wore stabilicers, Derek wore microspikes, and Chris and I just booted it. Postholing was almost nonexistent.
Derek and Chris hiking down Fourmile Road, with Mt. Sheridan to the left and Mt. Sherman to the right
We turned up a shallow gully shortly before the gate at the traditional summer trailhead. It was the wrong gully, but our route snafu was inconsequential. Several gullies all lead to a wide-open basin below Mt. Sherman and White Ridge, and hikers can chose their own route over the rolling terrain.
Chris (left) and Derek (right) heading up the shallow gully off of Fourmile Road
The snow in the basin was pretty firm, so snowshoes weren't necessary for flotation. We were able to keep a good pace on the gently sloping basin.
Chris and Derek moving across the basin below Mt. Sherman and White Ridge
As we started up the gully to the saddle between Mt. Sherman and White Ridge, we encountered a skier. He told us that the snow higher up in the gully was good for skiing, but the snow was too soft lower in the gully.
Skier descending the gully between Mt. Sherman and White Ridge
The gully became progressively steeper, and our pace slowed considerably. It was cold, but our exertion allowed us to shed some layers. The sun was bright, and the wind was minimal when we were below the Sherman/Sheridan saddle. Above the saddle, winds maxed out in the 6-8 m.p.h. range. This was fairly gentle by Mt. Sherman standards, but I definitely felt the difference in my toes and my fingertips.
Greenhouseguy below the Sherman/White Ridge saddle, with Mt. Sheridan in the background (image by Derek Freed)
I began to struggle a bit towards the top of the gully. I've stayed active this winter, but I certainly don't have my summer fourteener legs. I tried taking my snowshoes off and hiking the rocks on the side of the gully, but his was no improvement. The rocks were loose and icy, and the slope was just as steep. I put my snowshoes on again and went back to the steep snow in the middle of the gully. This was the crux of the route for me.
Looking up at the steep upper part of the gully below the Sherman/White Ridge saddle. Mt. Sherman is on the left, and White Ridge is on the right.
There was still a bit of altitude to gain after we reached the saddle, but the windswept terrain was drastically different. It seemed practically flat compared to the steep upper part of the gully.
Greenhouseguy above the saddle, with White Ridge in the background (image by Derek Freed)
Chris poured on the afterburners and sailed up the final slope like he was on level ground. Even at my plodding pace, it only took a few minutes to reach the summit from the saddle.
Derek halfway up the final slope, and Chris barely visible on the summit
We didn't spend too much time on the summit because of the chilly conditions. Derek put some toe warmers in his boots, and I needed to get moving to keep the circulation going in my toes and fingertips.
Derek on the summit with the Sawatch Range in the background
Looking north towards Gemini Mountain, with the Mosquito Range in the background
There was some good glissading to be had below the saddle, but my snowboarding pants just had too much friction. Derek and Chris were able to get in several long glissades. I descended quickly using a combination of heel plunging on soft snow and boot skiing on the wind slab.
Derek and Chris glissading down the gully
On the way down, we hiked past some remains of the aerial tramway that carried ore buckets from the Hilltop Mine down to the Hilltop Mill. The mine was built in 1881, and the town of Leavick was organized at about the same time.
Chris with some remains of the Hilltop Mine's aerial tramway in the background (image by Derek Freed
We managed to make it all the way back to the Jeep without snowshoes. In spite of the snowy conditions, I couldn't imagine a faster descent.
Chris following the snowmobile and ski tracks back to the Jeep (image by Derek Freed)
Mt. Sherman is rightfully considered to be one of the easiest fourteeners in the summer, and it may be the easiest winter fourteener summit. Still, I was exhausted by the time we got back to the Jeep. It was a great start to spring training for the summer fourteener season.
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