| Mosquito Trio: Mount Sherman, Gemini Peak, and White Ridge
Mount Sherman up close. Mount Massive in the distance.
Mosquito Trio: Mount Sherman, Gemini Peak, and White Ridge
Mount Sherman, elevation 14036 ft.
Gemini Peak, elevation 13951 ft.
White Ridge, elevation 13684 ft.
Climb date: Saturday, November 27, 2010
Trailhead name: Leavick at Fourmile Creek, approx. elevation 11200 ft.
Distance: Approximately 9 miles roundtrip.
Weather: On Mount Sherman, estimated wind at 30 mph with gusts to 40 mph. The temperature with windchill was cold. On Gemini Peak the wind practically disappeared. On White Ridge the wind was gusty but notably weaker than what we experienced on Mount Sherman. The day was clear and sunny.
Fourmile Creek provides a reasonable late-autumn approach to Mount Sherman. The mountain is renowned for high winds that scour some areas of snow and load others. With thoughtful route-finding, the approach offers manageable avalanche risk.
The most notorious avalanche slope is below the saddle between Mount Sherman and Mount Sheridan. The strong westerly wind blows across the saddle loading the east-facing slope with snow. The summer trail crosses this slope to gain the saddle. In unstable snow conditions this dangerous slope can be avoided by climbing to its right.
Sen and I arrived in Leavick at 8 in the morning. We parked, shouldered our packs, and hiked the snow-covered road. We followed the summer route past the ruins of the Dauntless mine. The cold wind started to roar. We continued hiking to the Hilltop mine bunkhouse where we enjoyed a few minutes of shelter. I swallowed two Gu shots and some Gatorade. Energized and ready for a single push to the summit, we crossed the wind-blasted basin and ascended a 25-degree slope of scree alternating with shallow snow. We passed to the right of the notorious loaded snow slope and gained the ridge.
The Southwest Ridge on Mount Sherman is exposed to the prevailing westerly wind. We reached the ridge and felt its full brunt. The relentless wind made our ridge walk super exciting. A barrage of wind-driven ice stung exposed skin as spindrift lifted into the sky like wild banshees. We hiked over the summit without stopping. We found relief on the broad saddle between Mount Sherman and Gemini Peak.
Gemini Peak is approximately 0.70 mile from the summit of Mount Sherman. We walked in peace across a frozen tundra plain as the banshees screamed behind us. We scrambled up second class talus to the modest summit. The unranked peak rises 171 feet above its saddle. Remarkably there was very little wind on top. We dropped our packs and relaxed for a few minutes while soaking in the stellar view. It was very nice up there. All too soon we shouldered our packs and set off for our final objective: White Ridge.
The unranked high point of White Ridge is approximately 1.7 miles from Gemini Peak. The ridge looks exciting from a distance. It was wind-swept, nearly bare of snow, and presented little challenge. We didn't expect the difficulties that still lay ahead.
We descended the east ridge towards Leavick. We encountered a large group of bighorn sheep on the upper ridge. They bolted towards the lonely east slope. We continued down the ridge. It become steeper with every step. Loose talus and scree moved under foot as the slope peeled away. A slip and fall would be disaster. Cliff bands dropped to our right. A steep snow chute was on our left. We considered entering the chute to descend the snow. Sen stepped out onto the snow - it was hard and slick - he backed off and continued down loose rock. I expected a cliff to force us onto the snow or face a climb back up. But at least we had options. And then, near the end of the ridge, Sen stopped and took a seat on a large boulder. He motioned for me to continue down. He located a break in the cliff band. We down-climbed fifty feet of chossy third class terrain and then walked out to the road.
I've heard it said before: "It's just Sherman." Well, the adventure is what you make of it. And we made the most of it.
1. 4WD was used to reach Leavick.
2. We did not carry or require snowshoes.
3. We carried microspikes but did not use them.
4. We carried axes but did not use them.
5. Face protection (balaclava) was necessary in the frigid wind.
6. Goggles would have been nice for the hike over Sherman. We did okay wearing glacier glasses with side protection.
Captions on top of photos.
We hike up the road from Leavick.
Mount Sherman comes into view.
The gate at the summer trailhead. Mount Sheridan towers above the the Dauntless mine ruins.
We follow the summer route towards the Hilltop mine.
The Hilltop mine bunkhouse - a good place to take shelter.
We cross the upper basin and ascend scree and shallow snow to reach the Southwest Ridge.
Mount Sheridan stands tall to our left. A loaded snow slope guards the saddle.
We reach the ridge. The view to the west opens up. The peaks of La Plata, Elbert, and Massive dominate the horizon.
The wind-swept ridge leads to the summit.
Banshees at play on the broad shoulder of Sherman.
The summit is a hostile place. Sen captures a photo as I cross the summit ridge.
We continue down the north slope towards Gemini Peak.
The twin peaks of Gemini rise in the distance. The wind has practically disappeared.
Gemini Peak is a big mound of rather stable rock. We make quick work of the ascent.
It's cold on the summit but not windy. We drop our packs, eat, and snap a few photos.
The view to the northwest is impressive. Dyer Mountain and the northern Sawatch Range fill the frame. Mount of the Holy Cross stands tall on the horizon.
The view of our route up White Ridge.
We approach White Ridge.
The ridge provides little challenge but lots of beauty. The true summit is in the distance. We continue towards it.
Looking back on our route.
We near the summit of White Ridge. Pikes Peak is on the horizon.
We hike over the summit and start down the east ridge towards Leavick. Fourmile Creek drainage is the seen to the right.
Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep graze on the ridge.
Spooked, the sheep bolt away as we continue our descent.
The herd gathers a hundred yards down slope to resume grazing. The neat old town of Fairplay is in the distance.
A look back on our descent from White Ridge.
The ridge continues to drop away. Our footing is terrible.
We approach the end of the ridge.
A look back at the last section. It gets steep.
We down climb this break in the cliff band. From here it's easy hiking.
A look back at our descent route from White Ridge. It felt steeper than it looks in this photo.
The shadows get long as the sun moves away. We encounter an old tram tower hiding in the trees.
Another great adventure nears its end.
As we walk out on the road.