| A Tale of Two Shermans...
Dr. Sherman and Mr. Hyde:
A Tale of Two Shermans
Peak: Mt. Sherman
Route: South Slope/White-Sherman Saddle
Approach: Fourmile Creek
Dates: 3-5-11 and 3-7-11
Length: About 12 miles RT
Vertical: About 3300 feet
Ascent Party: 3-5-11: Brian, Joe, Nick, Matt, Jim. 3-7-11: Dave, Jim.
The Hilltop mine complex, seen from the White-Sherman saddle on March 7, 2011.
The Last Twelve Days of Winter (Part 1)
It’s been a rough winter for ridge-top travel. The jet stream decided to park over Colorado for most of the latter half of the season.
Winter 14er goals are already skating on thin ice before Matt, Micah, and I get chased off Longs’ North Face at around 13,500 feet in high winds and pounding waves of spindrift. Trying to pick a weather window deteriorates to picking a “wind” window. I need an easy success about now. Hey, how about Sherman? It’s one of the tamest winter 14ers, still on the winter list, and soon as said it’s a done deal, right?
Leavick mine site, at the usual winter closure on the Fourmile Creek road.
I’m soon to begin chanting that winter mantra, “Easy 14ers in tough conditions can be way tougher than tough 14ers in easy conditions.”
Saturday, March 5, 2011 – The Evil Mr. Hyde
Matt and I meet Nick, Joe, and Brian about a mile below Leavick, beyond which the windblown snow precludes confident vehicular passage. The winds are a bit gusty down low, foreshadowing what we are later to experience, though the day starts out sunny, with warm temps.
Matt is still beat from Longs, so he decides to make a few turns from a couple miles in. Nick heads back as well, as he needs to be in Denver in the afternoon. Brian, Joe, and I push on.
We turn up from the road just beyond the last row of trees, where a dry rib takes us essentially up the gulley into the saddle between White Ridge and Mt. Sherman. The terrain is relatively low-angle and appears stable. The winds start to become a problem, and higher up on the peak we can begin to see plenty of blowing snow.
Line to alpine
Brian and Joe in the gully
The gulley is rather pleasant and fairly low angle. At its upper reaches, we head up and right into some relatively bare terrain, and connect rocky areas to attain the White-Sherman saddle. The wind gets intense. At times we must crouch to the ground and wait for gusts to pass. Slowly, we continue toward the very broad saddle, from which the Mt. Sherman summit should be attainable on low-angle terrain from the east.
At this point, Joe has had enough and decides to turn back, solo. Brian and I continue on.
At the saddle we are in high winds, gusts, and occasional near white-out conditions. The light is incredibly flat. It is difficult to stand and walk against the wind. We decide to see if heading back down and southwest toward the upper part of the Sheridan-Sherman ridge, catching the section above the saddle and cornice, will perhaps give us enough wind shadow to make the summit.
This turns out not to be a very good idea, as the winds are really pounding us as we traverse the south face. At the point the winds increase to knock-down force, we decide to call it a day and head down. A mere 500 verts below, the winds are much more civil, as we briefly reconsider, but ultimately concede a summit attempt for today.
Heading home, in abject defeat…
Brian, much happier not to be a part of the jet stream.
We bump into Dwight Sunwall about the time we hit the road. I feel a little better missing the summit when I learn he didn’t make it either. Jay Dahl is up there and I believe he managed to get Sheridan. Neither Dwight nor I know if anyone was able to summit Sherman.
Jay is an interesting guy. Matt notices the old “woodies” on his feet, which are still quite serviceable, and his preferred method of winter travel.
Back at the cars, the mood is festive. Matt, Dwight, and I decide to head over to the South Park Saloon for beer and burgers. I lament not having Dave Cooper’s number to give him a call to join us. The place is packed, the food is good, and the company is great. Soon Michael (Boggy B) and John (Fepic1) arrive, with some epic tales of their nearby successful 13er ascents.
It turns out to be a great end to a frustrating day. Yet, I realize I still need four ranked 14ers before the end of calendar winter to meet my goals – and winter is fast coming to an end.
The heck of it is, Saturday was supposed to be nice weather. I decide that for the remainder of winter, I’ll look only at winds. Coming back to the car in a few inches of snow is not so bad, but even a sunny day with seriously high winds can put the kibosh on a summit attempt. I’ll also likely go solo. Fortunately, the work schedule is light for the last two weeks of winter. Monday is forecast to be a snowy day, but with calm winds – I’ll take it.
Monday, March 7, 2011 – The Kindly Dr. Jeckyl
Southpark dawns delectable
In the course of exchanging emails with Dave Cooper, we find mutual interest in the Monday attempt. It’s supposed to be a major winter storm today; and hence our pleasant surprise when the morning dawns clear and beautiful, sunny and warm. Turns out serendipity has slipped us between the crack of weather events by mere hours, gaining a microscopic window of opportunity.
…Morning’s warmth on a stormy winter’s day?
Dave gets started as I finish changing thumbs.
Quite a dusting Sunday night.
The Hilltop bearing…
Dave leads the Sherman Direct.
Before long we’re down to base layers. By 13,500 Dave is in a T-shirt. Is this the same Sherman, 48 hours later?
The Hilltop mine-house. (d_baker pleads to differ : )
Just above the Sherman-White saddle
Dave predicts we’ll have some photo opportunities before returning to the cars, given the forecast and the upslope rolling in.
Dave shooting from the summit.
Sherman’s summit ridge
The summit is a delight to enjoy in warm, calm conditions. We break bread, get a few photos, and get moving before the storm hits.
Cloud cover descends faster than we do, rendering our environs not unlike the inside a ping-pong ball
Storm clouds thicken from the east
Didn’t waste much of that weather window.
Dave Cooper: Alpinist, photographer, writer, and happy dude on a perfect day.
Glad to be back at the car – Let the storm rock!
I do wish the neighbors would work a little on their upkeep…
Back at the cars we tip one to the mountain gods, thankful for the t-shirt summit on the cusp of a storm, as we chat a bit in the gently falling snow before saying goodbyes.
Now for that slippery slide back to the Front….
Crux pitch - the drive home
What a great day. I’d planned to go solo and just bang this one out so there would only be three more to do in the ensuing 11 days. But what a treat to hook up with Dave on this one. Perfect weather, right in the nick of time, and great company! We shared sentiments about going solo when the chips are down – sometimes that’s what you’ve got to do – though I must say, for not doing but a couple of 14ers this winter, Dave can certainly leave a vapor trail in his wake when he needs to.
Dave, thanks for a great trip, and a safe and successful summit. Had a great time! Let’s see a few more of your shots… Hope you’re having a fine Spring.
All, thanks for reading. Here’s wishing a pleasant and safe summer season ahead.