Climbing Party: Andy Davis, Me
Distance/Time: 8.8 miles RT, 9 hours 36 minutes
It always seems that work gets in the way of the more important things in life… But it’s work that gives us the means to enjoy them when we can.
Before I begin, let me say that my camera got some moisture in the lens and was useless after about 12K, so thanks to Andy for taking all the pictures… ignore the date/time stamps, I don’t know how to remove them on the computer and he managed to delete them all from his SD card… times are inaccurate (and annoying ). Unfortunately, there aren't a whole ton of pictures of Andy, because he was doing most of the picture taking.
A fellow employee at my workplace has lived in the state for 9 or 10 years and never climbed any of our tallest peaks. After hearing me go on and on about my high country adventures from skiing and hiking to fishing and camping, he decided he needed to experience the challenge of summiting a 14er. We found out a few weeks ago that we would both be off on Thursday, April 14, so we began getting a plan together. I had just done Quandary and didn’t feel like a repeat just yet, so I decided we would attempt Mt. Sherman (encouraged by dancesatmoonrise’s reports, thanks Jim!).
The weather reports for Thursday were bad… windy, snowy, etc… BUT, we had a plan, and had no intentions of giving up before we got started, so at 0430 Thursday morning, we hit 285 towards Fairplay in high spirits, despite the whiteout blizzard that slowed the drive to a crawl and didn’t let up until Kenosha Pass.
A little later than planned, we parked on CR18 when my 4Runner decided the snow was too deep and began layering up in the comfort of my vehicle. It wasn’t quite 0700, but the wind was menacing, whipping fresh snow down the road right in our faces; a nice 21 degree wakeup call. Andy is originally from Duluth, Minnesota, and I think the bitter cold reminded him of home, because he was dropping “eh”s left and right as we geared up and started the snowshoe march upwards.
I had our route planned out, both mentally and on my topo map, but I’m glad I took the time to plot in out on my GPS, because visibility was pretty nonexistent at times. The wind was relentless… I wish I anemometer, but I’d say NOAA’s forecast for gusts up to fifty was about right, perhaps even conservative. We both agreed that a summit was unlikely, but that we would keep trekking until it just got too bad (whatever that means) to continue. We had no view of the mountains ahead of us, but we were gaining altitude at a decent pace despite conditions.
We stopped around 12K and ditched the snowshoes, marking them with a waypoint and hoping we would find them where we left them on the descent. We were in pretty high spirits after dropping the cumbersome snowshoes, and kept joking about the “delightful” weather, daring Mother Nature to give us her worst. Our energy level was good to go, and we stopped for a drink and my customary 13K banana feeling like MAYBE, just maybe, we were going to stand on top. The wind was getting worse, but our layers were doing their job, so we marched on.
Somewhere among the scree we managed to get a bit off course and found ourselves ascending a steep snowfield. It was difficult… definitely the “crux” of our climb, but after some maneuvering to find solid footing, we scrambled over the final ridge and found ourselves staring straight at the summit, just a short hike away. We gained the summit just before 1400, and found that through the raging wind, clouds, and blowing snow/grit, we had a fairly decent view. Through the roar of the wind I yelled to Andy “was it worth it?!?” I couldn’t quite make out his response, but I gathered that his answer was yes.
Summit Shots… Summit register broken, empty? I have bad luck with these things…
We lingered in the ridiculous gale for about ten minutes, snapping a few pics before we began our descent. We made great time going down, taking a different, much easier route (which we should have taken on the ascent), and even found a few good glissades along the way. The sun decided to stick around for the remainder of the day, and we had no issues finding our snowshoes back at 12K. The remainder of the hike was uneventful… we spotted several ptarmigans in their winter white, a first for me, but our cameras had both decided to stop working at that point.
We made it back to the car around 1630… a total hike time of 9 hours 36 minutes for 8.8 miles of work. After a quick brew we began the long, windy drive back to Denver. They had closed Kenosha to semis due to the extreme wind.
Andy made the comment on the way home that until about 13K he didn’t fully appreciate the challenge of climbing a 14,000 foot peak. He was satisfied and stoked that he got to see one at its worst… who am I quoting when I say that he learned how “an easy peak in tough conditions is harder than a hard peak in easy conditions?” That definitely held true on Thursday.
Until the next peak, happy climbing!!
My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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