Mt. Sherman - 14,036 feet
Gemini Pk - 13,951 feet
Dyer Mtn - 13,855 feet
Sheridan, Mt - 13,748 feet
Mt. Sherman - 14,036 feet
Gemini Pk - 13,951 feet
Dyer Mtn - 13,855 feet
Sheridan, Mt - 13,748 feet
Starting Point: 1 mile past Leavick townsite on CR-18 (11,500')
RT Distance: 11.1 miles
Elevation Gain/Loss: 4,660 feet
Correct title should read: Sherman Quartet AKA How to Turn an "Easy" Fourteener Hike into a Challenging Workout
Arbitrary guidelines to make a 14er hike a more difficult:
1. Start the hike below the standard trailhead adding more distance and elevation gain to the trip.
2. Add a few of the neighboring high 13er peaks to the agenda. Not only does this add more elevation gain/loss, the addition occurs at higher elevations and often requires the re-summit of at least one peak, preferably the highest.
3. Lose a vital piece of equipment, say, camera, and spend precious time at high altitude searching for it.
4. Get off trail on the descent or take a route not heading to the trailhead. This is admittedly difficult to do with a GPS device on hand, but as you'll see some of us manage just fine!
Mt. Sherman was the 'collateral" peak for my hike today as my goal was to summit its neighboring 13ers, Gemini to its north and Sheridan to the southwest. Roach labels this combo "the big one" in the Sherman group. Also on the cards possibly was Dyer Mountain northwest of Gemini but I knew this would be tough option although it would clearly take guideline 2 a step further. I started my hike just over a mile and some 500 vertical feet short of the Fourmile creek trailhead for no good reason other than to follow arbitrary guideline 1; I knew my car would've made it just fine up to the gate so that definitely wasn't it.
I documented my 2nd hike of Sherman from two years ago so I won't dwell on the details of this part of the trail which is clearly very popular and rather easy to follow to Sherman's summit. If anything, I found that there were too many equivalent trail options which made things a little confusing but all roads do eventually lead to Rome, I mean Sherman!
The trail itself is rather unremarkable, passing the Dauntless and Hilltop Mines en route to the saddle with Sheridan at 13,150'.
When I got to the saddle, the views to the west were gorgeous and the winds which had been sporadic until then picked up to a subdued but steady roar.
The ridge route to the summit of Sherman was well marked and I remembered the false summits that one had to endure as the trail weaves to either side of the narrow ridge.
The popularity of Sherman not to mention its reputation as an easy 14er was definitely in evidence today as there were hikers galore in every section of the trail.
An hour and 30 minutes after leaving my car, I was at Sherman's summit but I didn't linger long for there was plenty of more work to do and the tough sections of the hike still lay head. I glanced at the twin-humped Gemini peak to the north and set out along the ridge.
What I didn't immediately realize was that the ridge doesn't exactly connect and that I needed to veer east of the ridge to find the easiest path to the northeast of the two peaks which is the true summit. I hadn't encountered much snow until then but that was about to change. I traversed down the ridge for a bit and then picked up the tracks in the snow defining the best path.
Once I was on the saddle, the snow disappeared and so did the tracks I'd followed so I took a direct approach to the northeast hump sans trail.
As I crossed the boulder field and approached the base of Gemini's hump, the guardian of Gemini sprung from the face to the west and caught me completely by surprise!
I was still taking pictures of this beauty when I realized that he was steadily taking steps toward me.
I hurriedly shoved the camera in my pocket (or so I thought), grabbed my hiking pole and retreated to let him know that I meant no threat. He took a couple of more steps in my direction before deciding that I was every bit as innocuous as I looked and veered off to the right. It was not until I'd reached the base of the hump that I checked my pockets confirming that my camera was no longer in my possession! I started retracing my path and replaying my moves leading to the sighting of the goat; for the first ten minutes, I used my GPS to trace my path but to no avail. Realizing that I was paying more attention to the device instead of scouring the area, I switched tactics and ten minutes later found the camera, thus observing arbitrary guideline 3 without serious repercussions!
The hike up Gemini's rocky hump was an enjoyable scramble, albeit a little trickier on the way down.
Gemini's summit had a population of exactly one. In dire contrast to Sherman's crowded summit seen in this picture with the Sawatch peaks in the horizon.
I took my photo with Dyer Mountain in the backdrop to the northwest and at this point I was still undecided on whether I would add this traverse to the agenda.
When I got off Gemini I still wasn't sure. I eyed the narrow ridge route and then it flashed before my eyes: last night's dream (or should it be, nightmare?) where I was precariously navigating this very ridge. The only difference was the entire slope had been filled with snow in my dream; indeed, reality had turned out in my favor so I decided to take the plunge; after all, I could always skip Sheridan on the last leg if I didn't feel up to it.
The ridge in fact looks narrower than it really is, and the correct route stays close to it since the drops-offs on either side are loose and steep. I started down a stable rock gully that soon connected to the ridge.
Indeed this traverse was much worse in my dream! The trail bypasses the first couple of rocky humps to the right before descending to the saddle.
The ridge climbing up to Dyer is thankfully not as narrow and the trail now stays to the left of the next hump as it weaves its way to the summit.
The next shot shows the ridge route from Dyer's summit block. Mt. Sherman's summit is visible to the far right.
I had encountered not a soul on the last traverse or on Dyer's summit for that matter. I was pretty stoked having made my third high summit for the day but didn't spend long on Dyer's summit. I still wanted a shot at Sheridan if at all possible so I started my journey back. I was about half way up the ridge when I spotted a hiker on Gemini's saddle.
This was a group so Gemini Peak would have a few more vistors for the day after all! Forty minutes after leaving Dyer, I was on Sherman's north ridge making my way back to the summit. The snow tracks on Sherman's north face show the route that stays off the ridge as well as paw prints joining in from the ridge, belonging to some genius who shall go unnamed!
Atop Sherman for the second time today, I briefly enjoyed the views of the valley to the west and the majestic Sawatch range in the distance.
But today, there will be no rest for the weary! I started heading down the saddle toward Sheridan hoping that I had enough left in the tank for the final peak. As I made my way down the ridge keeping my eye on Sheridan for the most part, there appeared to be multiple trails heading up her northeast face before they disappeared under the snow cover.
There were still hikers making their way up to Sherman's summit and many others on their way down, but once I got to the saddle I realized that my ascent up to Sheridan will again be a solo one. Such is the relative popularity of Colorado's 14ers while the multitudes of peaks that just miss that designation wallow in solitude! Would it be different if we used the metric system?
My goal was to find the most direct path up the summit but there turned out to be a faint trail that I was able to follow for the most part without much drama.
My summit shot from Sheridan captures the other three peaks that I visited today.
I sat in the rock shelter atop Sheridan, away from the hum of the crowds, the winds strangely muted compared to the relentless thrashing on Sherman's summit. I could finally say, "It's all downhill from here"! But the drama would continue for a bit longer as I was about to observe arbitrary guideline number 4! As my GPS route marker will attest, I started the descent from Sheridan and promptly took the wrong trail (yes, there is another!); this path heads south and descends rapidly so within minutes I was a few hundred feet off the summit.
When I finally took stock of my bearings and checked against the GPS, I knew I either had to climb back to the top or engage in some side hilling to get back to the correct trail. I chose the latter and this turned out to be a veritable scree adventure as I tried to skirt across the face while still descending what quickly became a loose rocky slope. And just in case you're wondering - NO, this is not the fastest way down or the most pleasant! I slid down most of this rock face for a good 30 minutes before joining the main trail, thankfully unscathed. Some 7 hours and 45 minutes after I'd started on this saga I was back in my car and it felt great but it sure didn't feel like an "easy" fourteener!
My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):
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