Peak(s):  Mt. Sherman  -  14,036 feet
Date Posted:  09/09/2012
Modified:  10/10/2012
Date Climbed:   09/09/2012
Author:  Jay Hank
 Mount Sherman after Labor Day  

Labor Day of 2012 was not for usual camping and hiking but for completing Boulder Sunset Triathlon. My wife Kayla and I were preparing for this event for 3 months not realizing that it will take precious Saturday from our favorite long weekend. Eventually we ended up with only a two-day camping trip a week later with our 12 year old Lhasa Apso dog, Monty, in Fourmile Campground near Fairplay. We love South Park and climbing Mount Sherman was literally a climax of this love. This will be first Monty's fourteener.

As we drove on County Road 18 leading to the campground and gained in altitude, we found patches of aspens already changing color to yellow (Picture 1). We arrived at an empty campground at noon on Saturday after a 2 hour drive from Denver and took the best looking spot #13. After pitching the tent and having lunch, we drove on Fourmile Road (everything there seems to be Fourmile: Road, Creek, Camp) with bright Moon in front of us (Picture 2).

At 1:30 pm we parked our pickup at the gate past Leavick site among three dozens of other cars. People were already descending from Mount Sherman en masse, leaving a deserted mountain for us. Of course almost everybody commented on Monty riding in my backpack (Picture 3). We hiked first around Hilltop Mine to the saddle. Then we turned north toward multiple cairns (Picture 4) where we met last hikers, an old couple from Colorado Springs eager to talk and to get some rest in brutal descent. Climb was steady but easy even with Monty on my back.

We had a long conversation about dogs, particularly dogs in Colorado. Dogs that are taken hiking for company and particularly about the one dog abandoned by two guys somewhere at Mount Bierstadt in July. We were outraged for a good reason. I am not sure, however, if old Emmanuel Kant, citizen of now non-exiting Knsigsberg was right: "He who is cruel to animals becomes hard also in his dealings with men. We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals".

The flat area atop Mount Sherman was empty. We did not, however, feel lonely. We enjoyed views of Leadville in the west (Picture 5) and South Park valley in the east (Picture 6). Late sun produced great light for photography. Only some residual smoke ruined distant views. There is so much beauty in long shadows soon after sunrise and shortly before sunset. Somebody describing Mt Sherman Trail in the Colorado Mountain Club Guidebook "The Colorado 14ers" must have made mistake. There is no need for 8 hours roundtrip. We made it in 5.5 hours with multiple rests and a long stop at the peak (Picture 7).

Descent was quick with mountain goat escorting us to the saddle (Picture 8). We returned to the parking area before 7:00 pm when the entire valley was in shadows only with top slopes glowing in late sun. We drove to our little tent to have dinner with a glass of wine and smores by the campfire. The temperature was pleasant and I was able to photograph the Milky Way (Picture 9); elongated bright spot above us. Not much disturbing city lights, only some haze. Luckily there were no passing planes above, just us and stars and Kant again: "the starry sky above me and the moral law within me". Is it true?

In the morning we cooked bacon, eggs and onion on a gigantic 20-inch pan (Picture 10) over campfire and had a lot of coffee. It was another sunny and warm day. Pine forests released intense smell of sap, probably the last time this year, and we packed and reluctantly returned to Denver. Still on our way home we planned to stop to see bristle cone pines at Windy Ridge near Alma, but this is another story.

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