Peak(s):  Mt. Sherman  -  14,036 feet
Date Posted:  05/02/2009
Date Climbed:   05/01/2009
Author:  pioletski
 Solo ski on Sherman via Iowa Gulch   

I see that the unpredictable weather has gotten a few of us so depressed that an entire Forum thread has sprung up around it... I was affected because the hoped-for climb of Snowmass was called off. Casting around for an alternative plan for the 2 days I managed to get off, I decided on Shavano on Saturday (thanks for the suggestion, Scott ), which still left Friday open. It was a little late to rustle up a crew, so I decided to go after Mt Sherman solo, and to do the Iowa Gulch approach as most of the ski reports are from the Leavick side.

Good climb in nice weather, but now I know why Sherman is better skied in winter rather than spring.

I left the trailhead at 7:00, with calm air under a blue sky...

Mt Massive inspecting my pack

I hiked up the road in boots, falling through in a couple of places. Some poor soul had had a really hard time with a snowmobile recently, and left some deep holes as evidence. Approaching the headwall (on firm snow by now), I put skis on, made a gentle descending traverse toward the bottom of the gully between Sherman and Sheridan, then skinned up the gully. I ran out of snow and had to resort to booting again at about 12,800 feet. Angling to climber's left (northeast), I followed the miners' old telephone line (didn't these people have cell phones?) toward a point somewhat above the main saddle:

Ma Bell would have been proud

I gained the ridge directly above the Hilltop Mine.

Looking down on Hilltop and Leavick

I then hiked up the airy southwest ridge of Sherman. By this time a gale was blowing but the snow afforded fine footing. I took the point protector off my Whippet, but the axe and crampons stayed in the pack. I was at the summit around 10:30, and the wind promptly went into a creepy lull, the kind that makes you wonder what the weather is up to (especially in view of the dire forecasts of late). At the summit:

Summit register in foreground, gathering storm in back...

Nice view of Elbert at al, though:

Looking west from the summit

I understand it's considered important to document that one's skis were on at the summit...

In case of argument

Here's why Sherman is best skied in the winter: a lot of the snow is gone from the south side. What remains was nice - styrofoam from the summit to 13,500', then barely softening corn down to 13,000', then mush below that. (It was a little late in the morning by this point.) However, in order to find continuous snow down to the valley, I had to traverse quite a long way southwest before dropping straight down. Being more of a stickler for how far DOWN one skis (as opposed to how high UP one starts), I skied down to about 12,500', in the flats below the Hilltop, before I ran out of gravity.

Looking up at Hilltop from the stopping point

I then schlepped back up to the Sherman/Sheridan saddle and hiked down to the snowline.

Looking into Iowa Gulch from the saddle

The gully into Iowa Gulch is nice skiing, though nothing extreme. Toward the floor of the gulch the snow became really soupy. At that point, any observer would likely have described me as an intermediate skier... The road out was a slog, there's no other word for it. I was quite happy to get back to the car.

What to do now? Follow Jimmy Buffett's suggestion, of course: "Think I'll ride into Leadville and have a few beers..."

Snowpack notes: (In Iowa Gulch, not Fourmile Creek) Below 12'000 feet we have the Sex Pistols snowpack: Johnny Rotten and Sid Vicious. Nicely consolidated spring snow (i.e. safe EARLY) from there to about 13,500', styrofoam above that. Of course, this weekend's storm could change all that. Also note that a lot of the snow has blown or melted off the south side of Sherman.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

Interesting approach.
05/03/2009 22:33
I like that you did it a little differently. Also like the Denali TTs. One of the best AT boots ever made. Just wish they were Dynafit compatible.

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