3.14.2005

Winter Mountaineering

My friend and I decided that with the warmer weather we have had recently, that Saturday would be a good day to climb a fourteneer. We decided to go for Mt Sherman from Leadville on the west side, which is not the standard route, but is closer to where we live. In winter the paved part of the road is clear to access an active mine, but is not maintained in winter beyond, where it turns to dirt. We parked here and headed up the dirt road, which was covered in well packed down snow from previous hikers and we didn't need snowshoes at that point. The road continues for about 2+ miles at which point we left the road to head over to a west-northwest facing gully that leads to the saddle between Mt Sherman and Mt Sheridan. From the end of the road the summit is about 2 1/4 miles away, and 2000 feet above. The traverse across the gulch required snowshoes, but the conditions were great at this point. As we entered the gully, the wind picked up (luckily from behind us), and we continued to climb on snow. The slopes are not steep, however there is steeper terrain to the sides that could potentially avalanche if conditions were right for it. Saturday there was hardly any snow at all on the majority of the slopes above us, and even in the gully the snow gave way to rock about halfway up, so no worries there. We reached the saddle about 3 1/2 hours after we started, which included a lunch break along the way. At the saddle the winds were really howling, and we climbed the ridge trying to stay on the leeward slopes to avoid the majority of the winds. At this point the ice axe came in real handy, as we were traversing steep snow below the crest of the ridge. At about 13,800' we abandoned this idea and headed over the crest to the west side. The travel on this side was relatively gentle, generally flat and on rocky surfaces, but the wind was a major factor at this point. It felt like a hurricane, and I would estimate it was a sustained wind of probably over 50 MPH. Luckily the last 1/4 mile or so of the ridge is basically flat the whole way to the summit, and wide enough to not feel like the wind would blow you off the mountain. It took an hour and a half to summit from the saddle with all the combating of winds and needing breaks to wait out larger gusts. The descent was even worse, and required us to crawl on all fours in a couple of places to keep from being knocked over, as the wind was more directly in our face. Descending the gully there were a few nice glissade sections, and the road back to the car was easy, but we were beat by this point. Fighting strong winds can really take a lot out of you! I have never climbed Sherman before, but have heard it is one of the easiest 14ers. I can see where in the summer it would be, as the terrain itself was not particularly steep and the overall distance and altitude gain is short when the road is clear. For people who think its easy they should try it in the winter with near hurricane force winds! The people who climb it in the summer don't know what they are missing...

Sunday I took care of some shopping going to Target and a few of the outlet stores in Silverthorne to buy some new clothes. The Gap outlet had some nice jeans for $30/ pair. Over in Summit County it was snowing, as it was in most of the Front Range including Denver and Boulder. Of course in my area it didn’t snow at all, so no new snow for Vail or Beaver Creek. Maybe we’ll get some this week, but it had been pretty dry over here lately. That evening it was Selection Sunday, and Syracuse on the heels of winning the Big East Tournament on Saturday looked to get a high seed. They got the 4 seed in the Austin bracket, I thought they should have gotten a little higher seed, but there are a lot experts who think they can make the Final Four, even though it will likely require beating Duke and Kentucky, two of the most winning programs in college basketball, in back to back games. To me one of the biggest surprises in the seedings was that Louisville, who was number 6 in the nation and the regular season, and tournament champion of their league, was only given a 4 seed. We’ll see how all the games go this week, its always interesting.