7.26.2006

Back to Colorado Peaks

Colorado peaks are a lot easier than Rainier, at least that is the way it seems after coming back. This week I managed to summit 5 of them, and the grand total of elevation gain and mileage was less than Rainier by itself. Saturday I wanted a nice quick outing and decided to look for a good bi-centennial peak that I hadn't done yet. I ended up going for Mt Sheridan near Leadville. The 126th highest peak in Colorado it is at an elevation of 13,748'. I started from the Iowa Gulch trailhead and quickly made my way to the steep basin that separates Sheridan from its neighbor, the 14er Mt Sherman. From the top of the gully I went right, while the masses headed for Sherman headed left. I made it up almost to the top before seeing anyone else where I caught up to a group of 3 from the Denver area. We took each other's pictures on the summit and talked about how nice climbing the "lesser" peaks can be. For me it was my 50th peak in the highest 200, so I'm a quarter of the way there! It may be a pipe dream though, several of the highest 200 are on private property and may never be accessible for me to climb. Seeing as I had made such good time up Sheridan, I decided to go on and re-summit Sherman while I was "in the neighborhood". I had previously been up in March 2005 when it was covered in snow and there were 50mph winds. It was much easier the second time, but this time there were 25 other people to share in the summit views with. I walked a little off to the side and had some water and a quick snack. From here I decided to just loop around the ridge to the gully on the other side rather than go back down the same way. This meant a pit stop on top of the unofficially ranked summit of Gemini Peak. At 13,951' its no small peak, but because the plateau it shares with Sherman is only 250' lower than the summit it is not a ranked peak. It was a nice side trip though, and from there I descended back past some old mines and to the car. The whole trip was only about 5 miles round trip with maybe 3200' of elevation gain. It was more work to go from Rainier's base to Camp Muir!

Sunday Tracy and I headed to the Tenmile Range to do a pair of unranked, but definitely interesting 13ers: Father Dyer Peak and Mt Helen. From the trailhead we hiked up into the Crystal Lakes basin below Father Dyer and headed up the class 3 east ridge. The ridge is mostly class 2, but does have a few short sections of class 3 scrambling. In a few places the ridge got really narrow and was kind of exciting. From the top of the ridge its a short walk over to the true summit at 13,615'. The summit has a memorial plaque for Father Dyer. From the summit we headed back around the other side of the peak on an exciting ridge that connects to Mt Helen. The start of the ridge is simple enough, but quickly you are presented with several rock towers that must be negotiated. The best way at first was to stick to the ridge crest and go up and over the class 3 towers. We then found 2 or 3 that were more difficult and traversed below them before once again picking up the ridge crest directly for some more class 3 scrambling before the ridge eased to a nice class 2 stroll to the summit of Mt Helen at 13,164'. We then descended the grassy east slopes, which provide good backcountry skiing in winter, back to the trail and eventually the car. Thus completed my 5 peak weekend, 3 unranked summits a fourteener and a bi-centennial. Almost sounds like a poker hand!