Mark and I totally mooched along with plans from a group of transplanted Michiganders for a hike up our 7th Colorado 14er (a 14,000ft+ tall mountain) last weekend. Doug and Liz’s friends Brian and Sarah recently bought a condo in Silverthorn, and were kind enough to let us crash on their floor Friday night. Saturday morning, the nine of us in this group got up at 5am, packed into two cars, and drove south for an hour to the Fourmile Creek trailhead for a summit attempt on Mt. Sherman.
Mt Sherman is considered one of the easiest 14ers in Colorado. The round-trip hike is estimated to take a little over 5 miles, and has only 2,000ft of elevation gain. Most of the trail follows an old mining road. Only the final bit of climbing to the summit ridge presents any difficulty, where you have to scramble through some rocks on a relatively thin ridge-line. But we never felt like we were in any danger.
We left the car at around 8am, and arrived at the summit at around 10:30a. Even though the route was “easy,” I was still huffing and puffing on the steep sections, and stopping to take plenty of “photo breaks.”
There’s more photos from the day in the gallery.
Being one of the easier big-mountain climbs in our state, Mt. Sherman is rightly popular. And we saw huge numbers of people in the long line up to the summit. There were kids, and older people, hard-core mountain runners, lots of dogs, church summer camps, and big families. I know people often complain about the crowds on Colorado’s 14ers, and they’re not exaggerating. But Mark and I spend enough time at remote trad crags and back country campsites, that I’ve started to really appreciate an outdoor crowd. Sometimes an adventure isn’t just about getting to the top, or seeing the best view, but also about the people you meet and the friends you make along the way.
The gang hung out on the summit for about an hour. We took a lot of pictures, ate lunch, enjoyed the sunshine, and partied with the crowd on the summit. Mark and I were the only ones in the group to sign the summit register, but it’s one of my favorite parts of climbing a big mountain, so I gotta do it. The battery on my camera went dead just after our summit photo, so no pictures on the way down!
We looked at the map, and discussed plans for further hiking. Two in our group decided to head down, and the rest of us hiked over to Gemini Peak, a 13’er just east of Mt Sherman. Mark and I walked up to the base of the steep cone of rotten-looking rock, and decided the last 100ft of wind-blown creepy-looking climbing might not be worth the trouble. As the rest of the group worked their way up the pile of rocks, we headed back towards the car.
Rather than hiking back over the summit of Sherman, we consulted our maps and decided to try to cross-country hike over the White Ridge and down on a direct line back to the cars. We took it slowly, approaching each new change in grade of the ridge with care, making sure the path ahead was passable before attempting further decent.
As the hill side really began to get steep, we started following a small creek, and found a trail carved into the side of the hill next to the drainage. Woo hoo! We followed this small, loose, wavering trail down the hill for quite a while, until it ended in a wide snow field.
Mark and I do a good bit of rock climbing. But we’ve never owned ice axes and have never done any snow climbing, ever, before. In fact, in our world, snow is to be avoided at all costs. But Mark was enjoying the sunny day, and we found that you could do some nice ski-type sliding on this gently sloping snow field.
The next snow field was steeper. Mark took his “skiing” up a notch, and was basically in full-flight standing glissade (a mountaineering term for “sliding down a snow field”) until he lost his balance and landed in a splash of soft, wet snow. I walked around.
The third snow field was wider and steeper still. This time, Mark’s standing glissade was nicely balanced, and I decided to do the whole thing in a sit-glissade. I slid down the 50ft snowfield on my butt, and had a fabulous time!
There were probably 4 or 5 more snow fields on the descent. We attacked each one with glee, alternating between standing and sliding on our bottoms. We had SOOOO much fun. We threw ourselves down these slippery slopes with such energy and enthusiasm, that we were down at the cars before we even realized it. We checked our watches and found that we had descended most of the mountain, the last 1500ft or so, in less than 25 minutes! And done it all sliding on the dirty snowfields left in the middle of July. It was so much fun!
We were the first ones back to the cars, but only waited for maybe 15 minutes before the other 5 hikers (who climbed Gemini Peak) came sliding down the same drainage we had been on. They had followed our foot prints, foot slides, and butt prints all the way down the side of the mountain. The two who had started their descent first were the last to arrive at the car.
It was a great day, and we had a lot of fun with everybody. I really hope we have a chance to hike, and maybe slide, with everybody again!