I had a bit of a scare on Missouri Mountain a week ago, so I decided to “get back on the horse” and hike Mt. Sherman. Mt. Sherman is an easier 14er than Missouri Mountain. The hike is shorter, only 5.25 miles, and there is less exposure, so it was a good one for me to try.
Having said that, it would be my first solo 14er. While I hike alone regularly, I was a little nervous to go alone this time as many more things can go wrong at 14,000 feet. At the same time, there is usually someone around, so help isn’t too far away. As a result, I talked myself into climbing Mt. Sherman on a beautiful Monday morning.
Getting to Mt. Sherman
Mt. Sherman is one of five 14ers in the Mosquito Range of the Rocky Mountains and is located near Fairplay, Colorado. Having already hiked the other four, Mt. Sherman was the last of the group for me to complete.
I arose and drove the hour plus from Estabrook, our property near Bailey, to the trailhead. About the last eight miles is along a moderate dirt road, that a sedan could carefully maneuver. The upper parking lot was full when I arrived around 8am, but there were a few spots along the road above the lower parking area which was empty.
Armed with the description of the hike from 14ers.com, I strapped on my pack complete with water, snacks, and layers; hooked on my camera; and prepared both my hiking poles and headed up the road. Located at the trailhead is an old mining structure. In fact, they are peppered all over the mountain. I really liked this feature of Mt. Sherman, as I haven’t seen any mining structures on the other 14ers I’ve climbed.
The beginning of the trail is a road that travels up the barren basin. About a ½ mile into the hike, the road splits. Be sure to look for the arrow on the ground made by rocks or know to follow the split to the right. Despite the arrow, it is easy to miss if focused on the mining equipment ahead like I was!
Additionally, I was trying to keep my visor from blowing off so I had my head dipped down. Since I detoured briefly, I checked out all the mining equipment that I would have explored after I had already summited.
Anyway, after making a horse shoe in the basin, I reconnected with the road to the right further up the slope just before it makes a hard left and heads to some more mining structures. This time I passed by the structures to speed up my time to the summit.
The Trail and Ridge
Shortly after passing the dilapidated buildings, the road meets a trail which veers to the right up the talus field. The grade increases as the path climbs to the ridge behind a peak which protects hikers from the wind which was unusually strong.
The ridge provides lovely views to the northwest and southeast. It is also where the wind picked up. The wind just got stronger and stronger as I followed the ridge to the northwest. In fact, it was sustained at 50 mph blowing from left to right and into my face.
I finally earned a small reprieve behind a rocky knob, when some boys warned me that the next jaunt across the short saddle was really windy! Good grief. I was crouched down almost into a bear crawl to keep below the gales!
The Wind and the Trail to the Right
Upon reaching the other side of the saddle, there was an option to continue forward on the left side of the ridge in wind or to take a less traveled trail to the right which drops below the ridge for some protection. Another couple I met recommended the trail to the right, so I took it.
Ummm, there was a lot more exposure and required a little scrambling. I would not be descending that way. In fact, between the wind on one side and the exposure on the other, I briefly considered turning around. I didn’t really like being alone. Despite knowing there were two or three others nearby, I could not see them around the rocks and steepness.
Soon, I finally reached the last stretch that was strangely calm and flat. Here, the one young man who I spoke with briefly as he passed me along the way was returning. I said, “Oh darn! I was going to see if you wanted to walk down together. I got a little scared. I’ll find someone else.”
The Summit of Mt. Sherman
Surprisingly, he responded, “I’d be happy to,” and he turned around and joined me on the summit.
I only stayed on the summit long enough to hold up a sign left under a rock for a picture and sign the register. I asked my new friend Abe if he signed the register, and he hadn’t. It was his first fourteener!
He was visiting with four of his friends from Oklahoma. I felt a little better about being passed by a flatlander when I learned he was only 33 and a runner! Anyway, the 6’4” beanpole didn’t like the wind either and also considered turning around as he thought he might get blown off the mountain.
Fortunately for me, going down was much easier. I chose the windy side and the trail was much easier and well defined. I thought with the gusts at my back it would feel scary, but aside from my poles blowing sideways and occasionally having to wait out some gusts, it was much better! I’m glad Abe was willing to follow me back on the windier path.
Along the way down, we greeted some of his friends still climbing and soon found ourselves sitting below the ridge eating a snack.
As we chatted, as I said, “Don’t take this the wrong way, but I’m really happy to see you out on the trails. There aren’t many minorities in the wilderness. Why is that? Culture or exposure to it?”
He replied, “Both. When I told my sister I was going, she said you’re going to do that white person sport?” Then he added, “I try to keep an open mind. There has to be a reason why you guys do it.”
Fair enough. Since it was his first fourteener, I asked what he knew about them, pointed out a pika, and mentioned how fascinated I am by miners and all they went through in the hopes for gold.
As we slowly descended while checking out the mining remnants, dark clouds rolled in from the west. While they didn’t seem too menacing, we picked up our pace just before we felt a few sprinkles. Minutes before reaching the trailhead, graupel began pelting us.
Unfortunately for Abe, he was the first to the truck, and he didn’t have the keys! In addition, he was wearing all his layers on and was used to much warmer weather in Oklahoma. Turnabout is fair play, so I walked down to my car, drove up to the upper parking area which was now deserted, and invited him to wait in the warmth of my vehicle for 1.5 hours until his friends finally made it down the mountain.
Three of the five of them had finished their first fourteener after arriving in Colorado late the night before and setting up camp in the dark. That just sounds exhausting to me! Kudos to them all for summitting Mount Sherman!! I hope they liked it and enjoyed nature as much as I do. ETB