Mt. Sherman 14,036'March 5, 2007
16 degrees and a beautiful Monday morning (7:00 am) at the Iowa Gulch Trailhead east of Leadville by about 4 miles. This is when I realized I was not properly equipped (i.e. snowshoes). I had been planning this particular hike for several months. However due to the weather I had to keep putting it off. This was going to be my first winter ascent of a 14er. I did my homework on winter hiking and decided that today was worth a try.
I chose to hike Sherman’s West Slopes (Grade 1, Class 2) because of its west and southwest exposure. And it did look good above tree line, the slopes and ridges had been blown clear of any snow. The problem wasn’t with the mountain, it was with the approach. From the winter parking area the hike would be 10 miles round trip and 2,916’ elevation gain. The winter parking area is 2.5 miles down the road from the actual trailhead. I had my doubts right away when I saw the 2.5 mi dirt road was buried in several feet of snow.
I don’t own a pair of snowshoes or AT gear (skis), but I will soon. There was an old trail that some people snowshoeing had packed down so I could walk on that okay. The snowshoe tracks were fairly old with a bit of new snow covering the trail. In spots I could just make out where the previous hikers had packed down the trail. In other spots it was like trying to balance on an invisible balance beam, sinking up to my waist every time I stepped out of their tracks. While this made for an entertaining challenge it became quite time consuming.
About 2.4 miles up the road the snow was getting deeper and the warm day was softening the snow as well. The semi packed tracks had also disappeared at about the same time one of my gators broke leaving me with a snow filled boot. I was able to make repairs on my gator, but with cold feet and time wasting it became apparent I had to turn back. Only 2.4 miles back to the car. Oh well it was a beautiful day so I took my time post holing my way back. During my walk back I figured that in 5 miles I took about 8800 steps most of which were up to my hips.
Well I got some good exercise, saw some beautiful country, and learned an important lesson. “Take the right tools for the job” . . . “I’ll be back”.