This is a short route with moderate elevation that yields a lot of bang for the buck. Note that while the elevation gain and mileage stats are moderate, the “gain to distance” ratio is approximately 1,000 a mile still providing for a descent workout.
The route begins above timberline, immediately providing a history lesson passing through (on foot or on wheel, depending on the season and your vehicle) the Leavick ghost town. Additional mining “artifacts” related to the Dauntless Mine (circa 1960) and the Hilltop Mine (late 1800s) lay about, including old machinery and old wooden towers that once supported an aerial tramway rumored to have been the longest in Colorado.
The route initially follows the snow-season route for Mount Sherman, quickly gaining elevation to the saddle between the two mountains at roughly 13,500 feet. It then follows the talus-covered ridge of White Ridge southeast to the summit.
Roundtrip Distance: 4 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,900 feet
YDS Class: Class 2 (due to off-trail routing through tundra and talus)
Note: This route can also be followed in reverse as a descent route for those ascending White Ridge via one of several west-facing couloirs.
The Fourmile Creek road is rough but passable for most passenger vehicles when dry and clear of snow. It should be noted, however, that those with high-clearance 4x4s will have a safer and more pleasant drive on this road than those without.
To get to this road from Fairplay, follow US 285 south for about one mile and turn right onto County Road 18. In the winter, this road is typically plowed to approximately 11,000 feet. In late summer, after the snow has melted, it is possible to drive to the gate at about 12,000 feet. Roadside parking can be limited and awkward on busy days or when snow banks narrow the road.
• From your parking, head up CR 18 toward the gate near 12,000 feet, heading generally northwest.
• About the time the dirt road turns west, leave the road and begin following a drainage leading to the Sherman-White Ridge Saddle.
o Note: In the winter you may notice wands or posts marking the snow season route up Mount Sherman, providing a more packed trail to follow toward the saddle.
• Resist the urge to climb northeast into steeper terrain toward White Ridge too soon!
• Eventually leaving the drainage you will reach a steeper scree or snow slope (depending on the season) for the final push to the 13,500 foot saddle.
• From the saddle, make a hard right to the southeast and follow the undulating ridge of White Ridge.
• In most places, when the snow is melted or blown off, there is a footpath to follow, which eases passage.
• Persevere over a few minor false summits. Approach the final false summit through an easy notch on its western side.
• At last, the summit cairn will come into view! An easy talus stroll brings you to the top of White Ridge and the views are jaw-dropping.
• Outerwear appropriate to the season.
• Plenty of water – the old mines in the area do not make for a quality drinking water experience in this drainage.
• In snow season, floatation may be necessary (depending on conditions) as well as an alpine axe and traction (e.g. crampons), again, conditions-dependent.
• An area map such as Trails Illustrated #110 Leadville Fairplay as well as a detailed topographical map.
• Ample sun protection.