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June 16 2006
I had been planning on making a trip out to Colorado to climb some 14ers for some time and the weather really looked promising for the weekend, so I decided to take some time off and make a run for the border. I would be taking my 15 year old nephew along and because he does not have a lot of experience, I wanted to make sure we did not get in over our heads, so I settled on some easy 14ers.
We left my house at 6:00 with hopes of reaching Mount Sherman’s trailhead in time for a summit push. I had been watching the forecast carefully for a few days and I knew that there was a good chance we could make it in time to climb the peak without getting into any inclement weather.
We had only been on the road for about an hour and Zack was fast asleep, leaving me to scour the radio for stations that were going in and out as we moved away from the city. He finally woke up after I made a sharp turn and I asked him to pick a CD to keep me awake. He obliged with Powerslave from Iron Maiden and he promptly fell back asleep.
I was taking Diamox, because I have had many issues dealing with the altitude and I was really worried that I would have to make frequent “rest stops,” because it really makes me have to use the bathroom a lot more than normal. About 15 minutes past Price my fears were coming to fruition, as I could sense the need for a break and I knew the next place to stop would be Green River or Grand Junction and I was a little worried. I decided to wait to take a break in Grand Junction (mistake) and I woke Zack up doing my best imitation of the “pee pee dance.” He could not stop laughing at my agony and I was just relieved that I was able to make it. In Grand Junction we stopped for snacks and decided to have some lunch. We decided to make PB&J sandwiches (climbers favorite) and take them on the road (My mom would be so proud)
The rest of the drive was pretty uneventful, as Zack mostly slept and I took in the amazing scenery along the way. I had been watching the weather closely and as we got closer to the big peaks, I noticed that there were some high clouds and I was getting a little concerned about the weather, so about a half hour from Fairplay, I called my sister to get me the most up to date forecast from the internet. She said that there was still a possibility for an afternoon shower, but that it should be all clear by around 4:00. This would work out just fine and I figured we could make the trailhead, assess the situation and go from there.
About two miles from the trailhead, it started to sprinkle a little bit, but I could see blue skies beyond the clouds and I thought the weather would probably hold out for us, so I decided we would just start hiking and at any point if I felt like it was not safe or we heard any lightning, we would make a hasty retreat.
We pulled into the trailhead around 2:00 and we were off by 2:20. The first part of the trail is really incredible, with several old mining buildings and shafts to check out. We took our time making our way up, inspecting the old mines as we went. In some ways they are kind of an eyesore up there, but I could not help but think of the hard life of so many miners that must have worked in the very spot we were hiking through. I am sure some must have died and given a lot of blood sweat and tears to the place and I could not help but think about those people and the lives that they must have lived, working and trying to survive over 12,000 feet.
After about an hour we were scrambling up to the saddle and both of us felt great, so I thought we would probably make it to the summit in plenty of time. When we reached the saddle it became clear that the great weather I had hoped for would soon be squashed by a storm front that I could see moving in from the west. It looked to be about 45 minutes away, but I was only guessing. The winds were really strong and I told Zack to hike faster than he ever had in his life and we bolted for the summit. I was really moving fast and I was slightly surprised that Zack was keeping pace, so I kept up the brisk hike to the top. There were a few false summits and as we got closer, so did the weather, so upon reaching the summit we did not stay long. We reached the top in just under two hours and clouds were racing by our heads and the wind was very strong. I would guess it was sustained around 30-40 with gusts up to 60. At one point a gust blew me almost off of my feet and it literally picked me up. We signed the register took a few pictures and started our descent at the same electric pace.
Upon reaching the saddle I could tell that the front was upon us and the winds were incredible! The clouds began to darken and I just wanted to get down as fast as possible, so we found a snow slope and we quickly made our way over for a glissade. I did not have my ice axe, but I used the old “foot break” technique I had learned as a kid and it worked just fine. By time we reached the bottom of the snow, clouds had completely enveloped the mountain and it began to snow very hard. The winds were still strong, but I was not worried at all, because we were prepared and I could faintly see the mining shacks and trail ahead.
We hopped over some boulders and quickly made our way over to one of the mining shacks, where we decided to take a break to get out of the blowing snow. Inside the shack the walls were creaking and I was wondering how safe our little shelter was and I decided we needed to get moving and get off of the mountain, because I had no idea how long or how hard the storm would be, so I told Zack we needed to get moving. After about 20 minutes of descending in the wind and snow, it cleared up and we were both relieved. The rest of the hike was pretty uneventful and we took our time taking pictures and checking out the abandoned mines. When we reached the car, Zack was feeling really sick and I think the altitude and the quick push were getting to him. We were not in the car for more than 5 minutes and he was fast asleep again.
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