Since John and I were considering trying the Iowa Gulch side for Mt Sherman, or hiking Quandary, I booked a room at the charming "Leadville Country Inn" in...well...Leadville. However, I soon learned that Independence Pass was closed (which negated getting to Quandary from Leadville...or so I mistakenly thought) and that the Iowa Gulch approach to Mt Sherman could have more avalanche danger. Given the above, we opted to do Sherman from the Fourmile Creek approach...near Fairplay...not Leadville. So much for trying to book a room near the trailhead. Turns out we only saved maybe 15 min from our usual drive from Colorado Springs...and I later remembered that the Quandary East slopes trailhead was off HOOSIER Pass and not INDEPENDENCE Pass...ah well, the stay at the B&B was nice....
Sunday morning we got up as planned, but somehow ended up getting out of Leadville MUCH later than scheduled (7:51a to be exact). We wanted to get an early start since we had no idea how close we could get to the trailhead. We found CR 18 without issue and headed towards the Old Leavick town site. The road to Leavick was in great shape, nicely grated and we didn't hit any significant snow on the road for the first 8.5 mi. We parked about a mile shy of Leavick as there was ~8 in of snow on the road by then and my tires just plain sucked on my Jeep Liberty. Which was fine as I wanted to start lower and make it an official 14er anyway. :)
We put on our warmest clothes, donned our snowshoes, and left our crampons in the car. I had forgotten my gaitors, but had sort of a built in gaitor in my board pants and thought I'd be ok. At 9:31a, we headed up the road. We hiked in the shadows of the mountains and had a headwind which made it a bit cold, but soon we were in the sun and we started getting too warm. However, everytime I took off my mittens and jacket, the cold wind would kick up and I'd end up just putting them right back on....
Most of the road to the Dauntless mine and even beyond was bare with patchy snow so, we secured our snowshoes on our packs, glibly patted ourselves on the back for not taking our crampons, and just hiked in boots.
When we arrived at the standard route to ascend the ridge, there looked to be quite a bit of possible-avalanche-looking-kinda-snow on the slope so, we headed further towards the summit where there was little snow, and made the long, arduous, ascent towards the ridge there. Ugh, it wasn't easy. Still had that pesky headwind, talus, and some fairly steep icey snow (and I left my crampons in the car...because why?). It felt like I wasn't making any progress, but we slowly got there.
When we reached the ridge we were rewarded with incredible views, deeper snow, and a monstrously strong wind from the other side of the mountain. The cross wind made it quite the battle to move forward or to even breathe at times. On 3 occasions I was pushed so hard into the rocks that it caused me to fall and worried I might get blown off balance and fall over the side of the ridge. John at one point jumped up and the wind moved him about 6" sideways. I avoided walking on top of the ridge and kept a tight grip on my ice axe. Bring it on wind.... Obviously nothing dramatic happened, lest I be famous in the paper right now. John and I found a little rock cove and put on our balaclavas and goggles and moved on.
Snow started to get in my boots from the heel, but it wasn't bad and we seemed to be only about 100 feet from the summit so, I didn't stop to dig it out. John was ahead of me when he stopped, pointed to the summit and doused my hopes by simply shaking his head "no". I knew that he was saying "that's not the summit"...crud! I think there were 3 false summits altogether from where we came up, I don't know for sure...I was bent on making certain I wouldn't be fooled again and stopped looking. ;)
Then, as though on cue, the wind calmed a bit as we came up on the "real" summit and we were able to enjoy a leisurely visit on the summit. We took a few photos, ate, and headed down.
The trip down went fairly quickly. We fought the wind again on the ridge and my feet were starting to get cold from the snow in my boot, but were able to glissade on a few "safe" sections which added to the experience.
After a bit, my feet started to really get cold, then the snow started melting in my boot. Thank goodness I had extra socks in my backpack. I changed socks twice, plus used a toe warmer. Note to self: do not forget gaitors again.
We found a few other sections to glissade down and then made a quick trip down the road.
We headed out, spruced up a bit and met friends in Denver for a pre holiday gathering.
Overall, awesome day!
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