Sunday, March 2, 2008

Mt. Sherman (14,036)

Mt. Sherman (14,036)
~12.4 miles
~3,400 vertical
Jeff and Allison Valliere, Dave Hale, Kevin Lund, Scooby, Shep, Sierra and Bullwinkle the Moose

Driving through Four Mile Creek valley at 8 am we call Dave to let him know we are just a few miles away. He informs us that he is sitting in his truck, stuck in a snow drift, observing a large bull moose near the Fourmile Campground 8 miles in. SWEET! Kevin steps on the gas and gets us there quick. We slow down as to not scare the moose, but he hears us and eases up the road a bit. We creep up to Dave’s truck and now get a good view of him. He is lingering 200 feet or so up the road and we take copious amounts of photos and gawk for a while. We all remark that if we turned around and went home now, it would be a worthwhile day.

Ah, but we are here to climb Sherman, so first things first, we have to get Dave’s truck out of the drift. We dig, push and tow with Kevin’s Jeep for some time and finally extract Dave's truck and park on the side of the road. We probably could have gotten through, but the drifts came in quick succession beyond and became continuously deeper, so there was no point in trying to go any further.

We finally got walking around 9:30am and the first mile or so went by quick as we followed the moose, keeping the dogs on leash and under control as we did not want to stress him out at all. Eventually he disappeared and we lost his track. What a large and impressive animal.The weather reports were calling for temps in the 30’s and high winds. The prospect of high winds got me a bit discouraged a bit late in the week, but we just decided to go for it regardless and were very well rewarded for our efforts. We started off the day in just light layers, ball caps and glove liners. I have been much colder in July before.

At Leavick, we donned a layer, as there were a few sporadic gusts of wind, but nothing too threatening whatsoever. We moved fast while we were moving, but stopped a few times and really lingered as it was absolutely enjoyable lingering weather. It was tempting at times to just kick back and lounge for the day.Above the highest mining cabins of the Hilltop Mine, we decided against taking the standard route to the saddle and up the ridge, so we angled right toward the Sherman/White Ridge saddle to avoid some steep snow and the sure bet of strong wind on the ridge.

At around 13,400 feet on our revised route, the wind kicked up a bit, but was at our backs fortunately and was balmy. At the saddle, we were eventually coaxed into our shells for the final dash to the summit. The wind occasionally created a good ground blizzard on the summit plateau, but let up some while we took 20+ minutes or so to take pictures and enjoy the crystal clear views from the summit. I believe we arrived there at 1:55ish.

This was probably the best day in the mountains we have had since last September. Warm, clear and calm for most of the day and when there was wind, it was hardly an issue. I felt amazingly fresh today, what a difference 2 weeks and better weather conditions can make. While climbing Bross 2 weeks ago, I felt like I was redlined and going nowhere. It felt as though I would never make the summit. Today I felt as though I was barely beyond idling speed and moving up the peak with extreme ease. The summit appeared surprisingly quick. Today we were all strong and well matched, nobody ever really got ahead or fell behind.

The trip out was a cruise and we stopped and lingered many times just enjoying the sun and warmth. We arrived back at the vehicles at 4:50 and said our good byes to Dave.

Now the real fun begins……On our way out, while still on the dirt road, we hear a belt squealing under the hood of Kevin’s Jeep. I dismiss it as just a minor squeal due to the slush puddles we just splashed through. Soon Kev’s power steering fails and we think that perhaps it just needs some power steering fluid. We limp into the Shell/Subway in Fairplay, pop the hood and realize that we have major problems. Anti-freeze is covering the engine and is now pouring out on the ground. We then notice that the serpentine belt has slipped off, shearing the tension pin in the process. This could be a late night.

Several calls, a few hours and lots of Pizza Hut later, Kevin’s brother rolls up to save the day. We make it home at 10pm tired, but no worse for the wear and are quite thankful to get home and thankful for such a great day in the mountains.