29 October 2009

Mount Sherman

24 January 2004

Brief version:

Exquisite joy!

Detailed version:

Friends Hakan and Tim met me at the Fort at 4 a.m. for what we thought would be a Tour de Sherman. The original plan was Dyer, Gemini and Sherman, then it warped into Gemini, Sherman and Sheridan. But none of the climbing goals went as planned.

We passed the Leavick mine about half an hour ahead of our plan and made it almost all the way to the gate using only basic four-wheel drive, so we stayed warm in the car waiting for daylight so we wouldn't have to carry flashlights/headlamps. When we finally began assembling our gear, the decision was made NOT to take snowshoes, and that later proved to be a wise choice.

We hiked together up the spotty dirt and snow road to the Dauntless Mine, skirting around two extremely slippery 20-foot-long ice beds, and that's about the last we saw of each other for the next eight hours. Tim opted to take on Sheridan and Peerless from the user-friendly road, Hakan set off for Sherman, Gemini and Dyer via the CFI trail right of the infamous cornice, and I lagged behind hoping to bag Sherman and Gemini, my first calendar winter 14er summit, my first calendar winter centennial 13er summit, my first black check(s) and my swan song, as I had received instructions from my doctor two days earlier not to bike, run or do what I was about to do for a minimum of six weeks. I carried my ice ax instead of my trekking poles, assuming my knee would be in such bad shape after my forbidden ascent(s) that I would have no choice but to glissade down. Or be carried on a stretcher...

Within minutes, speed demon Hakan was out of site. In the few areas where the trail was covered with snow, he had effectively broken trail for me, except that his stride is about three meters longer than mine.

Having finally taken the digital plunge last week, I dallied around at the highest mine, experimenting with the plethora of buttons on my new toy, a Fuji s5000, before attempting the summit. I climbed up inside one of the weathered and beaten two-level structures to get just the perfect shot of another photogenic remnant nearby. Inside the building, atop a broken ladder I probably should not have attempted to climb, I finally figured out how to use the manual settings and snapped what became favorite photo of the day.

Upon exiting the fractured and rusty nail-laden slice of history, I stepped on an appropriately sized loose board that promptly decided to audition for the role of snowboard. Needless to say, he did not get the job, even though he deposited me safely atop a snow-covered talus slope before showing me what he is made of.

As the trail began to steepen, I began to wonder if perhaps I should turn back. I looked up at Sherman's ridge, which was so close and looked so doable. I'd already been grounded from this year's Ride the Rockies, Basic Mountaineering School and a couple of out-of-state climbing opportunities. My rebellious side took charge. I decided to ask my physician for a three-day grace period. On Monday. I pressed on.

Just before I reached the ridge, I noticed something in the gap through which I would be heading. I fired up the camera one more time, not taking the time to check the settings, and fully extended the zoom just in time to shoot a coyote running the ridge. !!!

Atop the powdery ridge, I was overtaken by four more hikers, including acquaintance John. We snapped photos of each other on the summit and tried to identify all the peaks in the magnificent panorama surrounding us. Windless azure skies in every direction, no coats necessary. I studied the encircling landscape, particularly Dyer, for rapid movement but could not find Hakan. I saw what appeared to be a person on top of Sheridan and snapped a few photos, assuming Tim had reached his goal.

John and company headed north toward Gemini, and I prepared head back down. My decision to settle for only one summit on this perfect day and perhaps my last chance to summit anything for a while initially was depressing, but later my attitude would take a dramatic turnabout. As I geared up for the descent, friend Mark and his friend Steve reached the summit. Another round of photos and surrounding peak identification was followed by them heading north in quest of Gemini and me heading south, quite a bit later than planned, to meet Tim and Hakan back at the car.

Tim had given me a brief lesson in how to use the ice ax, so I took every opportunity in the next hour or so to practice. By the end of the steeper section, I had grown quite comfortable with this new piece of metal, and glissading is once again a very pleasant experience, even without the periodic respite it provides for my defective knee. By the time the trail began to level out, I realized I had finally, after two long years of yearning, earned my black check, and I was one happy camper! I could have danced down the rest of the trail. If my knee hadn't been so sore...

What a great way to start the year, what a beautiful day, what awesome camaraderie and unexpected support on what might have been the only mountain I could successfully summit right now. I love my ice ax, I'm growing attached to my new camera, and I'm now 100% content to spend the next six months, if necessary, catching up on quilting, writing and housework as I cheerfully and precisely obey my doctor's orders.

1 comment :

  1. I have enjoyed your story so much and would love to see more pictures from the trip. How is the knee?


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