Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Mt Dyer and Mt Sherman

Thanks to N for the majority of these pictures, because my camera batteries died before we made it up the first mountain.

Late on Friday night, we drove up past Leadville to a place called Iowa Gulch, going past the remains of a lot of dead mines. Downstream from this area is a classic Superfund-looking site with very unnaturally red water. We stopped about 1.5 miles from the end of the road due to snow blocking it and slept in the car, getting up at 5:45 to start our hike. This was the view with the sunrise:

And walking up the road.

Mt Sherman is the large, flat-looking mountain in centre of the picture. Mt Sherman (14,036 ft) has an enormous, broad summit (though in my opinion it isn't as flat as nearby other-14er-I-have-climbed Mt Bross) and in the 1960s a plane had an emergency landing on the summit in a snowstorm. 

As we started our hike, a snowsquall blew towards us across the valley below from the Sawatch Range (which you can see below). 

Eventually we came to the end of the road and turned towards Mt Dyer (13,855 ft). We had to climb up some steep, snow-covered slopes, which you can see to the left in this picture.

Once we were up the steep snowfields, we neared the summit, which was marked by unstable rocky outcrops and more snow. After stepping on one shaky outcrop, I elected to proceed up the snow. 

The views to the west of the Sawatch Range -- and Mt Elbert and Mt Massive -- were gorgeous. Unfortunately the views to the East, which would have shown Mt Evans and Pikes Peak, were mostly obscured by smoke from the wildfires burning in Arizona, New Mexico, and southern Colorado. At points we could taste the smoke and ash in the air.

Here is N on the summit of Mt Dyer, enjoying a PB&J.

And another view from the summit, towards Mosquito Pass, which is a 4 wheel drive road to the north. It seems unlikely that the road will open this year given the enormous snowpack.

Here I am on the summit of Dyer. It was cold!

From there we hiked along a ridge and up to Mt Sherman. There are no pictures from this portion of the hike, sadly. The ridge had one side with, at places, a sharp drop off and was covered in snow. I stopped to take a pee break and so was far behind N, trying to step in his footprints, but found that I weigh more than he does because where he floated over the snow I post holed -- i.e., sank into the snow. Crossing the ridge was tough and then I had to head up a boulder field with very little in the way of a marked trail. From there, gaining the summit of Sherman was an easy walk up some snow which I luckily did not sink into, despite following N's path again. On the summit of Sherman, I got to demonstrate how incredibly badass my new ice axe looks.

Then we headed down from Sherman to what I found to be one of the most frustrating/hardest parts of the hike. 

First, though, we got to do some glissading (sliding down the snow on our butts) and I learned to self-arrest with my ice axe. Which is super fun.

Then we had to cross several snowfields that were constant post holing minefields. By this point were nearing the end of our hike and I was hungry and also both of my gaiters had broken so there was water sloshing around in my boots. We crossed a stream and then had to go up a short but steep snow slope. Luckily after that we got onto the road and it was just a gentle downhill walk back to the car.

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