What else was I suppose to do on a paid local holiday off of work? Climb mountains, naturally!
Since I’ve spent 2022 getting into true hiking shape, I wanted to tick off some Colorado 14ers (mountains above 14,000 feet/4267 meters) this summer. Unfortunately most 14ers take quite the driving commitment for me from Cheyenne, and due to monsoon season, require an alpine start to safely avoid storms in the late morning/afternoon hours – definitely not something I can pop by and do without planning. Needless to say, I feel like my 14er hike plans weren’t going as great as I wanted for 2022… enter a mid-week day off to at least get one more checked off the list!
I left soon after work on July 26th, mentally preparing myself for the 3 hour 45 minute drive in Front Range traffic. After navigating through Denver during rush hour (arghhhhh), I found myself on quiet roads heading towards Fairplay. I wanted to tackle County Road 18 with some daylight as I heard it could get a bit rough and tricky. I turned onto the road just before sunset, and was treated to a beautiful evening complete with moose and pretty colors in the sky as I headed towards the Fourmile Creek Trailhead, which sits at 12,000 feet (which is a helluva elevation to sleep at when you normally sleep at 6050 feet).
The next day’s objective was visiting the summits of three mountains – Mount Sherman (14,043 feet), Gemini Peak (13,951 feet), and Mount Sheridan (13,748 feet). Most people coming to the area just do Mount Sherman, but I decided I wanted my money worth! Mount Sherman is touted as one of the “easiest” 14ers, and while no 14,000+ foot mountain is necessarily easy- to hike, I would agree that out of the supposed easiest ones, Sherman does take the cake with a trailhead at 12,000 feet, short distance, and pretty tame trail. And as stated, it is possible to add some surrounding 13,000 foot peaks to lengthen the hike.
A 5am alarm awoke me from my quite peaceful slumber, though the altitude headache was a bit crushing as I stirred awake. I tapped on my friend Tom’s car window at 5:10am and we took to getting ready for the day. Tom is new to hiking (thanks to the influence of cycling friends, ha!), and this would be his first 14er. After water was boiled for some instant coffee, we took our coffee to go and set out just around 5:30am. Almost immediately we were treated to a moose running through the willows! Our early start also meant we were able to enjoy the sunrise and alpenglow on Mount Sheridan as we plodded along, with me out of breath, trying to chug my coffee.
Upon reaching the saddle of Sheridan and Sherman we paused for a few minutes for photos of the cloud inversion over Leadville to the north, and then decided to head towards Sherman, saving Sheridan as the last peak of the day.
Things get a bit steeper as you head up Sherman, but I never felt like it was impossibly horrible like some mountains. I enjoyed the class 2 ridgeline, where Tom and I discussed how he had the healthy butterflies with the exposure, whereas I got “wait, is this suppose to be scary?!” feeling.
We reached the summit of Mount Sherman about two hours after leaving the car, which we didn’t think was too shabby considering we stopped for breaks to remove layers, stash coffee cups, and to photograph the inversion. We were the third and fourth people to the top, and got to enjoy the summit all to ourselves (probably the last people to do so for the day). 14ers #13 for me, and I also completed the Mosquito Range 14ers, woohoo! (I previously completed the Ten Mile Range 14ers… but there’s only one 14er in the range sooooooo….)
We grabbed quick photos, I did my summit cartwheel, and we headed off down the east side of Sherman for the cross country trek over to Gemini Peak.
Gemini Peak is a twin summit bump that is not a ranked peak since it does not have 300′ feet or more of prominence from the saddle with Sherman, but is still nonetheless something tall to stand on. And honestly, the walk over is easy and was beautiful with fields of lush green wildflowers and succulents – and we were treated to a couple of foxes running around! The hills were definitely alive with the sound of music!
Tom and I picked the tallest of the two bumps of Gemini for the summit, and enjoyed a nice class 3-ish scramble on loose boulders to gain the summit, where there was a wind shelter and beautiful 360-degree views. (Tom and I took separate lines so we were never below each other since the rocks are loose enough to be knocked free. Normally I’d helmet up for something like this, but it was just us so I felt pretty okay and safe.) Here we enjoyed some “Pocket Meat” thanks to Obee’s, and I had my obligatory summit Red Bull. It only took us about 45 minutes to reach Gemini from Sherman, with our stops and casual pace.
Now it was time to downclimb Gemini, and regain Sherman (not as bad as it initially looked). On the top of Sherman we met the crowds that had gathered, with some bewildered looks from people wondering where we had appeared from. The joys of 13ers… all the beauty, none of the crowds, even when right next to a 14ers!
Now the crux of the day came, with the slog up Mount Sheridan. There is a trail, but not really a maintained trail, and plenty of loose scree to contend with. Sheridan surprised me by looking “not that bad,” but by actually being “that bad.” Felt like it took forever! (In fact, it did take about two hours exactly to go from the summit of Gemini to the summit of Sheridan.) But just like most summits in the Rocky Mountains, it all seemed worth it once we got to the top!
We tagged the true summit, and then headed a few hundred feet over to the wind shelter for some more snacks to fuel to descent back to the car, and to sign the summit register. We had a good chuckle at the conga line going up Sherman and the crowds as we sat alone on Sheridan.
In the summer when the snowfield is absent, it is possible to take a more direct route off of Sheridan to rejoin the main trail by the Dauntless Mine, and this is what Tom and I decided to do to save time from going back to the saddle and down. I’m not sure how I felt about this shortcut in the end, as it was all loose and terrible scree. But it did save time, and we had plenty of giggles about the silliness of it all.
Overall, we took 6 hours, 31 minutes from car to car. Tom and I were definitely at a casual pace most of the day, and enjoyed stopping for photos and enjoying the summits, so not a speed record by any means.
Date Hiked: July 27, 2022
Trailhead: Fourmile Creek
Total Mileage: 7.58 miles (Garmin Vivoactive 4s/Strava)
Total Elevation Gain: 3,127 feet
Total Time Spent: 6 hours 31 minutes
Weather: Clear to partly cloudy, sunny, and warm
Trail Conditions: Dry!
Cell Service: Spotty 3G coverage at trailhead, and coverage on the peaks (Verizon)
Special Considerations: There are a few USFS campgrounds on the drive in, but otherwise the road goes through private property. The road to the trailhead is a dirt road that can get rocky and bumpy in places. My Subaru Forester made it okay, but lower clearance sedans might not. There are pullouts below the worst rocky part to park.