Wed, Jul 22, 2020
We'd spent the night camped outside Leadville, on Country Rd 2 somewhere east of town. In the morning we drove our vehicles 4mi to the westside TH for Mt. Sherman, a relatively easy 14er. Our route to Sherman isn't the quickest - there's an easier approach from the southeast in the Fourmile Creek drainage - but it's still pretty easy. We planned to fill out the day with a handful of bonus peaks surrounding Sherman. With a forecast of 80% chance of afternoon thunderstorms, Eric convinced us to get up an hour earlier than we'd done the last few days. We were awake before 4:30a and on the trail by 5:10a, just sufficiently light that we didn't need to use our headlamps.
From the parking area, an unsigned trail heads downhill to the south, crossing the breadth of Iowa Amphitheater and across talus fields on the southwest side of Mt. Sherman. The trail then turns southeast as it makes its way steeply up a gully leading to the saddle between Mts. Sheridan and Sherman. Sheridan has more than 500ft of prominence, can be found 1.5mi SW of Sherman, and would be our first stop. Though mostly overcast, the sun would make a few appearances on the day, including just at sunrise when it lit up the upper part of Sheridan's NE Face. Upon reaching the saddle, we took the right fork leading to Sheridan up its NE side. A decent, but not great trail continues through talus all the way to the summit, which we reached in 90min. It was cold and windy, sending us to our packs for more clothing while we ducked behind the rock windbreak built at the top - one of the few times I've not abhorred these structures for defacing the summits. We had the summit to ourselves, unlike neighboring Mt. Sherman where we could see a steady stream of climbers coming up from the SE route for the main event. As we were descending Sheridan, we spied a pair of climbers coming up to the peak from the south. We would see all sorts of folks around the area most of the day - this was a far busier 14er than the ones we'd visited in the past few days.
We spent just over an hour making our way along the trail system between Sheridan and Sherman, inserting ourselves in the steady stream of climbers heading up the 14er. At Sherman's summit we continued across the top to the north end before taking a short break away from the COVID-infested visitors milling about the highpoint. We celebrated another 14er with some Fireball whiskey, and after resting we continued north to Gemini Peak, about 2/3mi away. As the name suggests, there are two summits, and we visited the lower SW one before visiting the higher NE summit. The going is delightful class 1 along a grassy ridgeline for most of the way, with some fine, tiny flowers adding some color to the landscape. The two summits are mostly just heaps of talus, class 2 from pretty much any direction. Without much prominence, Gemini was the least interesting of the day's summits.
In continuing our arc around Iowa Amphitheater, our next stop was Dyer Mtn, a Colorado Centenial (Highest 100), about a mile to the northwest. Class 1-2 along the entire ridge, it would take about 50min to reach it. At the saddle between Gemini & Dyer, a modern high-voltage transmission line runs across the summit, an odd sight that reminds you this is not a Wilderness area. It was 10a when we reached Dyer's summit with several options at this point. We could continue west around Dyer Amphitheater, tagging West Dyer Mtn and East Ball Mtn before returning. The descent off Dyer's NW side was said to be loose and crappy, discouraging us, and besides, neither of those summits had 300ft of prominence. Instead, we looked north and decided the traverse to Mt. Evans (not the 14er by the same name, but a doppleganger), though somewhat long, seemed like a pleasant walk along the crest of the range. Eric decided to take it easier and head back to the car more directly. We had driven all our vehicles to the easily accessible trailhead this morning, so he could get his book and do some reading while Tom and I continued. Back he went to the Gemini/Dyer saddle as Tom and I headed north.
Most of the traverse along the crest was as easy as it had appeared. There was some minor class 2 scrambling midway along, but this section was not too long. We spent a bit over an hour covering the mile and half distance, arriving by 11:15a and finding a moderately-sized cairn at the highpoint. One could continue along the crest towards Mosquito Pass, but the next summit is another 2mi further north. Time to return. On our way back, we bypassed Dyer Mtn on the east side, crossing an upper basin and some snowfields before picking up a use trail through the remaining talus to the Gemini/Dyer saddle where the transmission lines were found. The use trail led over the saddle and into Iowa Amphitheater, but petered out as it made a steep descent through sand/talus section. This seemed to matter little since by then we had gotten onto easier slopes with grass and better footing. We descended to the abandoned Continental Chief Mine works and buildings in the upper part of the Amphitheater. We passed by was looked like a boarding house and some rusting machinery where we picked up the old mine road that would lead nicely down to where we parked. It would be around 1p when we reconnected with Eric at the trailhead.
We drove back into town for dinner, finding ourselves at High Mountain Pies for pizza. The afternoon thundershowers that had held off so nicely during our hike now unleashed their fury in the outdoor dining patio. Like a number of establishments that have increased outdoor seating during COVID times, the arrangements were somewhat rushed and not really weather-proofed, such that about half of the tables were drenched, driving patrons out quickly. Still, it was better than trying to make our own meal around some damp campsite in the mud and rain. Afterwards we drove out to Winfield to camp for the night, occupying the same spot Eric and I had used the previous year - a very fine campsite, we thought...
For more information see these SummitPost pages: Mt. Sheridan - Mt. Sherman - Gemini Peak - Dyer Mountain - Mt. Evans
This page last updated: Sun Aug 30 15:26:25 2020
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