Sunday, August 14, 2011

Of Mice and Man II - Belford Group

Belford Group
Mt Belford 14,197'
Mt Oxford 14,153'
Missouri Mountain 14,067'

August 8th & 9th


Having successfully summited Huron Peak in the morning, Doug H and I headed to Missouri Gulch trailhead to meet Jon C to attempt the Belford Group over the next  two days.  We took advantage of the wait for Jon in Missouri's parking lot to rearrange and repack our gear.  It's hard to keep the backpack light when you are packing for not only a back packing trip but also for attempting to summit 14ers.  We each ended up bringing an additional small day pack along as well, for the 14ers.  By the time Jon arrived and we were all packed up and ready to head out, each of us was cringing under the weight of our packs.  Wish my pack would have been a little heavier, as I was to later learn, I forgot to put in my water bladder when I was rearranging my gear. 

Coming back to the cars 2 days later, I  realized how steep the approach trail actually was.  At the time we went up the approach trail, it did not seem as steep as it did coming down later.  All I remember of the first part of the approach trail was the heels of Jon's boots.  I guess that should have been my first clue of how steep the trail was.  It took us just over two hours to climb the 2 miles to the basin below the peaks. 

By the time we hit the basin I was beat.  I was willing to take the first descent camp spot that we came to.  Jon found us a great spot about 100 yards or so towards Missouri Mountain from where the trail splits to the 3 peaks.  Dropping my pack I pulled out the ridge rest, and took a rest for a half hour while Jon and Doug set up their tents.  Feeling a little rested I managed to set up my tent and cooked dinner before turning in early.  Our plan was to head out for Mt Belford and Mt Oxford by 6:30 a.m. on Monday.

I slept well until about 3 a.m. when I woke up freezing.  It felt as if the temperature had suddenly dropped 20 degrees.  I spent the next 3 hours tossing and turning in my sleeping bag trying to stay warm, while attempting to catch some more sleep.  A 6a.m. alarm had us headed up the to Mt Belford by 6:45 a.m.

The trail to Belford's summit climbs about 2,300 feet  from the basin to summit.  Most of the trail is one switch back after another.  Picture the laces on a pair of ladies knee-high boots and you have a good idea of the trail up Belford.  There was only one way to make the summit: one step after another.  It was that thought that kept me going to the top, which we reached at 9:11 a.m.  With another summit to reach, we only spent 15 minutes on top before we dropped off the summit and headed for the ridge leading to Mt Oxford.

To reach Mt Oxford one must first drop down a ridge and lose 400 - 500 feet of elevation.  The trail is steep and lose in places, making for slow going to reach the bottom of the saddle/ridge.  The trail then climbed gentler as it rose to Oxford's summit.  The total distance from the Belford Ridge to Oxford's summit was a mile and a half.  Once on the summit we were joined by a father/daughter pair with their black lab from Colorado Springs.  Pikas chirped at us from between the rocks on the summit, as they tried to avoid the lab.  The lab also flushed up a pair of ptarmigan, which I know we would not off seen as they blended in to the environment perfectly.

I broke the climb back up to Belford's ridge mentally into 3 sections. This seemed to help, as I was surprised at how quickly I reached the top of each section.  Once to the ridge we decided to head back down to camp via a different route, because we didn't want to head back down the switchbacks, which we were feared were going to be lose.

From the ridge below Belford we spotted a trail that lead down to Elkhead Pass and looked like it would easily take us back to camp, on a gently sloping trail.  While this route was a little longer, I think it was much easier on our bodies.  The only problem with this route is that we would have to retrace part of it in the morning as we headed up to Missouri Mountain's summit.  The wildflowers along this stretch of trail we explosive.  Everywhere you looked reds, blues, whites and yellows were popping out.

We arrived back to camp by 1:20 p.m. and spent the rest of the day resting and recovering for the next day's summit attempt..  I am not sure if I would have been able to make both summits if we had started from the trailhead, as I was pretty beat by the time we arrived back at camp.  I imagine that these 2 summits surprise a good number of people.  Neither summit is harder than class II, and only 11 miles roundtrip, but you gain almost 6,300 feet of elevation between both summits.  Roach says all one needs for these summits is "little more than a sturdy pair of legs".  I think that this underplays the strenuous nature of these two climb combined, and anyone planning to do these both from the trailhead needs to understand what is in-store for them, before heading out.

Wanting to make the retracing of the trail up towards Elkhead Pass a little easier we decided to take off before sun-up and were on the trail by 5:15 a.m..  Even in the dark I could see the ridgeline of  to the first basin looming above us.  I tried to keep my eyes off it, as I did not want to mentally beat myself up.  The trail climbed steadily out of the lower basin, pushing into 3 higher basins before the cut-off for Missouri Mountain.  Having studied the route up the front side of Missouri Mountain yesterday on the way up to Belford I was nervous.  The trail leading up to the northwest ridge looked nearly vertical.  In the back of my mind was the thought that a father and daughter lost their lives on this mountain earlier this year.  Climbing these peaks is fun and a challenge, but not a challenge worth my life.

Coming down from Elkhead Pass yesterday I started to feel a little better about the route.  From up close the east face did not look vertical, and the trail looked very straight forward. Now as we headed up the Missouri Mountain trail from where it splits off from the Elkhead Pass trail, my confidence began to grow.  The first 1/3 of a mile winds its way up a grassy slope before entering into a boulder field and working its way up the east face..  With each step I was feeling more at ease and my confidence quickly built.  The east face only had 2 or 3 small sections that gave me pause due to loose scree.  Working steadily upwards we topped out on the ridge in just under an hour.  I was hoping that once we obtained the ridge most of the work and danger would be over.  I was mistaken!

Looking up from where we encountered the ridge, I could see that we still had several hundred feet of elevation to gain.  Worse than the elevation, was that the trail looked loose, with steep sides falling off to the west.  My hiking poles came in handy; giving extra support in a few steep, loose scree sections.  We took this section deliberately and had no problems.  It was actually quite fun walking along the spine of the ridge, with steep drop offs of either side.

Middlebrook (of claims that the crux of the ridge is a small section of class III climbing (8 vertical feet or so) 100 yards or so below the summit.  I will, respectfully, disagree with him.  My crux came 30 yards before this climb.  We once again topped out on the ridge, only to find a short (15 feet) down climb leading to a loose looking section of scree.  As soon as I saw this section I almost turned around right there.  If it would not have been for Doug's confidence, and the fact that he went first, I would have given up the summit.  Doug carefully worked his way down the rock and stopped below to spot Jon and I.  The down climb once again proved not to be too difficult, as the rock was solid.  Once down the we quickly overcame Middlebrook's crux and found one last section of lose, steeply climbing trail above us.  I took a quick breather as I did not want to have to stop on this last section.  With head down I charged up this final section, until I found myself on the top of the ridge and on solid ground again, only 15 yards below the summit. 

The geomarker on the summit was once of the easiest ones I have had yet to look for.  We were shortly joined by 2 younger ladies who had made quick work of the ridge.  They left the summit just before us, and it was amazing watch them move effortlessly over the terrain that had given me such a start.  I lead the way off of the ridge and pushed my pace as fast as could.  I felt more confident in the lead, and moved downwards with hardly a rest.  I finally was able to relax once I got back to the bottom of the saddle.  It was a true relief to be off the ridge and onto relatively stable ground.  Just above reaching the saddle again we ran into the dad/daughter/dog trio from yesterday.

Despite the fact (or maybe because of it) that this route really pushed my comfort leve,l this summit turned out to be my favorite summit of all the 14ers that I have done so far in this project.  The hike back to camp for the saddle was uneventful.  I was surprised, however, by the number of people coming up on a Tuesday.  We must have past 20 plus people.

Once back to camp we took about an hour to break down camp and prepare for the hike back to the trailhead.  We made the 2 miles back to the vehicles in just over an hour.  The entire time going down I was surprised at how steep the trail had been on the way up.  Only 2 days later and I had already forgotten the effort it took to make it up in the first place.  One thought kept running threw my head on the way down: cheeseburgers (no not corn dogs!).

We quickly dropped our gear into the vehicles and headed into Leadville for those cheeseburgers that I had been dreaming about.  They turned out to be much better than the corn dogs on the way in.

Four 14ers in 3 days.  Not too bad at all!  This was the hardest I have pushed myself on any of the 14ers so far.  This trip showed me that I can push myself for several days in a row. Which will be important for many of my future outings.  However, this trip also made me question if I am going to be able to complete Project 54/54.

Missouri's upper ridge was not all that hard compared to some of the peaks yet to come.  I will need to build my confidence and skills before I tackle some of the harder peaks.  Fifth class, roped climbing (not that I will have to do any of it on the remaining peaks) should not be a problem as I have climbed up to 5.11c in my younger years.  It is the class III and IV un-roped scrambles that have me worried.  One step at a time is the only way to make it happen.

~ Post Script ~  It only took me 4 days of being home before I started thinking about trying to get one or two more in before the end of the season.  This is a good sign I guess!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Of Mice and Men

Huron Peak
August 7th, 2011


To paraphrase, as many have, the poet/farmer Robert Baum the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”  Since last fall I had been developing a plan to make a truly memorable 14er outing to Chicago Basin.  I even managed to rope in Doug H and Jon C into my plan.  Everything was lining up nicely over the last month.  I had talked my wife into letting me take off for 5 days. Doug and Jon were still on board.  We began planning equipment, discussing meals.  We called to get hotel reservations for the first night in Durango and even got our train tickets.  So you can imagine my surprise when I got onto the Wednesday night before we were planning on leaving (Saturday morning) only to see that there had been a major rock and mud slide over the railroad tracks that were to take us into the Chicago Basin area. 

Over the next 2 days I got various responses when I called the Durango Silverton train office as to when the train would be running again.  With the prospect of a possible 8 hour plus car ride for nothing we decided to postpone the trip for this summer.  This left me with 5 open days and no plans.  So I scrambled.  I dove into Roach's Colorado's Fourteeners to find a replacement.  What I came up with was a trip back into the Sawatch Range, to tackle four 14ers in 3 days: Huron Peak and the Belford Group (Mount Belford, Mount Oxford and Missouri Mountain).  Doug was still planning on joining me for all 4, and Jon would join us a day later to take on the Belford Group.

The adventure began on the way into Huron Peak as we got detoured in Leadville due to the Boom Days celebration, and decided to stop and get some food.  Warning!  Do not eat foot long deep battered, deep fried corndogs from a street vender.  Not a good idea!  Not a good idea at all!  It became the running joke of the entire trip between Doug and I.

Our only real concern about the trip was if we would be able to drive all the way up to the trailhead on the 4WD road or if we would have to hike in the 3 miles.    Arriving at the start off the 4WD road we followed another pick-up truck in, (I was driving my 2005 Tundra) and had no problems with the road.  You do need some clearance to make the road, but nothing extreme.  We set up camp 30 yards from the trailhead on a flat spot over-looking a small pond.

I immediately set off with fly rod in hand to check out the stream 100 yards to the west.  Every other 14er I did this year had a great trout stream on the way to them, so I decided not to possibly miss out on another and packed the rod this time.  I managed to bring 9 small Brookies to hand and lost at least that many. Not a bad outing.

Due to the relatively short distance up and back to Huron Peak (4.3 miles), via the Northwest Slope, we slept in and did not hit the trail until 6:4 a.m.  We kept a pretty steady pace as the trail climbed steadily though the forest and passed several parties by the time we broke out of tree line.  The meadow above tree line gave our legs a brief respite from the uphill grind as we worked our way across it.  The wildflowers were out in full force.  I felt like I was in the Sound of Music ("the hills are alive with the sound of muuuuuuuuuuusic").  The trail climbed steeply out of the north-east corner of the meadow for a short distance to reach the northwest slope proper. 

The trail was well laid out and never too steep as it climbed the slope.  The switchbacks were not right on top of one another, alleviating the tedious feeling they often bring on.  We were passed by 1 man and his dog as they made quick work of the slope.  Before we knew it we were atop the slope at the base of the 400-600 long class II section. (Side note/message to the person who relived themselves directly on the side of the table: No one wants to see your poop and T.P.  - First of all step of the trail a way to do your business.  Secondly learn and live some Leave No Trace ethics).

The class II scramble to the summit gave me a second wind and Doug and I both made quick work of this section, making the summit by 9:10 a..m. On top we found ourselves with 10 or so other people, with more coming up behind us.  As many people do we chatted with others and searched out nearby peaks that we had done or wanted to do.  As the summit started to get more crowed, be snapped our summit shots and started down after 20 minutes or so on top

The trip back to the trailhead was uneventful except for the large number of people that were still coming up.  There was not a cloud in the sky on this bluebird day, so the late comers were  not in danger of any afternoon thunderstorms.  Once back to the truck, we broke camp and headed back down the 4WD to meet up with Jon C at the Missouri Gulch trailhead.  A great start to the outing.  One down and three more to go.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

College Entrance Exam - Mt Yale

Mount Yale
July 26th, 2011


I never thought that I would be taking another college entrance exam again.  But this week found me trying to get into the University of Sawatch Range at the Collegiate Peak campus, so I had to  to take the entrance exam; Mt Yale.  A 3:30 a.m. wakeup alarm had Jon C and I to the trailhead and on our way by 4:06 a.m.  I am not sure that I was looking forward to the hike up to the summit.  For some reason I had it in my mind that this trail  would entail a long, upwards trudge.  Fortunately this turned out not to be the case.

The trail began climbing right off the bat.  While consistently uphill to tree line, there was never any long steep sections.  The trail was well laid out, so not to make it too strenuous, or maybe this was just my perception from hiking in the dark.  With not being able to see more than 20 feet ahead of you, it is hard to get a good view of how steep a section of trail actually is.  Trick the eyes, you trick the mind into believing it's not all that bad.

The creek crossing at mile 1 was not too bad.  The log bridge was wide enough to feel stable on, even with the logs slickened by spray from the creek (a series on notches hacked into the logs with a hatchet would greatly improve the footing).  Shortly after the creek crossing, we ran into another party that was worried that they had missed the Mt Yale turn-off.  We told them we had not seen it either, so we all hiked on together keeping our eyes wide open.  Not 30 yards later we came to the sign, clear as day.  Opps!

The hike up to tree line was longer than we thought it would be, and tree line was higher than I would have expected (~12,000').  Just after breaking out of the trees we had the first of a group of folks with Rocky Mountain Youth Corp pass us.  Their pack boards were loaded up with straw to help rehab part of the trail that had been rerouted around.  They are doing a great job, as I had to look hard on the way down (because I could not find it on the way up) to see where the new section branched off from the old section.  It is a seamless reroute.  Great job guys!

My first good look up at the saddle, below the class II ridge to the summit, had me suddenly feeling very sluggish.  My first thought was that the hike up to the saddle was going to be a real bear.  From a distance it looks very steep, but as a I got closer to the actual start of this section it actually did not look too bad. 

As I started up this section I kept my eyes open on the skyline to the southwest (behind me) as the sky was already filling with clouds.  They did not look like storm clouds, but I was still a little worried that they might cause some problems.  I would hate to have to retake this entrance exam after making it this far.  I was also watching the ridge of the saddle above me and could see clouds rapidly flowing over it.  As I climbed higher to the ridge Jon and I separated due to different paces.  By the time I made the saddle ridge the clouds we upon me and I had to make a decision to wait for Jon or push on into the rocks towards the false summit.  Looking around it seemed like the clouds would only be getting worse so I pushed on.  I worked my way up towards the false summit, only stopping for a quick breath or two.  I lost the main trail, and ended up working towards the summit from the back (north) side of the ride.  This turned out to be a good choice as the ridge was keeping most of the wind off me.

By the time I hit the summi,t at 8:30a.m., visibility was down to 20 -30 feet.  The views I hoped to get of the other 14ers in the area were not to be this day.  I was joined by another hiker on the summit and we both looked for the summit register and geo marker, to make sure we were actually on the true summit and not still on the false summit.  We took the ridge as far to the east as we thought was safe to verify that we were on the actual summit.  He said that this was his 35th summit.  What a nice number.  Only number 12 for me today.  We snapped a couple summit shots of each other before he headed down.

I settled in to get some quick video footage, and was joined by Jon.  He said he got a second wind as soon as he hit the class II section.   I was glad to see that he made it up.  I would have hated to see him not make the summit.  We took a couple of quick summit shots together, before heading down.  We moved as quickly as we safely could in the clouds and slick rocks and headed down the opposite side (correct side) that I had come up.  Once we got back down to the saddle I relaxed a little, but still worked at moving back down to tree line as quickly as possible.  We passed about 20 people still working their way towards the summit.  If I had been in their position (location) I am not sure that I would have continued onwards to the summit.

After 6 hours without much of any real breaks, we finally sat down and relaxed once we were back into the trees.  By this time I was feeling tired and my knees were  aching.  We relaxed under a break in the clouds, and wished those still above us safe climbing.  As one guys that we met on our way down said, "I hope you don't read about me ,tomorrow." Well I guess you made it up and down safely my friend.  The remainder of the hike back to the trailhead was uneventful.

With the light of day we got a better perspective of the steepness of the trail.  Not overwhelmingly steep, but a constant gain in elevation.  We arrived back at the trail head at 12:05 p.m.  Eight hours round trip, not to bad I guess.

Today was the best I felt on a 14er all season long.  I never felt like I had to stop before I collapsed.  I do not know if this was due to the trail, conditioning, divine intervention, bur whatever it was I'll take it.  While hiking today I decided that my goal for next year would be to try to finish all of the Collegiate Peaks, and as many other of the Sawatch Peak as I can.   This was a nice warm up for our trip to the Chicago Basin next week.  Looking forward to this trip and the challenges that will come with it.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Mt Elbert

Mt Elbert
July 7th, 2011

If I ever write a book about my 14er adventures I am going to title it "There aint no such thing as an easy 14er."  Even though Mt Elbert is the highest point in Colorado and the second highest in the continental U.S., it is touted as being a relatively easy 14er.  With about 4,400 feet of elevation gain in just over 4 miles I am not sure I totally agree with the easy part.  Sure the trail is well maintained and marked and hard to get lost on but it is ALL uphill.  I would guess that less than 1/3 mile of the trail is downhill or flat on the way up.  For 2 days afterwards I felt all that uphill in my legs.  It felt like I had spent four hours on a stair climber.

The alarm went off at 3:30 a.m. as I wanted to be up and down before the afternoon storms.  Left the trail head (10,020') at 4:20 a.m.  I would have gotten an earlier start but I had dreams during the night that I was in grizzly country, (I just got back from Yellowstone National Park a few days ago) and did not want to hike in the dark with grizzlies around.  Once I got my head around the fact that I was out of grizzly country, I hit the trail after a quick breakfast of Powerbar and banana.

The first part of the trail, up to the actual creek crossing had a small creek running through it.  Not so much water that I couldn't avoid it.  Fortunately once I got to the actual creek crossing there was a log bridge 10 feet upstream of the crossing, as there would have been no way to cross the creek without getting soaked.  After the crossing on the bridge the trail began to climb.

In my opinion hiking in the dark is great.  I always feel stronger at night.  Your vision is reduced to the small arc of light coming off your head.  With such a relatively short distance you cannot judge the actual steepness of a slope, so the mental game doesn't start and the body stays strong.

There is a small downhill section before the Mt Elbert trail breaks off from the Colorado trail/Continental Divide trail.  Once on the Mt Elbert trail, it begins a continual climb up to the summit.  At points along the trail it widens enough to get drive a truck through.  Dawn broke about 35 minutes before I broke out of tree line.

Looming ahead of m, from treeline, was what looked liked the summit.  However, I knew it was only the first of several false summits along the way to the true summit.  The false summit starts with a gentle rise before kicking steeply upwards.  I passed a group of 10 -15 teenagers and their chaperones coming down from the summit.  They had left at 1 a.m. and made the summit in time for sun-up.  It must have been a sight to behold.  Shortly after passing this group I managed to lose the main trail and headed directly towards the top on the first false summit.  I figured I was a little off route when the class I hike turned into a class II scramble.  Nothing too difficult, but definitely not the relatively flat, rock free trail I had been on so far.  Once I made the top of the first false my relief was quickly crushed as I saw false summit number to.  It looked as large and steep as the first one.   If you had not read the trail description beforehand this second false summit might kill you, it nearly mentally killed me.  The second false summit ended up not being as steep as the first and I made decent work of it. 

Once on top I saw two hikers about 50 yards to the south along a slim ridge taking pictures of each other, so I figured it had to be the summit. Just as I approached the summit, the 2 other hikers were leaving and I had the summit to myself.  Took a couple of summit shots, then got a bright idea.

I knew I could not be the highest person in the continental U.S, as Mt Whitney in California rises to 14,505, but I figured there was already a mass of people on its summit.  However, I had the second highest summit to myself, so I figured why not be the highest naked person in the continental U.S..  After a quick glance around to make sure I was still alone I dropped all clothes except for shoes and my hat and took a true victory summit photo.

From the summit, 2 other hikers pointed out La Plata peak to the south.  Mount Massive was clearly visible next door to the north.  After a quick 20 minutes of top I began to head down.  Just after leaving the summit I ran into a mother and baby marmot.  This was the first time I have seen I young marmot.  A little farther down the trial I almost stepped on another brave and bold marmot who did not move until I was almost on it.

 I started running into the rest of the days hiker as I started down the false summits.  I am always amazed at how unprepared some people come into the wilds.  Jeans- check.  16 oz water bottle- check.  Let's hike.  God must love stupid people because he seems to look out for them in the wild.  Just below the base of the first false summit I came across 2 packs left alone on the side of the trail.  I really wanted to leave a note that said "Thanks for the lunch!  All my love, Bob the Marmot".  At the time it seemed really funny.  Guess it had been a long day so far.  Passed the last hikers on their way up about 10:15 or so.  Gym bag backpacks on their backs, and not much more.  Hope they were right with God.

 The hike down was uneventful.  I did get to see the scenery that I missed on the way up due to darkness.  Mostly a conifer forest below tree-line.  Not much in the way of Aspens.  Made it back to the trailhead in just under 3 hours; taking an hour off of my ascent time.(left trail head 4:20 a.m., summit 8:20. stared down 8:40, back at trail head 11:36).

 Success on my first solo 14er.  I am not sure what my future for solos will be.  I liked moving at my own pace and not holding anyone up.  But at the same time I do not have anyone setting the pace besides myself.  Karen doesn't like me to solo, just in case something goes wrong.  Plus I miss the companionship and sharing the success with someone else.  Hopefully the future solos will be minimized.

Time to start planning for the next peak.  Until then,

 All my love,

Bob the Marmot

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Mount Sherman

Mount Sherman
May 30, 2011

The 2011 14er season is now open for me.  With Colorado's state wide snow pack still well over 100% I was eager to try and get my first snow climb of a 14er in.  I easily talked Doug H. into trying Mount Sherman with me.  This was the first 14er that we had ever climbed together, back in September of 2006.  This time we decided that we would take a different route, mainly to avoid the cornices that towered above and along the standard route.  We decided that we would ascend the south slopes of Sherman.  This is rated as class II  due, mainly to the scree covering this route.  However, with all the snow there would be no scree, just snow.

A 2:15 a.m. wake-up  had me at Doug's house and on the road by 3 a.m.  The early wake up was rough, but we really wanted to be on the route early as the weatherman was calling for a warm day and we wanted to minimize the effects of melting snow.  Besides I like being on routes early, if not to be the first person of the day on the route.  If I want to hike with dozens of my closest strangers I'll head in to Rocky Mountain National Park.  Three hours later we were at the Leavick Mine site.  We might have been able to make it another 200 yards or so on the road, but the snow bank just past the mine looked like might give us problems once it warmed up later in the day, so we deiced the mine was far enough.

A forty to fifty minute hike along the snow packed road had us at the start of our route.  On the hike in we had to keep our eyes open for old post holes that had been covered over in a layer of snow.  One misstep into one of these holes and our day could be over, before it even really began.  Once to the start of the route, we put on snowshoes to help us move over the terrain more easily. 

We left the road about 400 yard before the gates of the Dauntless Mine, and headed north over a series of small rolling rises.  We aimed towards the west side of the saddle between Sherman and White Ridge.  The route looked pretty straight forward and we felt reassured as we followed two  pairs of tracks towards Sherman's summit.  On the lower flats and rises I was feeling pretty good. Once we got to the base of the headwall below Sherman's summit I began to tire. I felt that my tiredness was due more to the terrain rather than the elevation. I had not been eating on my way up as I usually do, so this probably also contributed to my tiredness. 

The route described in the book was actually to the east of where we were, but the tracks we were following went straight up the headwall.  From a distance the headwall did not look to steep so we continued to follow the tracks.  (Famous last thoughts.)  As the route steepened, I found myself counting off steps to keep me going.  30 steps... rest... 40 steps... rest... 30 steps... rest.  About a third of the way up the headwall Doug was 40 yards or so ahead of me and 15 yards to the east, when he stopped to trade out his hiking poles for his ice axe.  Gaining a rock band below Doug's position I also traded poles for an ice axe that Doug had lent me.  At this point I think I should mention that I -have NEVER used an ice axe before.  I've read a good amount about their use, but had no actual practical application/use of one. 

By the time I was ready for my lesson on ice axe use from Doug he was already 20 yards away, and with the wind blowing I could not of heard him even if he was shouting at me.  So I watched and tried to mimic what he was doing.  Plunge the ice axe deep into the snow above you.  Move one foot up.  Move the other foot up.  Repeat.  It looked easy enough.  It probably would have even been fun if we would of had crampons instead of snowshoes. 
(Purple route = actual route.  Blue route = our route)

We needed the cleats on the snowshoes to give us purchase on the steep slope, but they were so bulky that moving them up easily and efficiently was very difficult.  I slowly made my way up the face.  Often resting after each plant, step, step.  I must confess that I was uncomfortable on the steep slope.  Eventually I hit the point of no return, where I knew there was no way I was going to make it down the way I came up, so I kept going upwards.  Whenever I got really nervous, I used the adze side of the axe to cut steps in the slope to give my snowshoes a better platform to step onto.  I finally made it up to Doug who was resting above the headwall, on the gentler slope leading up Sherman's summit.  My first words to Doug were "I should have mentioned that I have never used an ice axe before?"  He said I did well.

At this point we were only an easy 100 - 150 yards below Sherman's summit ridge, which we quickly made it up to.  Once on top of the ridge the wind greatly picked up.  The pleasant temperatures that we had been experiences all day, quickly disappeared.  An ungloved hand quickly went numb.  We followed the ridge 100 yards or so to the north to Sherman's true summit.  To the west of the ridge was a significant drop off, while the eastern side was a gentle slope leading to the saddle between Sherman and White Ridge. From the summit we easily saw the route we should have taken on our way up.  We decided that would be the better way to descend.  After a couple of quick summit photos we dropped of the east side of the ridge.  Immediately off the ridge the wind died down and the temperature quickly rose.

With gentle downward slope Doug decided it was time I learned to glissade and gave me a quick lesson on how to use the ice axe as a break.  He also showed me how to self arrest if I got going too fast (it was just like I had read about, by the way).  With the quick lesson Doug dropped to his butt and headed downhill.  I tried glissading but I did not feel I could control my speed very well, so quickly gave it up, and plodded downhill on my snowshoes.  I don't think I was leveraging the ice axe correctly to get the control I needed.  I did try it several more times as we descended on gentler slopes, and gained confidence.  With more practice I think I can get the hang of it.

The lower we descended the higher the temperature rose, as the sun reflected off the snow on all sides of us.  By the time we reached the road again, we had taken off the snowshoes as well as all but our base layers.  The road walk back to the vehicle was a little trickier as the heat of the day had softened up the snow to a point where post holing was a major concern.  Once you plunged a leg into a hole your body's momentum kept you moving forward.  I would of hated to make it up and down the peak only to get a tib-fib break from posting holing. 

Round trip the hike took us just over 6 hours.  Not too bad for my first 14er of the year.  Not sure when I will be able to get my next one in, with the high snowpack.