Mt. Oklahoma - 13,845 feet
Dyer Mountain - 13,855 feet
Gemini Peak - 13,951 feet
Mt. Sherman - 14,043 feet
Mt. Oklahoma - 13,845 feet
Dyer Mountain - 13,855 feet
Gemini Peak - 13,951 feet
Mt. Sherman - 14,043 feet
|Oklahoma plus Dyer, Gemini, Sherman - Iowa Gulch Loopdy|
Day 3 for a Colorado mountain trip is usually my "sweet spot." Day 3 is the point where I finally start to feel strong in the mountains. And, this day 3 would prove to follow that trend. After doing six 13ers the last two days, I had a "plan A" and "plan B" for the third and final day. "Plan A" was to tackle the Ice Group. The Ice Group is a long day, and requires notable class 3 climbing. But, I had gotten a 4WD rental, and I could use that to get to the upper trailhead, shortening my hike greatly. "Plan B" was to hike Mt Oklahoma. Oklahoma was easy class 2, but also had a notable 4WD trailhead access. So, I could benefit from the 4WD rental on this also. Ultimately, it came down to the fact that it started raining in the evening before my hike. The weather forecast for the following day showed good weather, but rain the night before meant the rock could be wet in the morning, and I took it as a sign that I needed to go for the easier hike. So, I decided for "plan B."
I arrived at the trail head the night before, and, as I previously mentioned, it was raining when I arrived. I parked near the trail head parking lot, and ultimately hit the sack around 9 pm. I was going to finally get a full night sleep. The next day I woke up around 5 am, and got started on the trail around 5:30 am. The trail for Oklahoma initially follows the North Halfmoon Trail for the southwest side of Mount Massive. At about 2 miles in, the trail splits right for Mount Massive, and goes straight for Oklahoma. During the first 2 miles, I often questioned if I was supposed to turn off (to the left), of if I should continue on the obvious trail. Honestly, I should have dug out the route description. But, instead, I just kept looking at my GPS track to make sure that I was still on track. About a mile in, I ran into another member 14ers.com, JeffR. Jeff was planning on climbing Deer Mountain direct. I was considering Deer Mountain also, from the ridge to Oklahoma, But the weather would need to be nice for me to attempt that class 4 route. Jeff and I exchanged good words, and Jeff let me know that I should definitely continue on the clear trail for a while. Then, speedy Jeff took off ahead of me. I would find out later that Jeff was successful on Deer Mtn. I continued up the trail, through the 2 mile intersection. Note that there is signage at this 2 mile point.
After the 2 mile point, the trail continues to stay clear for maybe another half mile or so. Eventually, the trail just kinds of disappears. I highly recommend following a GPS track for this route, since the remainder of the route is off trail completely. Another option would be to clearly identify your direction of travel (via map and compass) and determine your route of travel that way. If wouldn't be too difficult, but some sort of planned navigation is necessary. For the next half mile or so, the crux will be two creek crossings, then you gain an easy grassy/wooded lower ridge. If you go left of the grassy ridge, you will go too far down into the valley. If you go right of the grassy ridge, you will start towards North Massive. Neither a big deal, just a waste of effort. Toward the top of the grassy/wooded ridge, you will finally clear treeline, and see the following image.
At this point, your target is just to the left of the rocky ridge. Your goal is to skirt the based of the rocky ridge (on the left), then gain that ridge to the right later. See the image below. You will be going straight towards the face, then ultimately turn right at an obvious scree up climb. The scree up climb is loose and crappy, but ultimately not very long, or hard.
Once you gain the rocky ridge, the remaining route to the top of Oklahoma is left (northwest) up the boulder field. At this point in my climb, the weather was starting to get nasty on me. Although the weather forecast had predicted 0%-5% precipitation, I guess the weather gods were mad at me, because it started to hail/snow on me going up the boulder field. The rocks got slippery, but overall, the remaining hike up the boulder field wasn't too bad. As I climbed the boulder field, I made the decisions that I would NOT be going for Deer Mountain today. Class 4 on slippery rock would not be fun. I also was happy with the fact that I had decided to go with "plan B." This climb up Oklahoma was actually pleasant, even with the hail/snow. I didn't even have to put on my rain jacket. It just wasn't really that cold, and I was able to keep moving. I was very glad to not be on tougher terrain.
I ultimately made the summit of Oklahoma in around 2 hours 50 minutes. I spent 5 minutes on the summit, then started back down. I was very excited to be heading down for what I thought would be my final hike for this trip. I would have stayed on top longer, but I needed to keep moving if I didn't want to add layers, or get cold.
During my descent, I slightly missed the down climb off the rocky ridge. I went a bit too far. I quickly figured out my mistake. I really only missed it by 30-40 feet. But, this is key, because the scree down climb is definitely the best option. The scree down climb was definitely steeper than I remember it being during the ascent. You definitely do not want to trip and fall during the descent down the scree. I made it back down to tree line, and just followed my instinct on the general direction of the route; checking my GPS track every once in a while. As I got down towards the first creek, I could hear the creek on my left. So, I decided that it would be smart to take a hard left and get to the edge of the creek. Once I found the creek, I could follow it until I found the easiest crossing point, instead of just crossing where ever I ran into the creek. The creek is beautiful, so I highly recommend doing this, if you get a chance. Initially, when I found the creek, the opposite bank was a sheer rock wall. So, I knew that I shouldn't cross yet. I followed the creek, and stopped several times to take video and pictures. At one point, I checked my GPS, then a few minutes later, I realized that I didn't have my GPS in pocket anymore. I searched for my GPS for about 10 minutes, and ultimately found it right at the edge of the creek. I guess a tree branch had grabbed the tether on my GPS and yanked it out my pocket. Luckily I had recently checked the GPS. So, at least I had a general idea where I had lost it (within a 50 foot stretch). I continued down the creek, and ultimately found a good crossing point with a double log bridge. I continued bushwhacking to the next creek. As I crossed the second creek, I wasn't very careful, and ended up with feet fully in the water. Oh well, it was time to give them an ice bath anyways.
Soon after the second creek crossing, I found the trail again. I followed the trail. Just past the 2 mile sign, I passed two more people on the trail. They were heading up Massive. At this point, the weather had cleared up, and it looked like it was going to be a beautiful day. So, even with a late start, these folks had a pretty good chance for a clear shot up Massive. I continued the last 2 miles, and ultimately made it back to the trail head in about 1 hours 50 minutes from the summit of Oklahoma. Total round trip was around 4 hours 50 minutes, 8 miles and approximately 3,400 feet of elevation.
DYER, GEMINI, SHERMAN
When I got back to the car, I really felt great. I was able to run much of the lower trail. It looked like the weather was actually going to hold, and I wanted to try and get something else in the afternoon. That is when I came up with "plan C." "Plan C" was to check out the Iowa Gulch trail head for the Sherman group, and maybe hike Dyer Mountain.
So, I drove towards Leadville, and to the Iowa Gulch trail head. At this point, climbing anything was only a concept. I was only partially serious. But, the drive to the trail head was easy 2WD, and I made it there quickly. The sky was sunny. It was noon at this point, and I felt that I could at least grab Dyer Mountain, and rush back down if the afternoon weather turned bad. Dyer Mtn alone is only about 3 miles round trip, and 1,700 feet of elevation. So, I went for it.
The climb up Dyer reminded me a lot of the hike up Buckskin. It starts out on an easy mining road, then turns left, and you hike up the grassy and rocky slopes. It also includes a wonderful view of power lines, like Buckskin. I made quick progress going up Dyer. My legs and body were actually feeling great. I rarely stopped to rest, and in most cases, only stopped to get a better view of the remaining route. During my short breaks, I also continued to look over my shoulders at Gemini Peak and Mount Sherman. In the back of my mind, I was seriously thinking about getting all three mountains today. I continued up the slopes, and ultimately made the summit of Dyer in right around an hour. One hour for 1,700 feet of elevation is a blistering pace for me. Of course, it was only 1.5 miles, and a pretty easy climb. But, I was definitely feeling the strength of "day 3."
I only spent a few minutes on Dyer Mtn. At this point, I had already decided that I was going for Gemini and Sherman. And, since it was now 1 pm in the afternoon, I didn't want to mess around. The skies was clear, with only a few nasty clouds, pretty far in the distance. I quickly hiked down towards the saddle between Dyer and Gemini. Gemini Peak actually consists of two summits. The summit to the north east is actually the highest point of the two. But, the summit to the south west is the one that is most directly connected to the Dyer saddle. So, I summited the shorter summit first. I was able to get from Dyer to Gemini-SW in just under 40 minutes. I only tagged the summit, then started running for the true summit. The climb up to the true summit of Gemini is rocky, loose and nasty. From a distance, it is hard to believe that those rocks stay on the pile. But, as you climb, it is not crazy difficult. It certainly stays in the class 2 difficulty. I made the true summit in about 6 minutes from the smaller summit. I stayed on Gemini for about 5 minutes. I had not stopped to take in any water, or calories at this point. So, I really needed to refuel.
After my short break, I started towards Sherman. Again, I ran much of the route to Sherman. As I viewed the summit of Sherman, I only saw a few people on the summit, this late in the afternoon. I did not want to be the guy that summited late, and got slammed by an afternoon storm. So, I ran. At this point, I was pretty much committed. Returning by Dyer, or going across Sherman would take me pretty much the same amount of time. So, Sherman, it would be. It took me just over 20 minutes to get to the summit of Sherman. I took another 5 minute break to grab another quick drink and take some pictures. I think that I passed a total of 6 people on the summit ridge of Sherman. That was more people than I had seen on 3 days of hiking 13ers. I ended up passing maybe another 8-10 people during the descent. At this point I was pretty much home free. My plan was to descend the Iowa Gulch route from Sherman. I had been able to view this route from Dyer, and it looked pretty clear, and easy. I confirmed with a few people on the summit that I was correct on my descent route knowledge. The route down from Sherman follows the ridge, towards Mt. Sheridan. The Fourmile (standard route) goes left off the saddle and the Iowa Gulch trail goes right (west-NW) from the saddle. I went right. I made good time during the descent. I was actually able to run much of the trail. There were some loose spots, but by scree skiing, I was able to keep a solid pace. At the bottom, there are some willows and a few creek crossings that I had to navigate. But, it was pretty easy to follow trail, and keep feet dry. I ultimately made it down from Mount Sherman in just under and hour from the summit.
Total round trip for the three summits was just over 3 hours 20 minutes, about 6 miles, and around 2,650 feet of elevation. This hike was definitely a great quicky afternoon hike, especially if you are already in the Leadville area. I was surprised how easy it was to get to the trail head. I had always assumed that the Iowa Gulch trail head was a 4WD trail head.
Overall, a pretty good 3 day trip: 4+ new centennials (Hope, Grizzly, Oklahoma, Dyer, plus one unranked, Gemini), a repeat 14er (Sherman), two bicentennials (Quail and Garfield), and two bonus 13ers (PT 13,500 and Twining). Ten total summits. For future trips, I have to figure out how to get that day 3 energy on day 1. Maybe a "good night sleep" was the trick?"
My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):
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