Although I had finished off the last of 14 "ranked" peaks above 13800ft in the Tenmile-Mosquito Range last year, that still left one named peak above that height, Gemini Peak. Gemini is a double-humped peak just north of 14er Mount Sherman and with a very low saddle drop between the peaks they are often climbed together.
Because Gemini was the main goal, I used the same approach up Iowa Gulch that I used for Dyer Mountain in 2002. You can easily reach a parking turnout with room for about a half-dozen vehicles at 12000ft with a normal car and I was the first one there; 3 more vehicles arrived while I was hiking. Note that this parking is higher than indicated by the Roaches' 13ers guidebook. This trailhead is more frequently used for a route up Sherman that goes counterclockwise around the cirque, and I had my route all to myself except on Sherman.
An old road heads briskly up the Iowa Amphitheater to the remains of the old Continental Chief Mine. Ignoring the buildings, the place looks more like a junkyard with all sorts of metal and wooden debris scatter around the creekbed. Above the mine there really isn't an obvious route, and one is stuck with some steep dirt/tundra "scrambling". I've taken 4 different routes through here in the 12600-13000ft region on my two climbs and none of them were particularly good. On my ascent today, I tried to stay in the middle of the amphitheater longer and then head straight west up the hill to the last powerline stanchion below the Dyer-Gemini saddle.
The general problem is that it is very steep and loose right below the saddle, so one is stuck going past the saddle and angling up to a point above the saddle. This is where the powerlines cross the ridge and is something like 60-100 feet above the true saddle. An additional specific problem on this day was that the rocks were icy with frost and the remains of snow that had fallen the previous day. There apparently was quite a thunderstorm over this area that dropped snow and hail. In fact, the few remaining snowfields had measureable new snow on top, with light dustings on many surfaces above about 13000ft. This condition slowed me down considerably for the rest of the way up Gemini.
Nominally, one takes the entire ridge up to the lower summit of Gemini and then hits the main one. But, under the conditions it looked easier to leave the ridge and angle into the shallow gully that leads to the saddle between the two summits (which I'll call "Gemini Col"). Frankly, this looks like the most obvious route even under perfect conditions. So, I disagree with the details of both the Dyer and Gemini routes from Iowa Gulch in the Roaches' 13ers guidebook!
From Gemini Col, it is a very steep 100ft up to the main summit. With the slick rock, it was more like a Class 2+ scramble than a steep talus hike. The flat summit appeared abruptly at the top of the steep slope. There was a large rock wind shelter, but no summit register. There wasn't anything particularly exciting about the summit and I didn't remain very long.
The actual high point of Sherman is on the Gemini side of a large summit plateau, and the round-trip from Gemini Col to Sherman is less than 1.5 miles and only a few hundred feet of gain. So, I decided to go ahead and bag Sherman for the second time. I also talked myself into hitting Gemini's lower summit. There are actually at least 3 high points on "Southwest Gemini" and I hit the two highest which are less than 100ft above Gemini Col.
From there, the going was pretty easy up Sherman as the rocks were starting to dry out and it is not very steep. The summit appears much more abruptly than from the other side where you have to traverse a seemingly endless ridge! A group of six were already at the summit, having done exactly that, several of whom were on their 1st 14er. Speaking of which, this was my first time above 14000ft in nearly 2 years! Sherman itself was my 10th 14er back in 1994 and is now the 5th 14er for which I have made more than one ascent.
It was still just partly cloudy, but not very warm even in the Sun. I measured an easterly (!) breeze of around 12 mph, and a surprisingly low temperature of just 30F. Leadville was easily visible from here and Turquoise Lake and the northern Sawatch Range provided a nice backdrop. Unlike the worthy throngs who climbed the standard route from the west, I could see my car from the summit! (Technically, I could only identify my car with the 20x zoom of my camcorder, but we could easily see a white vehicle parked next to mine with the naked-eye.) There were close to 10 people on the summit by the time I left, but there is plenty of room up there.
I took a slightly different route back to Gemini Col, partly on solid snow. By this time, most of the rocks were rapidly drying out, so the rest of the descent was much more smooth and routine than the ascent. I did not find the best line down the gully to the Dyer-Gemini ridge, but I still think it's better to do that than stay on the ridge.
I worked my way back down into Iowa Gulch to the remains of the Continental Chief Mine where I prowled around some with my camcorder. Nicely shielded from the easterly wind by Sherman, it was quite pleasently warm in the Sun, although still in the 40s. After 9am, some small "puffies" were trying to form, but it was a more normal day where the rain and t-storms didn't really get going until noon or later. I finished the hike a bit before 1000, quite happy to have done two hikes with a half-mile of vertical gain just two days apart and only a month after hernia surgery.
To the chronological trip index
To the Gemini Peak page
To the Mount Sherman page
File last modified: 02 January 2005