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Stuart & Sherpa N Couloirs

3/17/22
WA Cascades East Slopes Central
2002
1
Posted by timgibson11 on 3/18/22 7:15pm

March always delivers in the Cascades, but the 2022 edition certainly is making us work for it. The Mountaineer Creek zone, with several aesthetic couloirs on the north faces of Stuart, Sherpa and Argonaut, had been on my radar for some time and seemed like a reasonable place to look for the goods following a weak atmospheric river. It turned out to be well worth the high cost of admission.

On Wednesday Thatcher, Jeff and I set out from the Icicle Rd closure at 6AM in the direction of Mt Stuart. I planned to take advantage of the weather window and the long approach by making it an overnight, while my partners were limited to a day trip. The approach was easier than anticipated, if not quicker. After leaving Stuart Lake trail we stayed on the west side of Mountaineer Creek and traversed a boulder field well above the valley floor. There was just enough snow covering the boulders to make this viable, and we avoided any creek crossings and the worst of the schwack. I dropped my overnight gear where the Stuart & Sherpa routes diverge, and the three of us continued on towards Stuart. Eventually we broke out of the forest and into a clearing with spectacular views of the Ice Cliff and the rest of Stuart’s impressive north face.

We worked our way up the Sherpa Glacier, weaving around exposed ice and debris piles, to the base of the couloir. As I transitioned to booting Jeff & Thatcher caught up to me with some bad news – they had hit their turn-around time. We wished each other luck with our respective journeys and I proceeded up the couloir. Plenty of sluff had already run through from cliffy terrain above, and the snow was very stable, if not particularly rippable. When I reached the col at 8600’ I was treated to sunny skies, calm wind and complete solitude. The descent was enjoyable but snow quality was just OK. I made my way back to my campsite for a pleasant night in the woods.

The next morning I left camp at 730 and headed up to Sherpa. The NE Couloir was calling my name, and it didn’t disappoint. Compared to the Sherpa Glacier Couloir on Stuart, the NE Couloir on Sherpa was easier to access and held better snow, both in the couloir itself and on the apron. Unlike the previous day’s line, this one had not been affected by sluffing during the storm, which made for a tough climb but a phenomenal descent. I had considered summiting Sherpa, but after reaching the col at 8000’ I was so wet from wallowing up the couloir that the wind was making me shiver. I quickly transitioned for a descent that will surely be one of the highlights of my season. The snow in the couloir was light and bottomless. It was sluffing like crazy with every turn, which kept me on my toes and added some excitement. Down on the apron I was able to open it up and make bigger turns. I took my time packing up camp and retracing our approach route back to the car, stopping in the meadow to appreciate the lines I’d skied and wishing I had another day to check out some of the couloirs on Argonaut which look equally appealing.

Some notes for those looking to get the most out of this zone…as others have mentioned, decent snow coverage along Mountaineer Creek will make the approach much smoother. I was able to ski all the way to/from the car except for a couple bare patches on the first mile of road. Ascent plates were absolutely essential for climbing the couloirs in current conditions – thanks Rob for the loan! Finally, do yourself a favor and spend 2-3 days here, you won’t regret it.

Sherpa Peak NE Couloir

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Hey Tim Gibson, that is a fine killer TR  worthy of many accolades.


Reply to this TR

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stuart-sherpa-n-couloirs
timgibson11
2022-03-19 02:15:19