February 4, 1996 in Outdoors

Sherman Peak Backcountry Ski Tour

By The Spokesman-Review


Distance: 11 miles round trip

Difficulty: Moderate

Skiing time: 1 day or overnight

Season: December through March

Maps: USGS Sherman Peak

Info: Republic Ranger District. (509) 775-3305


Access: Drive to Sherman Pass on State Highway 20 between Kettle Falls and Republic. Pass is 26 miles west of Kettle Falls and 17 miles east of Republic. Sno-Park trailhead is on north side of highway. Permit required.

Attractions: Ungroomed Kettle Crest Trail leads to through forest to excellent telemarking and camping areas of Kettle Range. Area skiers maintain wood-heated tent shelter near Sherman Peak. Forest Service and volunteers recently put up log shelter, suitable for overnights, near Snow Peak. Although area has slopes susceptible to avalanches, several slopes reasonably safe for telemarking. Loop trail around Sherman Peak offers shorter alternate trip.

Comments: From trailhead ($20 Washington State Sno-Park parking permit required), trail leads downhill to east before skiers must cross (carefully) Highway 20. From south side of highway, route zig-zags to quickly gain 400 feet elevation in 1 mile to junction with new trail heading around west side of Sherman Peak. West-side trail is fastest route into shelters. But to see it all, take one trail in and follow other route out. Kettle Crest Trail heads around east side of Sherman Peak through eerie open forest of snags left from 1988 fire. Route popular among local skiers; some sort of track usually can be followed. However topo map is essential. Climbing skins recommended.

Point of highest elevation is on southeast side of Sherman Peak, where telemarkers will look up with anticipation to slopes studded with wildly spaced trees and snags.

Continue to saddle just south of Sherman Peak, 3 miles into trip, where Kettle Range Ski Club maintains a temporary winter tent shelter. This is destination for many skiers, who set up sleeping tents nearby and use wood-heated shelter as a base for telemarking, drying clothes and eating. Day-trippers may continue around Sherman on west-side trail to make 6-mile loop back to Sherman Pass.

More experienced skiers can ski another 2-1/2 miles to log shelter southwest of Snow Peak. (Allow 3 hours minimum to ski Sherman Pass to Snow Peak shelter.) Trail contours around Snow Peak at elev. 6,200 feet. Map navigation skills required for finding shelter.

Wood-heated shelter constructed by Forest Service and diverse group of volunteers in summer of 1995. Year-round cabin usable this winter, but construction not complete. Sleeps eight comfortably. Reservation system could be enacted this summer.

This is backcountry tour. Even if not going overnight, carry map, compass, flashlight, sunglasses, matches, knife, first aid kit, extra clothes, extra food and water. Also consider shovels, avalanche transceivers.

Most notorious avalanche areas include steep granite slab on north and east aspects of Sherman and Snow peaks. Avoid these areas.

On return ski, last mile of trail above Sherman Pass can be tricky in icy conditions. Some skiers put on skins or ski treads to slow descent to avoid collisions with trees.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Map of ski tour

The following fields overflowed: SUPCAT = COLUMN - Routes: Classic Trips in the Inland Northwest

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