CHECK IT OUT
Distance: 7 miles round trip
Difficulty: Moderately difficult
Skiing time: 3-5 hours
Season: Dec. through March
Maps: USGS Burke
Info: Wallace Ranger Station (208) 752-1221
SKI TOURING TRIP NOTES
Access: From Interstate 90 at Wallace, take the Wallace-Burke Exit 62. From junction underneath elevated portion of I-90, head north 6.9 miles on State Highway 4. At north end of Burke, an old mining town, turn left on Gorge Gulch Road. In winter snow conditions, park on east side of Gorge Gulch Road near junction with Highway 4.
Attractions: Reasonably direct route to alpine touring and telemarking terrain, gaining 2,800 feet in about 3-1/2 miles. Route mostly safe from avalanche. However, some nearby off-route terrain can slide. First mile can be easy glide, or rocky hike, depending on snow conditions. High open slopes lightly used, possibly because route-finding can be tricky and steep sections exhausting.
Comments: From first bend in Gorge Gulch Road, ski (or hike) north (straight) on old, rocky mining road that heads up between towering log wall (left) and private residence (right). Road continues up west side of Gorge Gulch. Water runs down road, melting snow faster than surrounding area. Skiers may have to hike 1 mile or more, depending on snow conditions.
Even when snow’s deep, skis may have to be removed for several creek crossings.
At junction where good road clearly switchbacks up to left, continue straight (north) up Gorge Gulch. Soon thereafter, mining and logging roads (uncharted on 1985 USGS topo map) begin zig-zagging up slopes westward from Gorge Gulch Creek toward Tiger Peak area.
Depending on snow conditions, skiers can expect to slog at least an hour from trailhead before getting good view of treeless peaks. Tiger Peak has large radio towers.
Savvy skiers can switchback through trees almost directly to Tiger Peak. However, safer route follows road that contours just below timberline to notch in ridge 3/4 mile northeast of Tiger Peak. From notch, roughly follow ridge southwest, dropping off slightly to Gorge Creek side for last 1/3 mile to top of Tiger. Be careful. Windblown snow can bulge into avalanche-prone slab on southeast side of peak.
Wind can scour snow off peaks and ridges, exposing large rock rubble. In shallow snowpack, brush can be problem on slopes approaching peak.
Although Forest Service listed as info source for route, no readily available source exists for recreation use. Some parcels under jurisdiction of Bureau of Land Management, Coeur d’Alene office, (208) 769-5000. Louisiana Pacific Timber Co. has surface rights for logging. Some selective cuts create excellent tree skiing back to trailhead.
Weekend avalanche forecast message, (208) 765-7323.
Entire area perforated by mine shafts and vent holes from Hercules Mine, which made numerous people rich before closing in 1925. (Hutton Settlement and Paulsen Building in Spokane are named after Hercules Mine millionaires.) Forest fire that roared through area in 1889 left shortage of logs for mine timbers in Burke area. Mine tunnels eventually extended to Nine Mile area so wood could be hauled UNDER Tiger Peak to Burke. Ore also hauled from mine to Burke in 8,000-foot underground tunnel. Hercules Mine produced $30 million in sales and $19 million in dividends from lead ore and 28 million ounces of silver. Peak activity was 1900 to 1918. Now it’s just one good place to ski.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Map of ski tour
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