Background

As part of a multi-night trip into the Enchantments in late March, Porter and I skied the two prominent couloirs on the northeast face of Sherpa Peak. One is referred to in guidebooks as the ‘Sherpa Couloir’; I am not sure about the other.

Looking at the northeast face of Sherpa. The right-hand couloir is the ‘Sherpa Couloir’. The left-hand one doglegs out of sight, but the bottom is visible.

We made camp for three nights in the meadow below the south slopes of Axis Peak, maybe 0.5 miles short of Lake Stuart. It’s a great camp spot for those looking to ski on the northern aspects of Mt. Stuart, Argonaut Peak, or Sherpa Peak. Usually there is running water in the springtime.

Trip Report

Porter and I launched from our camp around 8AM or so, not super early so maybe ‘launch’ isn’t quite the right word. Crossing the many branches of Mountaineer Creek was a fun practice in route finding and patience; it’s annoying, no matter how you do it.

Approaching the bowl below the north slopes of Sherpa went surprisingly better than expected. There’s a steep constriction in Mountaineer Creek as you head up valley that we thought would be ‘cruxy’; turns out that was the easiest part, as we could just skin broad snow slopes covering the creek.

From the bowl beneath Sherpa we got a great view of the lines on the northeast side of Sherpa. Our goal for the day were the two most prominent couloirs to looker’s left of the summit. One is referred to in guidebooks as the ‘Sherpa Couloir’; I am pretty sure that one is the looker’s right one in the photo. The looker’s left one doglegs out of sight but the bottom of it is visible.

Neither had technical cruxes other than wallow-y booting. We brought ascent plates with us and were very glad to have them.

Looking down the ‘Sherpa Couloir’.

The first couloir was pinner and steep, quite lovely. Sluff management was the biggest hazard going down. The snow was good quality, dry and soft.

The second couloir was a mixed bag. The bottom half of it was decent powder but once we got further up, and especially into the dogleg, it was clear the upper couloir got a lot of sun. There was a wet runnel that made for great climbing for over 1000′! Near the top of the couloir the snow got very hard and icy; frontpointing with our ascent plates on was an unexpected crux, especially since we didn’t have ice axes.

Skiing the second couloir was garbage snow for the upper half, steep breakable crust. Good practice though! The bottom half, as expected, was quite nice.

Looking down the second couloir.