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March 12 2011

Trip date: 03/12/2011
Reported by: Eric Ryan

It seems a theme for most of the backcountry ski tours we have had this year has been the movie “Groundhogs Day.”  Every time one of the club trips has come up, the weather and conditions have looked to be warm, wet, and dismal.  The weekends before or after were great, but the weekends of our trips seemed doomed to repeat over and over.  The conditions of the actual Groundhogs Day tour I lead this year were a rare occurrence (see previous trip report). 

For the March 12 tour, the same weather forecast was repeating.  This was a leaders choice tour, so I did the usual obsessive weather watching on the web all week.  When it was warm and wet at most of the ski areas, the Sherman Pass web cam still had snow.  Maybe a little more elevation would save the day.  I announced to my participants that would be our destination, but tried to set low expectations of the conditions.  Unfortunately, I think I set them too low and scared half of the group off.  After some pleading and rephrasing a more optimistic trip, Dave Hylton, Dorothy Tibbets, and Lloyd Hixson were up for giving it a go.

When we got out of the car at the Sherman Pass there was snow on the trees and the snow bank in the parking lot was soft.  Wow, this was looking up.  A big bright orb was shinning and the sky appeared blue.  Sun and blue sky?  This was not the predicted weather.   

We signed in on the trail register and then headed up the trail.  As we climbed up Sherman Peak the snow on the North side was really nice, however the snowpack here was shallow compared to Lookout Pass and Boulder basin.  I followed the usual uptrack the local folks use, but I have a hard time not breaking my own. So, I broke off to set our own path at a slightly more pleasant angle.  As we approached the northwest ridge, the wind was howling.  When we got to the summit, it was really howling.  You needed your goggles to enjoy the view.  The slope going to the saddle by snow peak was ravaged by the wind and sun.  So that is why there is never any snow on this side of the mountain.

We tried skiing a more Northerly aspect through the ghostly burned out trees.  We crossed paths with some other skiers who were yo-yoing the North side of Sherman.  Yo-yoing is another thing I have a hard time doing these days.  So, we headed off to Snow Peak.  It was rather pleasant touring in the sun, down out of the wind.   When we reached the top of Snow Peak the wind had died down and we could really enjoy the view.  We also could not believe how good of luck we were having with the weather.  It appeared the snow and warmer temps were running about 8 hours late.  We did a run down the East ridge of about 900 feet.  The snow was a bit dense from wind and temperature, but still pretty nice skiing. 

As we climbed back up to Snow peak we could see the sun going away and the next weather system coming in.  The day was also getting short, but we it looked like we would have time to climb back up Sherman on the way back.  The 1500 foot run from the top of Sherman down to the road was icing on the cake.   We walked back to the car with the sun fading over the pass.  Our tired legs feeling that we put in a pretty full day.  It was a far cry from the slog in wet snow I was envisioning.  I am starting to think the massive amounts of internet weather are sometimes a hinderance.  It might be better to just look out the window, watch the barometer, and take a chance that you might be surprised.  Any day out with an adventurous group of Spokane Mountaineers is better than sitting home on the couch wondering if you should have ventured out.

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