Type: Backcountry or Sidecountry
Reasonably accessible April-June. Long approach.
Need to Know
Wilderness permit required from Bighorn National Forest. Can obtain in trailhead late season, or from offices in Sheridan or Buffalo.
Standard approach to the base of Cloud Peak is via the East/West Tensleep Trailhead off of Highway 16. This trailhead is approximately 7 miles north of the highway and is closed to wheeled vehicles in winter. Skin or snowmobile to the trailhead.
From the trailhead, skin approximately 7 miles north to the Cloud Peak base camp. Pass Lake Helen and Lake Mistymoon, then drop into the Paintrock Creek drainage for the beginning of the ascent proper. From base camp, it is about 4 miles to the summit, depending on how many switchbacks you throw in. Either way, it is 3,000 vertical feet.
Climb out of the drainage into an unnamed bowl on the left, then to the knife ridge. Exposed boulder fields will exist even in good snow years, likely requiring some booting. Alternate approaches include Battle Park and Lily Lake trailheads to the southwest for the lower elevation portion.
The most obvious and dramatic descent is via the South Couloir which drops onto the saddle west of Sapphire Lake. The top pitch of this line is quite steep and is no fall terrain. The center can be deeply runneled by avalanche debris. The bottom is a very skier-friendly apron of about 35 degrees on skier's left. The top of this line can be scouted on the ascent. A skier can also take the much gentler route back down the west ridge.
Shared By: Slim Drifter