Silver Star Mountain
- Silver Star Glacier
- May 15, 2000
Our plans were falling apart! At a rousing reunion dinner with Jeff Thursday night, I waxed on about the need to get out into the snow and climb! But then Peter couldn’t make it, and Jake and I didn’t have cars for Saturday. Steve was out for several weeks with an injury. Also, Jake had to be back Sunday morning.
Our options narrowing, and the weather very bad, we tried to pull it together until 9:30 pm. Jake spent the afternoon dealing with the stock market (“Bloody Friday”), an insanely incompetent bank, and a flat tire. I dealt with a product release that kept me at work long after I hoped to be driving to Washington Pass, a smile on my face!
We called it off, after valiant efforts. But my soon-to-be-idle body still sought with devilish fury to get out of town. With my best puppy-dog eyes, I pleaded for the car, and Kris relented, gamely signing up for the bus. She would have a long adventure of her own there, but in the meantime, we could go!
Calling my boon companion Jake, I agreed to pick him up at 2:15 am, a mere 3 hours hence. This was going to be a day trip to Silver Star Mountain, in uncertain weather. Who were we kidding?
I kidded myself into sleep for about an hour, drove to the city, and soon we were ensconsed in the dark car-cocoon. Pop-tarts, water, and murmuring about the route kept us busy for the long drive. We came into rain, then snow, emerging at the pass in a blue filtered gauze. We opted for the longer Silver Star Creek route, fearing avalanche conditions on the Burgundy Col. With a TOPO! map, and a rudimentary idea of where to go, we found the creek and began snowshoeing. It was 6:30 am.
I remember distinctly feeling I had more determination than energy, and throughout the day looked to that in order to keep going. I envisioned us stumbling out after dark, tripping over limbs as a way to prepare for a very long day.
But the climb would direct my thoughts outward. The first 1000 feet in forest are quite steep, no matter how you wend your way over and around. We kept the creek in earshot, and every time I saw running water I regretted my two full quarts! I’d become a ruthless capitalist, examining the ledger sheet of weight carried to strength expended.
But the weather was actually nice. We enjoyed views of our valley opening up. Cloudy, with light snow, we had faith we’d get some sun later. As we toiled up, Jake remarked how much better to have this than blinding sun and mushy snow.
We stayed near the creek, often on thick snowbridges right in the creekbed. Emerging into a flat area, we scouted our route off to the right, and began climbing the moderately open slope. Gently traversing deeper into the valley and closer to rocks on the east side, we came to a broad cirque which offered several possibilities. We could have continued across it and up a moderately steep open break in a ridge, or continued up one of two colouirs to the right. Here we roped up for the glacier we would be on soon. I remembered how exotic roping up for a glacier used to seem.
Jake led the way up our colouir, which leaned at a moderate angle. The walls closed in, and suspense built as we wondered what would come next. At the top, I led across a bowl hard under rock towers. We decided we must be under Burgundy Spire, and had climbed right up to Burgundy Col, although we were never sure of this until the way back.
Excitement building, we crossed another bowl, rounded a corner, and there found the vast glacier before us. The summit rocks were in mist, so it took a few minutes of talking about the map to choose our direction. It looked higher to the right, but the broad flat area 800 feet above looked to be just right of the summit. We’d climb over there.
The clouds started breaking up, giving tantalizing glimpses into another world. From white wisps would emerge jumbled towers and blue sky, only to disappear again. We really wished for our snowshoes, cached at our rope-up spot. The deep snow must have slowed us down considerably.
Finally, in a blast of wind we stood on the plateau at glacier head. Unroping, we climbed the steeper snow and rocks towards the summit. After 300 feet, we were at the final impasse, a mixture of good rock and rotten snow. Jake deftly showed the way, and I followed to a point. The last 7 feet were too much for me, but Jake squeezed into a short offwidth chimney and stood on a ledge on the opposite side of the summit block. Gloves encrusted with ice, we were soon ready to descend the mixture of rotten snow and icy rock. As a bonus, there was good snow for plunge stepping just off of the route we climbed, and this sped our descent. Totally fulfilled, we proclaimed our happiness to have had “weather” as opposed to just sun. As long as the “weather” gives you those windows in the clouds from time to time, I’d always chose it, since the mixture of cloud and rock is very exciting…
Quickly down the glacier, around the corner and up slightly, we admired Burgundy Spire, now totally visible. Stepping down our colouir (we tried to glissade but the snow was too deep), we soon were unroping at our packs. A final bite to eat, and we started the walk back. We pushed pretty hard, and it seems we never stopped all the way down to the flat area, into the creekbed, out and into the steep forest above the car. Wow, it was only 4 pm! So much for my “stumbling out at midnight theory”. So Silver Star really is a great day trip. We also had the place to ourselves the whole time. Back at the car, there were several parties getting ready to hike up a ways and camp.
It felt so good to get out into the mountains, Jake and I were all smiles on the way back. We identified some peaks from the car, Jake found some great ones in the Pickets. I showed him Hozomeen, which looks amazing. But arrgh, the gods that be couldn’t let the trip be just perfect! I got a speeding ticket in Concrete, just before leaving town. I didn’t wait for the sign to say “55,” so they got me going 45+ in a 35. I must apologize to Jake for being a big wet blanket the rest of the way home, so unhappy with myself!
Oh well, I’m over it now, and ready for another trip!