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Climb: SILVER STAR MOUNTAIN-NEW? West Face, Central Couloir


Date of Climb: 3/15/2005


Trip Report:

Washington Pass



West Face, Central couloir



March 15 2005 Mark Allen , Anne Keller


Photo link; www.cascadeclimbers.com/plab/showphoto.php?photo=9975&size=big&sort=1&cat=503


This week Anne and I agreed to attempt an undescribed line that both of us had noticed over the year. This classic alpine couloir splits the West Face (Highway aspect) of the 8,800ft Silver Star Mt. It struck me one day in fall driving East through Wa pass just past the Blue Lake parking area before the Look out turnout. I couldn’t wait for spring. Originally we both dreamt of harvesting it as a ski descent, but we both noticed ICE! What I noticed first was its directness and then surprised by its steep and narrow aperence. The 1,900 ft long ribbon of steep snow and gully ice shoots the whole relief of the West Face and seamed to have uniform width of only tens of feet that cuts deep into the face. (Can been seen snow free in Red Becky pg. 288.) The couloir begins just south (Climbers right) of the base of the Whine spire and down slope of the west buttress and tops out a few hundred feet North (climbers left) of the West Peak (in this figure as well).

We began our day at 6:15 and regretfully left the snowshoes in he car so the morning started with demoralizing post holing until we gained the bare trail. We final got to the base at 8:30 and noticed a flow of water ice marking the couloir entrance. The ice was not climbable so we scrambled easy rock 5.4 for he first 60ft and began to simul climb in perfect neve’ and smears of gully ice that took stubbies and 16’s. At first the couloir was wide and varied between 35-50 degrees but quickly narrowed as we entered the narrow passage of the main line. The Snow was perfect Styrofoam in most places with a few pockets of phacets but did not hinder the climbing. The walls became very high around us and the couloirs averaged 40ft wide and became slightly steeper as we progressed for several hundred feet. Gear was always available in the granite walls on either side when you needed it to maintain two pieces for every 100ft. We folded a 60m 8.8 for the simul climb and used a double rope technique. This worked very well in the narrow couloir. We came to the first of two mixed cruxes. The A large bolder chock stone with steep ice smears pored off both sides of the rocks interface with the main couloir walls. The left yielded thin gear and rotten ice. Boulder right went at a super fun M4 for a 50ft pitch to a belay on the right side. I lead the pitch but had to ditch the pack to fit through the slot and was thankful for mono points and the good dry tooling. We hauled the packs through and Anne seconded the pitch and resumed simul climbing. The Couloirs had again narrowed and became slightly steeper. The conditions and climbing continued to improve with every step. Looking back the walls perfectly framed the Liberty bell group. We climbed the steep couloirs for several hundred more feet towards the “dorsal fin tower” and its large cave and saw that the couloir forked just as we suspected from scopings. We simuled into the right fork and saw the Couloirs continuity to the ridge that would lead us to the summit where the left did not. Before we reached the ridge the second mixed crux would meet us with a second cock boulder. This crux is shorter at M3-4 PG and was climbed on the left up a small coulomb of ice. No gear could be located that was proximal so I slung the coulomb with a cordalet and even used a stubby for the last move. We continued up the steepest (55degs) narrowest (15ft) section of the couloirs for final 200ft and threw in a belay. We could look down the steep drainage and see the walls of the couloir cleave down the West Face for several hundred feet. Anne stepped off the snow and battled out the final 125ft of the line on easy fifth but super belayer slayer loose rock climbing and topped out on the flat slopes just a few hundred feet North of the West Peak.

We celebrated our summit with a short alpine potlatch and began our decent down the Glacier to burgundy col on good Styrofoam and minimal post holing. We made one short repel off of a block under the summit on the final steep snow ramp to the Saddle due to highly faceted snow. We made it back to the car after more demoralizing post holing at 9:30pm

This is a classic. I am surprised to find this quality of a route in the snow filled couloirs of Wa Pass. I would recommend this climb to any one able that is looking for a good alpine gully day climb with slightly masochistic but minimal approach. No gear besides a dropped LA remains. The route was done clean and only a yellow sling remains.

GEAR; 1X 60m half

1xset of cams 0.1-3in

1xset of nuts

6 stubby ice crews

monos helpful

two tools

pins/tat if retreat


Get her done.



Approach Notes:

snow shoes 2-3hrs

Edited by MarkAllen
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