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Norman_Clyde

Silver Star TR

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Climbed Silver Star mtn. this Sunday with Joe De Peter and Mike Dawson. Left Seattle about 6:15 am, got to the shoulder past the WA pass hairpin about 9:45. The cloud layer was low, and although Burgundy Col could be seen, the spires and Silver Star were mostly in the clouds. The stream crossing was a little tricky-- I had decided not to bring poles on this trip, and had cause to regret this immediately. There was only one decent log, but it had a few big branches sticking straight up from it, so we took our boots off and waded. Near the far bank, when the depth got to mid-thigh, I came as close as I ever have to taking the full plunge during a crossing. Only after getting to the far bank did I remember that my digital camera was around my neck, and would have been a total loss had I fallen in.

The approach to the col, although scenic, qualifies as a punishing slog in my book. We had two ropes and a decent rack, hoping to climb Burgundy as well as Silver Star, and all of us felt the weight. Mike hauled up his alpine touring skis also. The weather worsened as we ascended. By the flat bench at 6500 feet, it was snowing steadily and windier. I was a ways ahead of Mike and Joe, and went straight up instead of rightward at the bench, which made for some difficult traversing up high to gain the right gully. There was 4 to 6 inches of new powder, which adhered pretty well to the wet base layer. By the time I reached the col, it was snowing hard and whiting out from time to time. I waited for Mike and Joe, but they did not appear-- as it turns out, they could not see me from the bottom of the gully, and decided to make camp on the bench, instead of the col as per our original plan. I had a nice opportunity to watch the N face of Burgundy become plastered with rime ice. When this became monotonous, I glissaded down and found my partners. There were three other parties at the bench by then.. Late in the day the clouds lifted somewhat, and we had a better view.

We lazed about in the AM and were the last party to get going. Reached the col about 9:30, and began traversing beneath Burgundy,where the sun finally greeted us. Two minutes later, the wet snow slides began. We paused briefly at this, and descended to the basin bottom which seemed a little safer. Once over the next rise, the angle was lower and the slides didn't go as far (except for the place where a Volkswagen-sized block had fallen from Chianti Spire, and dug its own roadway across the glacier-- apparently several days earlier).

Scrambled to the summit by 1:30 pm. Fine views all around. Mike's skis made themselves worth the haul at this point. It was truly ideal spring conditions, with 4 inches of fairly light powder, a bottom layer firm but not icy. The East faces of the spires were actually fairly clean by this time, but probably not quite ready for rock shoes-- maybe in a week if it doesn't snow any more.

The trip down the trail was possibly more unpleasant than the ascent, except the stream crossing: one of the parties had chopped the branches from the big log, which was now a cruise. I stuffed the camera way into my pack anyway.

In summary, this is a fine alpine ascent with great views, though a less than pleasant approach. The spires have great appeal but need a little more time to be ready this season. I'll post photos once I figure out how to do that directly from my files. [Cool]

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There was no hard ice, but the base layer was sometimes too firm for easy step kicking. The top layer kept building up on Joe's crampons, but not on mine. We did not need them for most of the descent.

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There were no crevasses to be seen, none at all, just a hint of a bergschrund about 2 feet across and well filled with snow. The schrund was visible below the West Peak area, otherwise might as well have been one big snowfield. The slope was probably just above 45 degrees in two places, first E. of Burgundy Spire and second just below the summit col. If you're thinking of taking your dad up there, he should be fine if he's done any skiing and been on this kind of slope. But I would look for a similar climb with a less punishing approach-- or consider coming up Silver Star Creek, which is longer but more gentle (though I don't know if it has a trail).

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The Silver Star glacier is not heavily crevassed but there a few slots and by mid-summer, there has been one that runs nearly all the way accross the area where you head up toward the summit.

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