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[TR] Silver Star - South Gully 9/23/2012


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Trip: Silver Star - South Gully


Date: 9/23/2012


Trip Report:

Scott K and I headed up to do Silver Star this weekend. Unsure about what shape the Silver Star Glacier was in, we opted to forego the Burgundy Col route and do a scramble via the South Gulley instead. We didn't find many reports on this beforehand and figured we'd post a TR for the climb.


The beginning of the route is exactly the same as the route to Burgundy Col with about the least pleasant first 100 m of an approach hike you can imagine. One of the few descriptions we found said that once across Early Winters Creek head due east and uphill. Rather than doing this, we opted to follow the trail to Burgundy Col for about a quarter mile. When the trail came right along side Burgundy Creek for the first time at about 4,300 m or so, we cut across the creek and started working our way up hill on an easterly trajectory. If you don't cross here, the creek bed gets very steep on either side and would be tough to manage for a ways. Regardless of how you go in this early part of the approach hike, the objective is to start working up a west-running ridge that comes off the southwest buttress of Silver Star (shown in the photo below). You climb and run along this ridge for a good while.




The climb up to and on the ridge is pretty mellow at first but becomes fairly steep between 4,800 and 6,000 feet. It was a little brushy in spots but overall it's fairly easy travel with little in the way of bushwhacking. Above 6,000 feet, the ridge mellows out making for very pleasant hiking in thinning forest with larches and great views of the Wine Spires to one side and Kangaroo Ridge, Liberty Bell and the Early Winter Spires to the other. Visibility was pretty poor due to the smoke but there were lots of great fall colors.








You can run the ridge until about 7,800 feet sticking pretty much on or close to the top of the ridge the entire way. At about 7,800 feet, drop to the right/south side of the ridge and then traverse up to an obvious col at 8,000 feet on the ridge between Silver Star an Snagtooth Ridge. From that saddle, we headed left toward the peak and the South Gully. The description we had said to drop about 100 feet off the col and move left underneath a set of cliffs but we found we could traverse straight across (arrow in the photo below) and access a nice system of shelves and benches that took us on a rising traverse up to the South Gully shown by the arrow in the photo below.




After a traversing up a few hundred feet in elevation we came to the area where the gully started. There actually appear to be three gullies as you approach this. We did not look at the one on the far right. We tried the one in the middle but got turned around by some chock stones and other obstacles and ultimately found the best way up was the gully on the left side.




We stayed on the left side all the way to the saddle between the two peaks of Silver Star, crossing largely Class 2 terrain with some sections of Class 3 with no exposure. Lots of loose rock and scree making for plenty of 1 foot up/6 inches down climbing. Later, on our way down, we realized that rather than staying to the left to get to the saddle, you can follow a gully towards the right side that ends a little of the ways up the ridge towards the summit from the saddle. This would avoid one section of tricky scrambling to access the summit ridge directly from the saddle.




Once on the saddle, we initially tried to walk across the snow to what we thought was the best entry to the scramble to the summit but found the snow on the firm side. We had left the crampons and axes behind and did not like the run out associated with a fall in that area so we backtracked and found a way onto the summit ridge closer to the saddle proper. From there we followed what seemed like very straightforward Class 3 rock towards the summit. We trended a little to climber's left approaching the summit, following what seemed like an easy path. About 50 feet or so shy of the summit, there is a slabby area that was easy to ascend to just below the top. However, this left us just below the summit block looking at what appeared to be a difficult set of moves to get on top that didn't correspond to what we read in other reports. We doubled back to that slabby section and moved climbers right on the ridge and found straightforward Class 3 climbing on that western side to just below the summit block and what then seemed like the remaining move or two described in most route descriptions. Overall, the summit scrambling was as described. Mostly Class 3 if you pick your way wisely but plenty of opportunities to find Class 4 and even Class 5 stuff depending how you go.






We were on top 5 hours 15 minutes after we left the TH. Once there, we could see that it would likely still be possible to do the route from Burgundy Col as there was still snow on the glacier and only a few cracks that looked like they were easily passed. We couldn't see the entire glacier, however.


After a half-hour on top, we headed back down. It was on the way down that we found that alternative gully mentioned above that brings you to the summit ridge from the South Gully. This leaves you at a very easy spot on the ridge from which to start the summit scramble if you opt to come up this way.


The easiest way down from the saddle at 8,000 feet is probably just to retrace the route. We took a slight variation of that, dropping down to the basin below Snagtooth Ridge before traversing back to the main ridge we came up at about 6,400 feet but that didn't save us much time or effort in the end. About 3 hours and 15 minutes back to the car.


Route Notes:

- The South Gully approach is entirely snow free right now but would not be so earlier in the season

- There is no water on the route once you leave the creek down low

- Axe and crampons are not necessary for the route but if you want to gain the scramble to the summit ridge from a bit north of the col then they would be useful to deal with the firm snow needed to cross over to the other access points.



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Thanks for a great trip Andy. I was pleasantly surprised by the open forest travel on this route and the last 300 feet on the summit block are fun scrambling. This is an excellent alternative route late in a dry year when the Silver Star glacier is down to ice and crevassed. That being said, based on our view from the col showing good snow coverage on the glacier and my previous experience skiing the Silver Star glacier, I would vote for the Burgundy Col/Silver Star Glacier route as the more alpine and scenic route.


I was also intrigued by this route as a ski trip. I looked down the south gully last April after coming up from the Silver Star basin and couldn't see what happened after the rollover. Now that I’ve climbed it it’s pretty clear that this would be a fun ski in the right conditions. In addition, it’s less vertical than starting from Silver Star Creek.


I should mention that climbing from the col at 8,600 to the summit is not a trivial task in April. After about 20 minutes of thrashing through light powdery sugar snow that was chest deep in places and gaining about 30 ft in elevation, I gave up on a summit bid last April. It was still a worthy day just for the ski from the col.


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