Ascent to Silver Peak-NW Ridge on 2014-03-23

Climber: James Barlow

Others in Party:James
Date:Sunday, March 23, 2014
Ascent Type:Unsuccessful - Turned Back
Point Reached:Silver Peak - NW Ridge
    Elevation:4900 ft / 1493 m
    Remaining Elevation:705 ft / 215 m (19% left to go)

Ascent Trip Report

I am mainly writing this trip report to serve as a useful guide for Matt Dolan, should he want to climb this peak. He is always complaining that I do not put enough detail and useful information, like what I ate that day, or how I chose a peak, into my trip reports.

I had duty on the ship on Saturday, so I couldn't leave until 7:30 Sunday morning to get a peak. Initially, I was considering North Peak or Big Gee up on Logger's Island as neither would require a full day. With the recent snow, Big Gee would be longer than I wanted. Additionally, during the day on Saturday, there was a tragic mudslide on Hwy 530 which shut down the road to North Peak. I did not want to add my traffic to the already heart-breaking scene in Oso, so I decided to head for a worthy peak. As I was solo, my options were limited, but 3 peaks rang out as possibilities: Lennox, Granite, and Silver. Ultimately, I decided that on a blue bird day like this, I should go for broke and get a good peak instead of a logging country dumpster. The avalanche forecast called for moderate conditions, with danger on south-facing slopes due to wet slides. This effectively eliminated Lennox and Granite. Additionally, in the morning as I left the ship, my buddy Dave sent me a text telling me that a backcountry skier was killed on Saturday on Granite Peak, across the street from Silver. Not wanting to repeat that, and worried about conditions, I headed for Silver straight from the ship. The late start courtesy of the Navy would prove to screw me over this day.

Upon arriving at the trailhead, I met another climber also named James. We chatted about the peak and the previous day's tragedy on Granite across the highway. We were both headed for Silver Peak. He was planning on using snowshoes, while I planned to use my AT ski setup. We ended up being pretty evenly paced until the point where we left the trail around 3,400 ft. This is also when I realized that I did not have my "track" function turned on (not my first time making this mistake on my GPS). We continued up from this point together, he went straight up, sinking in quite deep into the powder in spite of his snowshoes, while I zig-zagged up, breaking trail with my skins and skis. Around 4,200 ft, I decided that it would be easier and safer to exit left to the ridge. James continued straight up. I made it to the ridge and turned right towards the peak, reaching a relatively flat spot after not too much time.

At this point, I took a well-deserved break to grab a snack and managed to catch a pair of backcountry telemark skiers descending the drainage north of Silver Peak. They were making perfect S-turns in the fresh pow just below the 5,200 ft hump in the middle of the basin. Looking up the ridge, I saw a section where there was a cliff on the right side and a nasty cornice on the left side. It was here that I contemplated my choices in the increasing heat. Wet slide conditions were ripe on this side of the ridge; a skier was killed the day before on a slope of similar aspect and angle; I was solo; I had to either go right over a cornice or right under it. My final option, which I would have done if I had a partner, was to drop a little ways into the basin and follow the telemark skiers' skin track up to the 5,200 ft hump and then back on to the ridge. This, however, wold require that I descend into this basin on a slope that had been baking in the sun all day. It was now 1345. If I had a partner, I could also head to the cornice and try to saw it off or pass above it - this was not an option. The previous day's avalanche death weighed heavily on my mind. I took some pictures of the stunningly beautiful view and peeled my skins off for the descent. The good news is that the northwesterly aspect I ascended was choked full of powder. I would get some great turns in!

The descent was awesome - knee-deep powder. Matt Dolan likes to ski pow-pow from what I recall. It doesn't get any better than this! Also, I was in the trees, so I really got to test out my turning skills. I made it safely through the trees to the trail out, following it down and cutting switchbacks on my skis when they headed left. I didn't want to end up too low and miss the parking lot or end up in the creek. I was able to ski all the way to the car except for 3 small sections where I walked for a few hundred feet and 2 or 3 stream crossings where I popped my skis off for the few steps across. I did not see James on the way down, and I was definitely descending faster than he could. His car was parked where I had met him in the morning, so there is a decent chance that he made the peak. He would have had an easier time navigating the steep narrow sections on his snowshoes than I would have had on my skis.

In hindsight, we probably should have teamed up for this peak and I would have made it. I don't know if James made it or not, but he was having reservations about how the conditions would be during his descent with the additional hours of sun on the snow. I guess we were both probably wary of committing to an unknown partner who may have slowed us down. After we climbed the first 2,000 ft in near unison, it seems we would have made a damn good team. Additionally, I had my snowshoes and a regular pair of boots in the car, so I could have transitioned to match his setup to work together. I left him a note with my email address, so maybe we will link up for a peak. I told him to check out this website as well.

Ultimately, it was an outstanding ski and now I have a grudge peak to go back for. I may try the route that ascends from just north of Annette Lake, but only if Matt Dolan can join me.


7.05 miles
2.2 mph moving avg
20.7 mph max speed
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:3020 ft / 920 m
    Gear Used:
Skis, Ski Poles
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:3020 ft / 920 m
    Route:Humpback Creek to NW Ridge
    Start Trailhead:1880 ft / 573 m
Descent Statistics
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by James Barlow
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Note: GPS Tracks may not be accurate, and may not show the best route. Do not follow this route blindly. Conditions change frequently. Use of a GPS unit in the outdoors, even with a pre-loaded track, is no substitute for experience and good judgment. accepts NO responsibility or liability from use of this data.

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