Saturday, June 4, 2011

Sliver Star - Silver Star Glacier - 06.03.11

5200'+ elevation gain
8 miles RT
Left car: 8:00 am
Summit: 3:00 pm
Back at car: 5:30 pm
9 hours car to car

Josh had a rare day off from work and we opted to get out together. After some thoughts on destination, we went with an attempt at Silver Star because of the possibly better weather farther east, and it having the least amount of mileage of the destinations we were considering.

We left Seattle around 4am and were walking around 8am. We initially poked around one creek to the west of Silver Star Creek before realizing that it was not it and heading to the correct creek. There is a well beaten trail from the highway heading into the woods and we marched up it. It was bare and wet in the beginning and then we started getting patches of snow. Continuous snow started around 500' above the car and then we were post holing through fallen trees. We separated a bit while Josh followed a boot path further from the creek. We rejoined around 4500' where we looked for a bridge to cross to the west side of the creek. Once on the other side we continued post holing for a bit before the terrain leveled out enough for us to put on skis.

Josh led us up the valley, but I was concerned about how level we were staying. I steered us higher, but that only got us mired in steeper terrain that was more difficult to navigate. After a few downhill turns in an avalanche chute we were back on easier to navigate level terrain. And more importantly, out of the woods and in sight of our objective.

Reaching the headwall of the first cirque we headed right (Burgdorfer's suggestion.) There were boot tracks from a party on foot as well as multiple glissade chutes. I was feeling tired and we switched back up to finally gain the bench above. We stopped for lunch by large tree and watched slides come off the surrounding rock. Then we continued.

I offered the trail breaking to Josh, but he said he was a touch slower than me and that we would be slower in general if he was leading and I was following. So I continued setting a track to the leftmost of the three passages up to the glacier. Once closer to the passages, we opted for the rightmost as it was traveled and did not look to have snow releasing off of slabs in it. This meant a traverse back right to get to it and then numerous switchbacks to get below the wine spires. Josh took over just below the spires and set a nice course up a steep section where we took a pause.

After the pause we had a descending traverse to the main glacier. We both discussed how our ascent route did not seem to be the best descent route and we would attempt to descend farther to the east. There was a fine crust of ice on the snow that would break off as we went up. It was a visible crust, but we could feel it and we didn't think it would affect skiing. I called it a "one molecule thick" crust. Higher on the glacier there was a some fresh snow (perhaps 2 inches worth) that was creamy and buttery. We were fairly excited to get to ski it.

I kept a check on the time and was realizing we would not summit until 3pm. But it was hard to put a turnaround in when it was all sunny. Of course this was leading to us overheating and both of us getting a pretty bad burn. I had stopped putting sun block on my forehead because it was hurting my eyes when I sweated. I felt out of shape and out of practice, forgetting to bring my Buff to protect me from the sun.

Josh led up the final headwall to the col where we rested a bit while donning our crampons. (We didn't think we'd need them, but we carried them all this way...) We headed up to the summit where Josh did the scrambling off width moves to attain the summit. I, in my aluminum crampons and fatigued state opted to keep my high point six feet lower. After some picture taking we descended back to our skis. Another rest, and we were getting ready for some turns.

The first pitch was a bit boney from wet slide activity, but the skiing was pretty good. We opted to head to skier's right and pop over a soft ridge to ski the other side and then come back to the main side to ski out. The skiing was better than expected. A little heavy and wet in places but fairly enjoyable. Lots of traversing on the other side of the ridge releasing wet slides as we went. Some fun skiing back to the basin and we had just descended 3000' in about forty minutes. We were excited with the skiing and our descent time as we were not too excited with how long it took us to ascend.

Once on the flats, we released our heels and kicked around for a bit even finding a place to lock our heels again and make turns. On the descent we kept to the east side of Silver Star Creek and found that to be fairly good terrain. After entering the woods at the bottom of an avalanche path, we found slow going with Josh and I trying not to fall into tree wells in tightly packed trees. I told him we only had 500' vertical of snow left and that skiing was no longer more efficient than booting. A few minutes later we transitioned back to boots and stomped our way back to bare trail and eventually the car.

This was a great trip. While I am not happy with my performance (or lack thereof) it was a great place to be. We had a good time aside from the sun burn and it was in a wonderful place. The skiing was actually pretty good and better than expected so we are not complaining. It was nice to get out with a fellow father on a rare day in the mountains.

My pics are here.

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