Sunny Silverstar for Intro to Mountaineering
At the crack of dawn Ted Turner and Doug Ismail woke up in Tacoma to make the short drive to Seattle’s premier mountain shop, Second Ascent, to meet me for a gear check before their Introduction to Mountaineering course. After going through gear, deciding how many pairs of underwear to bring for our wet Cascadian forecast, we got some hot java and began our beautiful drive to Silverstar Mountain in the North Cascades.
We arrived at the trailhead after a few stops along the way to pick up extra lunches for our 4‑day outing. The sun was shining, and spirits were high regardless of the snow and rain in the forecast for the next few days.
Silverstar approach. Ted Tuner photo
We had sending temps for our base camp approach, encountering at least a dozen backcountry skiers and hikers with smiles stuck to their faces.
While enjoying the senic views of the Vasaliki ridge, the Wine Spires, and Silverstar, Ted shared his knowledge with us in the many facets of the natural world. Having an expert of the forest, rock, and rivers of the Pacific Northwest was truly fascinating. We got into camp early evening, set camp, and cooked up some grub. Clouds were dark and surrounding the local ranges, I was certain rain was on the way.
Wine Spires looking proud! Ted Turner photo
Day 2 provided great sunny weather for a jam-packed day of snow skills, laughs, and post holing in the warm unconsolidated snow. But again, at the end of the day we were surrounded by dark ominous clouds. As we ate dinner we discussed our summit strategy and decided on a 3am wake up alarm.
Snow school with blue skies! Ted Turner photo
Summit night, there were roughly 15 rain drops that fell on our tents. I was ready for rain, but upon waking up we had firm styrofoam snow and a clear starry sky. Conditions couldn’t have been better! The snow provided swift travel up to the glacier and we chased the sun from the shade until about 7am. Slowly clouds were building on the north side of the pass, duly noted. Although we sighted numerous people on the hike into camp, as well as a line of 20+ to the col below the summit, we had the mountain entirely to ourselves. Not a soul the entire day. We arrived at the col 400 feet below the true summit around 10am and spent some time soaking up the views surrounding us. Stepping out of their comfort zones, Ted and Doug climbed up the icy, rocky last pitch with great enthusiasm. As we sat on the top of Silverstar at 11am, ravens and fast moving clouds engulfed all of the surrounding mountains. For some reason, Silverstar, one of the largest peaks in the area, was immune to clouds that day. We never got whited out and had great visibility for our decent back to base camp. A memorable day in the mountains, rightfully so, it was Memorial Day weekend. Upon returning to camp the team rested in tents for an hour or so then got right back into mountain schooling. I taught knots, Ted taught rocks, and Doug taught life lessons.
Ted and Doug getting ready to send! Ted Turner photo.
Our last day, I was woken up by a flock of geese making a bunch of noise outside the tents. I knew they were up to no good and hoped they weren’t doing what I thought they might be. Why a goose would think a blue bag was appetizing, let alone nutritious, is beyond me. Somehow the gents didn’t hear, so I got up and shooed them away only to find one bag busted. Classic. We decided to break camp early, so as to get an elk burger and a cold pale ale as soon as possible. We landed at the Buffalo Run restaurant in Marblemount and Doug proceeded to order us a plate of Rocky Mountain Oysters. It really set the mood, thanks Doug :) We had another beautiful drive on Highway 20 back to civilization. During a stop along the way at Cascadian Farms for ice cream and espresso, we met some travelers who said there was pouring rain just over the pass from Silverstar on our summit day. How we didn’t get any of that, I am still dumbfounded. We made it to Seattle by 6pm and did crevasse rescue at Golden Gardens park with sunset views over the Olympics and Puget Sound. Start to finish, a great trip.
Doug and Chris with Silverstar and Chablis Wine Spire in the background. Ted Turner photo
Thanks to Ted and Doug for keeping the energy high and conversation stimulating!
~ MM Guide Christopher Petry