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Backcountry skiing course and avalanche education Mountain madness IMG 0526 f1599261096

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