Sunday, November 22, 2015

Silver Star Mountain with Eric

Today we went on a terrific hike up Silver Star Mountain with Eric McNeill.  This peak is about 45 minutes from home just across the border and just east of Battleground, WA.  I had been wanting to check this out for a long time and with nice weather and no significant snow it was a perfect opportunity, and also another good way for me to keep breaking in my new boots for Africa and Emily got get practice with her new camera.  Read on….

The forest service road to the trailhead was crazy.  And by crazy I mean thank God we chose to take my truck because it would have been impossible with the Prius.  Even in 4x4 low my truck took some maneuvering to make it up the road.   When we got to the trailhead we already had a wonderful view of Mt. St. Helens to the north.  After packing up we were on the ridge trail heading towards the summit by noon.  We took a little used side trail that I read in a guidebook would be more exciting than the wide ridge trail that mountain bikers used….

“Exciting” was definitely true as it followed the side of the ridge past some interesting rock outcroppings towards a big glacial cirque with Mt. Hood in the far distance.  

At first the trail was pretty straightforward following along the shoulder of the ridge but then we hit snow and the slope of the ridge steepened.  This made Eric a bit nervous (heights) so he decided after slipping a few times to head back.  I wasn't thinking and should have told him to head up the wider road at the apex of the ridge to meet us at the summit. 

Emily and I continued on with Leo passing under a rock bridge in the hillside.  The window in the wall of rock had a couple big boulders pinned precariously above our heads.  We stopped for a few photos with Leo then moved on with the trail becoming trickier as we went.  We made it to a very steep frozen section of the trail.  

A small stream had been flowing nearby and spilled onto the rocky trail where it froze making it a pretty hairy ascent with Leo.  I urged him on to the best spot but Emily took a little bit longer finding her way up.  Leo was whining and concerned about her but was stoked when she finally made it up to him.  

From there we had a little bit more scrambling up a steep but thankfully dry section to put us back up on the ridge line. The view back down towards the rocky glacial cirque was cool and reminded me of the glacial cirque on the backside of Mt. Marcy in the Adirondacks.  We could see the summit of Silver Star dusted with snow in the distance and it only took us another ten minutes or so to make it to the top.  

On the summit I used the long reach of our new Panasonic to snap some photos of Eric in the distance and before I could even put my camera down my phone rang and it was him.  We told him to follow the ridge line and in about 20 minutes he had met up with us just as we were heading down from the top.  We cruised back up with him and chilled at the top for a bit taking photos of Hood, Adams, Rainier and Helens and even Jefferson and the Sisters in the far distance to the south.  There were also some very cool exposed ridges among the mountains around us which stood out with their summits dusted in white snow.  

From the top we decided to take the safer and much quicker ridge line back that Eric had come up on.  It only took us about 30 minutes vs the 1.5 hour it had taken along the shoulder of the ridge.  It was a very nice hike and we will definitely head back in different seasons to check out the wild flowers and changing views.... If my truck can make it up that access road again!

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