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|-+  2016 Backcountry Trip Reports
| |-+  April 2016 Backcountry Trip Reports
| | |-+  April 1-8, 2016, Eldorado to Silver Star Traverse
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Author Topic: April 1-8, 2016, Eldorado to Silver Star Traverse  (Read 2106 times)

Posts: 9

April 1-8, 2016, Eldorado to Silver Star Traverse
« on: 05/06/16, 01:54 PM »

Spring has become somewhat of a mythical season for me.† While every season holds its wonders, Spring has become the season of adventure.† Thereís something about large ski traverses that reminds me of the great adventurers of old.† Each day holds its obstacles, difficulties, and mysteries.† You always end up at your destination, but never exactly as you planned.† You fight the elements, you fight the gear, sometimes you fight each other and you certainly fight yourself.† But you always come out stronger, with a clearer mind and a new appreciation for life and itís many wonders.† I guess what Iím saying is that Iím addicted, and it is for this reason that it has become a tradition for my climbing partner (Brian) and I to imagine improbably and grand lines across the Cascades.† And this year might have been our most ambitious route to date.

The route was essentially a continuation of an attempted traverse we did two years ago.† The plan was to ski from Eldorado to Silver Star peak while keeping a fairly high position the whole time.† Like most adventures, we succeeded in some ways and not in others.† But thatís life, and the unintended consequence of it has been to solidify in me an obsession and determination that has been surprising in its intensity.† With all the knowledge gained and the lessons learned I will undoubtedly be back to finish this traverse in its perfect form.†

But until then, here is a brief description of the route and tripÖ

Day 1:† Eldorado:

Day one saw us dropped off on Cascade river road at the gate.† We had our very own sendoff party!† Itís always a good feeling to be moving after months of pouring over maps and books and trip reports.†
The day went about as expected.† The slog from the road all the way up to the Inspiration glacier is a real bear, especially with 60 pounds of gear.† But, it was a comfortable day with clear skies and beautiful views.† Johannesburg seemed to lumber behind us, warily considering our tracks and ambitions, two small ants in a land of giants.†

Almost to camp:

Views from camp:

Day 2:† Eldorado to Thunder creek:

Day two got very interesting.† We descended down to Moraine lake and instead of climbing up towards the North shoulder of Forbidden, we ducked down into the Moraine lake drainage in an attempt to take a more direct path to the Banded glacier on Logan.† It was our hope to quickly descend the valley (more of a canyon, actually) than cross Thunder creek around 2600 feet and climb up and over the long, NW trending arm of Logan, and back down to the base of the Banded.† In hindsight, it was a god awful idea, and we knew it.† But, being the optimistic idiots that we are, we went for it anyway, and I'm sure you can guess the results.

It was a nightmare of twisted streams, slide alder, cliff bands, sketchy insecure melt-out-down-climbs and my personal favorite, devils club.† At one point it took us 2 hours to travel a 1/4 mile.† The highlight came when Brian was bushwacking violently though slide alder and devils club and his shell pants just started falling down to his ankles.† He was swearing, grunting, fighting with nature and trying to keep his pants up.† I just about died laughing.† It actually reminded me of this scene from Southpark.

We finally made it down to Thunder creek and decided to set up camp and lick our wounds from our ill advised brawl with mother nature.†

Leaving Camp:

Looking across the Inspiration glacier towards Klawatti:

Descending down to Moraine lake, feeling like a mortal staring up at the Greek gods on their thrones in Mount Olympus:

Do NOT go this way:


Day's 3 and 4:† Thunder creek to Fischer pass:

Brian and I had a decision to make.† Did we try and climb the ridge up and over to the banded?† Or did we traverse towards Easy pass, than head south, around the North side of Logan, towards Fischer pass?† We knew bad weather was on it's way, so we decided that our best option was to head towards easy pass.† We figured, if the weather held out, we could hit the direct drainage towards the banded glacier, and still climb over Logan.† And if the weather came in early, we would just continue around the North side of Logan and quickly get to Fischer pass where we could get onto the East side and in to better weather.

As is the norm, things did not go according to plan.† The amount of snow in Thunder creek was surprisingly low.† we were walking on dry trail all the way up to the North side of Logan at 3,600 feet.† Dark, ominous clouds started to roll in and the weather started to shift.† Neither of us had climbed Logan so we didn't want to get stuck up there in a white out, and we had a set exit date for our tour, so we took the easy way out, and decided to head to Fischer pass, which was a wise decision since heavy rain, wind and clouds moved in late day three and stuck with us all through day 4.† But, eventually we made it to Fischer pass after two days of shenanigans.

Right before things got ugly:

Amazing views of Logan from Fischer pass:

Day 5:† Fischer pass to Heather pass, up and over Black peak:

The weather improved just slightly, it wasn't precipitating and things were looking up.† We had to descend down from Fischer pass and hit the valley directly south of Black peak.† we would than climb the prominent ridge leading us to the saddle on the east side of the peak, directly below the south ridge scramble route.† However, white out conditions made it very difficult to pick the right ridge, so we ended up WAY too far east, practically next to Corteo peak.† How in the hell did we mess up so bad!?† That was my first thought upon realizing that we had to traverse the ridge west, back towards the saddle.

Again, what should have been easy turned into a grind.† The entire ridge was a series of cornices and cliffs.† With out any visibility it was impossible to tell if we could take any shortcuts down towards Lewis or Wing lakes.† We new there was a weakness in the ridge just SE of the Lewis glacier, in fact I had seen skiers take that route up and over into the basin south of black peak in previous years.† we even found ourselves at that weakness (according to maps and our GPS), but the drop off looked steep and we could only see about 20 feet ahead.† We even tried throwing rocks, climbing to the rock, throwing it again, all in the hopes that it would show us some of the contours of the slope.† Instead, the rock eventually disappeared over what appeared to be a significant drop.† We decided not to kill ourselves and just climbed our way to the saddle.†

We finally made it and STILL had to figure out a way around the cornices that had formed.† Having climbed and skied Black peak many times, I remembered that even if you fell, it wasn't that steep dropping down onto the north side of the saddle.† So I said, "fuck it" and just booted my way down in the white out while Brian kept tabs on me from the ridge.† And, for once, everything worked out well.† I was down quickly and safely and called for Brian, letting him know that it was good.† We quickly skied down to Lewis lake and made the final slog up to heather pass where we camped for the night.† † †

Standing in the wind and clouds during a very brief clearing:

Brian at the Saddle below the South ridge of Black peak:

Skiing down towards wing lake through the clouds:

Day 6:† Heather pass to Stiletto Peak:

Finally!† Blue skies and beautiful conditions.† Day 6 was a real joy.† We climbed up from Heather Pass towards maple pass and dropped down the SE facing bowl towards Rainy Lake.† We then climbed along the base of the Lyall glacier to the far east side of the bowl and hit a small notch that dropped us into a drainage that we were able to ski all the way down to Bridge creek.† From there we climbed up to the south side of Stiletto peak and set up our camp, enjoying some fine whisky and grand views.† Finally, a day without undue stress and challenges!

Views from Heather pass:

Brian skining towards Maple pass:

Looking from Maple pass area towards our notch down into Bridge creek:

Me Traversing the low flanks of the Lyall glacier:

The drainage we skied down to Bridge creek:


Day 7:† Stiletto high route to Wa pass:

We awoke to another fine day.† The Stiletto area is a wonderful little traverse with fantastic views.† We had traveled it last year as part of a different tour.† It felt good to be back.† Our plan was to traverse from the south side of Stiletto to Kangaroo pass, from there we would climb up and over Kangaroo ridge to the base of Big Snagtooth.† It was then our intention to get up the next, and final day, and climb the South facing couloir of Silver Star to 8,400 feet and ski our way down Silver Star creek to HW20.†

Everything went off without a hitch until we hit Kangaroo pass.† The temperature became uncomfortable hot.† And, as a result, the snow turned into isothermal mush, careening into wet slides at every step and turn.† The ridge we planned on hitting to get over to Big Snagtooth required us to traverse semi-mellow slopes above cliff bands.† And with the unstable snow, it seemed like a very bad idea.† So we tried to climb directly from Kangaroo pass up and over Kangaroo ridge, but found ourselves post holing through glide cracks and wet mank.† We finally retreated and pondered our options.† It was getting late, and we could actually see the equipment from the HW20 clearing crews.† It was a tough call, and neither of us where happy about it, but we decided do descend down to the road, ski down from the pass and camp below Silver Star on its West side.

The skiing was fun, and there was a great luge track from the tractors widening the road.† we even took time to build a crappy snowman for the clearing crews, writing a "thank you" in the snowbank.† Not sure if they got it but it was fun to just mess around, briefly.†

Me on the Stiletto high route:
† † † †

Brian skining along and enjoying the views from the Stiletto high route:

Day 8:† Over Silver Star and down Silver Star creek to HW20:

We woke up and made the climb up and over Burgundy col without much fuss.† It had remained warm all night so the snow was not the best for skinning or booting, but at that point we weren't really phased by anything.† The ski down from Silver Star to the road was enjoyable, although the snow was wet and sticky.† still, it felt good to hit the road and just relax for a brief second.† There weren't many cars at the gate, so we decided to start walking towards Mazama.† We walked for around 3 miles before we were able to hitch a ridge into the Mazama store from a friendly local (I forgot your name good sir, if you happen to read this, thank you so much).

The first order of business was to grab a six pack of Pacifico beer and a lime.† We walked into the shade and sat down, I mean Really sat down, for the first time in a week.† Nowhere to go, nothing to do or climb over, just the beautiful weather, soft breeze, and a nice cold beer.† †

Views from Burgundy Col:
† † † †

Me, resting in the sun after skiing down to the road:

So, our little adventure resulted in 61-ish miles and 29,000+ feet of elevation gain.† It was a great trip in a place that I hold very near and dear to my heart.† There are certainly things I would do differently, aspects of the route that I would change, if and when i go back.† But for now I am content, It's hard not to be out there.
« Last Edit: 05/06/16, 02:12 PM by jordansahls » Logged

Posts: 230

Re: April 1-8, 2016, Eldorado to Silver Star Traverse
« Reply #1 on: 05/21/16, 01:24 PM »

Wow, big trip! Congrats. Thanks for taking the time to write up a little something about it. 
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