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Author Topic: March 23, 2012, Silver Star, GPNF  (Read 3072 times)
rootsman
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March 23, 2012, Silver Star, GPNF
« on: 03/24/12, 04:06 PM »

With the recent low snow line it looked like Silver Star Mtn would have adequate coverage to be skiable, and that's not an opportunity that I can pass up. A few phone calls turned up three other suckers who were willing to roll the dice on some low elevation turns, and I headed out with BMac, AJ, and Jamie.   

Having approached from the north every other time, this time we started in Washougal and came up from the south, with Grouse Pass (also called Grouse Vista) as our driving goal. A very low snow line quickly killed that idea and though someone made it all the way to the pass in a monster truck, we decided to park it and skin the last 2-3 miles to the pass.

The ski up the road wasn't bad, but once we reached Grouse Pass and started up the summer trail, we encountered bottomless mank that made the going very taxing. We almost wanted to call it powder, and it once had been, but it had warmed just enough to stick tenaciously to skins yet offered no support to the baskets on planted poles. More than once I stuck out a pole to catch my balance and effortlessly punched it through three feet of snow to the deck. We sketched our way across one steepish hillside and then decided to call a conference. The snow was terrible, stability was suspect,  and neither would be getting any better.

Stopping just east of and above Pyramid Rock, we had some lunch and debated a "shortcut" that would take us south down the drainage to the road, saving some road slogging as well as a trip down the bobsled chute that we had ascended to the ridge. Despite knowing what we know about westside tree skiing, we opted for the cut-off.

The snow was rapidly softening to calf-deep and turns were hard work. The open slopes eventually closed up and we dropped into the drainage and essentially skied through a snow-covered jungle. Survival replaced style and grabbing alder saplings became the easiest way to turn and stop. We eventually thrutched our way out to the rapidly melting-out road. You could probably drive to the trailhead today.

There is currently a ton of snow up there and once it settles it will probably give up a few good days of turns, but right now it is just several feet of isothermal glop. I also think that coming in from the north is the way to go. Longer drive but less road skiing.



The first picture is looking towards the summit of Silver Star. The second is looking back along the ridge towards Larch Mountain, with Pyramid Rock to the left of center. The third shot is the moment we started to get that old sinking feeling as we dropped into what was soon to become a hellishly overgrown drainage.


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« Last Edit: 03/28/12, 01:29 PM by rootsman » Logged

Outsiders, in an outsider's sport, doing in outside. That's like...rocking the triple entendre!
OldHouseMan
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Re: March 23, 2012, Silver Star, GPNF
« Reply #1 on: 03/24/12, 05:49 PM »

Thanks for the info, I was thinking about going in there tomorrow. I've always gone in from the south. How close do you think you can get if you approach from the north?
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blackdog102395
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Re: March 23, 2012, Silver Star, GPNF
« Reply #2 on: 03/24/12, 07:51 PM »

My partner and I briefly considered Silverstar for today.  It's been on the list for years, but always seems to get passed up for other tours.  Nice work even if conditions were less than ideal.
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rootsman
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Re: March 23, 2012, Silver Star, GPNF
« Reply #3 on: 03/24/12, 08:17 PM »

Thanks for the info, I was thinking about going in there tomorrow. I've always gone in from the south. How close do you think you can get if you approach from the north?

Ya know, it's hard to say for sure, but I'll bet that by Sunday you should be able to at least drive to the L1000/4109 split, which only leaves a couple of miles. What's nice about the northern approach is that the road is steeper and more direct, so less distance skinning. Also, you get to the summer trailhead and you're already above the trees, where getting to Grouse Pass still leaves you a slog through the timber.

I also think that the sweetest plums at Silver Star are the lines dropping in to the headwaters basin for the West Fork of the Washougal, and coming in from north puts you closer to these.

My main concern would be the snow. There was plenty of it, but it was terrible on Friday. Hopefully it has consolidated for you. Good luck and I'd love to hear how it goes...
« Last Edit: 03/24/12, 08:22 PM by rootsman » Logged

Outsiders, in an outsider's sport, doing in outside. That's like...rocking the triple entendre!
pabloson
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Re: March 23, 2012, Silver Star, GPNF
« Reply #4 on: 03/27/12, 10:35 AM »

Nice effort!  Sorry that it didn't work out for you, but I guess you learned a lot.

I'm getting the impression that if there is enough snow for skiing Silver Star, then there is too much snow for driving.  Well maybe, like you say, a few days in the spring will work..  I got up there recently before the recent snows and the trails off Grouse vista were actually streams of water.

I had a similar idea about skiing off the south side of Pyramid.  Actually SE side of Pyramid.  On my topo map it shows a clearing all the way down to the little creek near where it crosses the road.  Obviously you did not see the clearing or my map is mistaken?

thanks.
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OldHouseMan
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Re: March 23, 2012, Silver Star, GPNF
« Reply #5 on: 03/27/12, 01:15 PM »

Last year we skied Silver Star on May 31. We approached from the south and hit snow about about a half mile out of the Grouse vista TH. All of the aspects were skiing very well and there was easily another week or more of skiing to be had. I've never approached from the north but have heard, as rootsman said, it is a little easier.
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rootsman
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Re: March 23, 2012, Silver Star, GPNF
« Reply #6 on: 03/28/12, 08:02 AM »

...

I had a similar idea about skiing off the south side of Pyramid.  Actually SE side of Pyramid.  On my topo map it shows a clearing all the way down to the little creek near where it crosses the road.  Obviously you did not see the clearing or my map is mistaken?

thanks.

I think I know exactly what you are referring to. There is a little tail of "clearing" which angles across the SE slope. That is what sucked us down into the green hell. It looks pretty good on the map, it looks much different when you ground-truth it. Yes, it is clear of timber, but is certainly not an open slope. I'd recommend against dropping down to the road that way, unless you're feeling really sporting.

It is definitely tricky finding the right combination of conditions to make Silver Star go, and you'll have to punch your ticket multiple times to get in a good one, but what's the point of an obsession if it's easy?

« Last Edit: 03/28/12, 01:13 PM by rootsman » Logged

Outsiders, in an outsider's sport, doing in outside. That's like...rocking the triple entendre!
rootsman
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Posts: 109


Re: March 23, 2012, Silver Star, GPNF
« Reply #7 on: 03/28/12, 01:27 PM »

Last year we skied Silver Star on May 31. We approached from the south and hit snow about about a half mile out of the Grouse vista TH. All of the aspects were skiing very well and there was easily another week or more of skiing to be had. I've never approached from the north but have heard, as rootsman said, it is a little easier.

Yeah, I think that the drive to the north side if more of a PITA, but as an approach it is better once you get out of the car. Coming from Portland the northern approach adds about an hour of driving, some of it low-speed stuff on terrible roads. But it's a better ski out, even if some of it is on the road. We found a surprising amount of uphill on the road ski out on the southern approach.

I think that if you can drive all the way to Grouse Vista and start from there, it might be about a toss-up as to which is the better approach, but when the snow level is low I think the north side might give you a slightly better shot at actually getting some turns in.
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Outsiders, in an outsider's sport, doing in outside. That's like...rocking the triple entendre!
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