Silver Peak

With the end of daylight savings time I had an extra hour of sleep. That wasn't enough and I had one of my latest starts of the year. It was after 10:30 when I finally hit the road. A few days earlier I picked up a pair of REI Spirit II hiking boots. They are heavier than any boots I have owned for a number of years. They should be just the ticket for winter scrambles and backpacks. I needed a short easy trip to break them in. I also took a pair of low top lightweights just in case the new boots left me with sore feet in the middle of the hike. With the late start and short hike planned I figured on another Tiger Mountain trip.

As I drove east on I-90 through Eastgate I could see fresh snow on Bandera Mountain and points farther east. Tiger seemed less and less enticing. When I reached the High Point exit I couldn't resist the pull of the Cascade Crest. I kept heading east and thought through the alternatives. The shortest hike with a high start and best likelihood of snow was Silver Peak from Windy Pass. That became the new objective. Suzanne and I had done Silver via a longer loop in the early summer but I had never been up with fresh snow.

I exited at Hyak and flew up the Cold Creek Road to Windy Pass In another month or so I hope to be skiing this road. There were a couple of cars at the pass. The drive up was all in the sun...until I crested Snoqualmie Pass. The drive to the trailhead was all in the clouds. I hoped to get back in the sun by the time I reached the crest. The new boots are about a pound heavier in total than my regular boots. The extra weight was noticeable not not that bad. The first 1 3/4 miles is on the Pacific Crest Trail. It's in great shape and the grade is very gentle. There was a little snow at 3850' and some larger patches at 4000'. None of it was on the trail itself.

On my previous visit there was a huge cairn marking the old abandoned trail heading up Silver Peak. Now it is gone. The trail is obvious if you are looking for it but otherwise easy to pass by. There is a large pond just after the turnoff to signal if one has gone too far. I found the trail and headed uphill. Within a few minutes there was snow and soon after the route was mostly snow covered. I could see two sets of fresh prints heading up and some old ones coming down. I reached the ridge top in 53 minutes, not too bad with some snow and heavy boots. The route along the ridge was completely snow covered. It was mostly only 3-6 inches deep. Not enough to hinder travel.

Fifteen minutes later I was at the base of the south ridge of Silver. The talus field which makes up the south ridge was almost entirely covered with a thin coating of snow. The previous hikers had stomped out nice deep footprints for me to use. Tiger Mountain does not require gaiters when there is no snow so of course I didn't bring them. It would have been nice to have them as the snow became much higher than my boots. I also never take a camera to Tiger. I sure wish I had one with all the snow flocked trees and snow capped peaks surrounding me. Oh well.... On the ridge it was partly cloudy and partly sunny. Best of all it was not too windy. Views out were partly obscured but partly glorious.

I rounded the false summit dropped a little and began the final push to the top. The snow was up to about 8 inches deep here though as the route steepened some of the rock was bare. As I neared the top I saw two hikers starting down. I thanked them for the nice steps and let them pass by. A minute or two later I was on the summit. There was wind here and I quickly added a number of layers plus gloves and a wool hat. Annette Lake was directly below and it looked like it was not destined to get any sun deep down in it's north facing bowl. Mt. Stuart was lost in the clouds but Granite Mountain was right across from me. One week before I spent a sunny hour on the summit of Mt. Defiance . Now I could see snow covering the upper 700' of the mountain.

The distance and elevation of this hike were similar to a trip up West Tiger 3 but the aesthetics were a hundred times better. It only took 95 minutes to reach a 5605' summit right on the crest of the Cascade Range. The clouds seemed to be lessening so I stayed on top longer than I planned. I saw two brightly clad hikers below standing out against the bright white snow. In a short time they joined me on the summit. They had no trouble summiting in trail runners but their feet must have been half frozen. One half of the pair was scheduled to be back in Washington DC within 12 hours. Silver Peak was not a bad way to spend his last hours in this Washington.

I soon headed on down. I kept my rain gear on as it had now warmed up enough to melt the snow flocking the trees. More than once I have been soaked by snow melting in trees on a rainless day. I met one more group heading up as I dropped down the ridge. The boots worked great. I never had to resort to the lightweight boots. If fact, I had better traction in snow than I've had in years. Those three groups were the only people I saw all day. Not bad solitude for such an easy peak so near Seattle.

The first snowfall of the season is one of my favorite times to hike. The trees were flocked. The peaks stood out with their white winter coats. There was no avalanche danger yet. Hopefully this is the beginning of a normal winter. After dirt hikes to over 4000' in January last year I'm ready for a snowy winter.

Photos courtesy of Chistopher Walsh.

Jim On Summit
Silver Peak Summit
Jim Ascending
Just Below Summit
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2005