Written September 9, 2019
Climbed June 1, 2019
The first of the month was freakin’ EPIC. Analisa posted an IG story asking if anyone was around to climb Silver Star Mountain (the one in Okanogan county along Highway 20, NOT the extinct volcano in Skamania County) on Saturday and it JUST so happened I was trying to make weekend climbing plans. Our schedule lined up perfectly with Mal, who was coming back from a Baker climb with Mountain Madness. Mal and I had never met before and Analisa & I had really only stumbled into each other multiple times, so I was stoked to climb with these ladies. Also, Analisa had my North Face mittens I had passed onto her during my catastrophic day skiing Camp Muir. ‘Twas only two years ago… we couldn’t help but laugh at how quickly time passes!
The result of our trio was a lot of laughs, delirium, alderneering, and quick friendships formed over mountain bonds.
We met on Friday the 31st at my house in Everett where I presented Mal & Analisa with the best pizza west of the Hudson (it’s true) for the road trip in the 4Runner Chalet. We got a pretty late start, arriving to the TH (well, at a parking lot close to the TH) at midnight. I cozied with Analisa in the chalet and Mal pitched a tent outside. We got a solid few hours of sleep before our wakeup call at 03:45, with intentions to start climbing* by 04:15.
*Note: Climbing not skiing. When Analisa first proposed this peak offer, I immediately thought we’d be carrying skis. Yet, the snow levels didn’t afford adequate reward for a ski carry. In retrospect, this was a really good decision not to have skis on our backs through all the brushy. Mal also thought we’d be skiing, but instead our mission was baggin’ a Bulger peak!
Our morning wakeup was a little disorienting, but I did have a restful sleep in the cozy 4Runner Chalet! Analisa fumbled with the headlamp batteries for a while as we packed up to head to the actual TH. We opted for the route via Silver Star Creek, which was the path less traveled for the day (and we can now understand why). Summitpost describes the time required for this route as “A long day.” Yes, yes, long indeed. Gaia told me our stats for the day were:
- Highest Point: 8876 feet (summit!)
- Ascent: 5,131 feet
- Distance: 8.67 miles
- Time: A long day. But seriously, 14:04 hours.
- Moving Time = 8:18, Stopped Time = 5:46
I couldn’t have picked a better crew to climb with. We seemed in sync all day. Plus, these two lady crushers and badasses inspire me insanely. Mal keeps track of her trip reports on her blog here and Analisa writes gear reviews and challenges the perception of female athletes on her blog here! Seriously, so stoked to be alongside these two ATHLETES!!!
We started by headlamp, but only needed them for a short time as dawn arose. Our morning navigation led us a bit too far up the talus field and we ended up battling slide alder for more time than was preferred. (Actually, is ANY time in slide alder preferred? Ponder, ponder). Luckily, Analisa had some “alderneering” moves to share with us, such as the Can-Can, Ankle stretch, and various other ridiculously dodgy dance moves. In the battle of French braid vs. slide alder, the alder won. I said “adios” to my braid and “hola” to bruises on my peachy skin. I now consider myself an alder ninja.
Summitpost recommends staying east of Silver Star Creek for the first few miles when there’s snow cover, but the snow had been melting really fast and we probably should’ve crossed the creek earlier to avoid some of the alder situation. (Lesson learned: We stayed more west on our descent.) At about 9:15am and 5,000 feet, we stopped to reevaluate our navigation route. We stayed east for a while longer and were alleviated when we finally got to snow (BYE FOR NOW, ALDER). The snow was perfect for kick steps (thank you Mal for leading the wolf pack!) and we didn’t need crampons once!
Ice axes out, cheesy smiles on. We can thank our friends at Crosspoint Dental in Lynwood for the pearly whites in these photos.***
We maintained a perfect speed while kicking steps, holding a conversation about what it means to be a woman climber, our goals, and relationships. Analisa enlightened me on the formula to online dating profiles for men in the Pacific Northwest. She warned me that a TRUE outdoorsman will have TWO photos of doing outdoor activities (usually in two different seasons), while an imposter will only have one. She also noted there’s almost a guarantee to have a Seattle Sports photo + holding a baby/dog/animal photo. Not gonna lie, she’s been pretty right!
We ended up summiting Silver Star by scrambling around a chimney that was a bit butt-puckery. We were later “educated” by another climber on the mountain that we “went the wrong way” and there was an “easier way.” Did we ask for this advice? Nope. He also proceeded to ask us NOT to plunge step down in the snow because we were “ruining the boot pack” for other climbers. He asked us to downclimb so he didn’t have to kick his own steps in. Screw you, dude. He wasn’t wearing a helmet, but somehow he self-proclaimed to be the Silver Star Mountain Police. He then spent about 10 minutes yelling to his partners NOT to go the same way we did… Not appreciated, dude. Not at all.
Our way back to the car involved a less alder can-can moves, and more wading in water (like, knee-deep water) and jumping over downed trees. We continued to cuss the forest surrounding Silver Star, but marveled at the fuzzy larch trees, wondering how magical it would be in the fall. Honestly, I’ll probably not go back on this trial to find out. Unless my mountain memory really does serve me and I forget about all those alder trees…
We were met with periods of delirium as we half ran/half skipped down some snow (basically a standing glissade), made up ridiculous songs about how much we dislike alders, laughed hysterically, and alternated between exclamations of complaints & seriously high stoke levels. Nobody was around us to tell us we were unpleasant to be around and I’m pretty sure the fly on the wall would’ve found our antics entertaining and confusing at times. There was a lot of “F#ck You Nature” and “Beyond F#ck You Nature” we experienced.
I appreciate our weirdness.
On this trip, I also discovered my new favorite rule with thanks to Mal. Instead of saying “SORRY,” we were to say “SURPRISE” for silly mistakes that didn’t really require an apology. For example, Kristen falls asleep in car on the way back to town. Instead of saying “Sorry I fell asleep,” Kristen says “SURPRISE! I fell asleep!” This can be applied on and off of mountains, and I have now integrated it into a general life rule.** No sorries, just surprises.
**(Obviously, sometimes you need to say “sorry”… this does not work in times of empathy or when you’re truly being a jerk. Silver Star Mountain Police Man should have said sorry. But, I guess first you need to realize you’re wrong. SO… I guess saying “sorry” when you’ve actually done nothing wrong can/should be supplemented with “SURPRISE.” Capisce? Give it a try. Your friends might like it, too.)
When we got back to the car, we were pooped but pretty damn satisfied with our path finding, rock scrambling, and standing/sitting glissading skills. Analisa changed into a dress, which I was immediately jealous of. She also noticed halfway down that she had been wanting a hoodie the entire day to protect her hairline from the sun… only to realize she was literally wearing one all day. Gear envy is a real thing.
Our suggestion? Go for Burgundy col. And, most importantly, find partners who mesh as well as we did because holy shit does it make all the alpine craziness worth it x infinity. I mean, obviously there’s the views… but can’t beat the company!
***Suggestion #2: Do you need a new dentist?? Do you like climbing mountains?! Do you want to see mountain photos while getting your teeth cleaned and also see the best doctors and hygienists ever? Well, then go to Crosspoint Dental Center in Lynwood and see Luke Daining and his wife Gina for some top-notch service. Your pearly whites will be glad you did.
With love and gratitude,