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North America, United States, Washington, The Environs of Silver Star

The Environs of Silver Star. Three separate climbing trips were made the summer of 1952 to the granitic wonderland around Mt. Silver Star, one of the highest peaks in the Chelan-Methow region, harboring the most eastern glacier in the state of Washington. On the first of these excursions the party of Joe Hieb, Herb Staley, Don Wilde, and Fred Beckey climbed the summit Ulrichs describes as the spectacular western peak, but not without overcoming natural difficulties, augmented by approaching darkness. The party also climbed a number of rock summits on Vasiliki Ridge, north of the glacier; Vasiliki Spire, Charon Tower, The Acropolis, and Aphrodite Tower were all climbs of noteworthy individuality and difficulty.

The second journey marked the first ascent of Chablis Spire, one of the four consecutive spires at the fringe of the glacier just north of Silver Star's North Peak, all of which are quite reminiscent of the Bugaboos. Dick Berge, Wes Grande, and Fred Beckey climbed a steep 1500-foot couloir facing west to reach the deep col north of Chablis Spire. The remaining 400 feet to the horned summit at first appeared hopelessly difficult for completion that day, but fortuitously one single line of hidden cracks provided the key to an interesting and strenuous route. Because of the availability of many good belay points from granite flakes and within cracks, only two pitons were used. A brief attempt on Pernod, the second spire, ended in failure.

The third visit to this region of gargantuan slabs and small larch trees came in September and resulted in the first ascents of Pernod and Chianti Spires. From a camp at the head of Silver Star Creek the party climbed moraine and ice to the eastern walls of the spires, and in 500 feet of difficult rock climbing reached the notch between these two peaks. Joe Hieb and Art Maki made a 250-foot rappell on the west face and followed a loose gully to the notch between Chianti and Burgundy Spires. This north face of Chianti Spire was found to hold the only route. Two leads contained the principal difficulties; several times the rock proved unexpectedly unsound. Had time permitted, the climbers would probably have used more than the seven pitons needed for minimum safety and direct aid. Successfully reaching the block-like summit required a shoulder stand and flipping the rope over a rock flake.

Coincidentally, Don Wilde, Dick McGowan, and Fred Beckey scaled the soaring Pernod Spire. The first lead, to a one-foot ledge on the northeast corner of the peak, consumed some very trying hours. Pitons were needed several times for both safety and direct aid, and after the leader had finally climbed a very difficult crack, following several attempts, a very insecure section was reached, so a Rawl-drive bolt was placed for protection. Higher, it was necessary to use another bolt in order to facilitate an eight-foot pendulum traverse around an overhanging and flawless corner. Angle pitons of unusually large sizes were fortunately on hand, as these were needed for aid on a long crack running to the summit gable. Here two climbers awkwardly straddled the sharp rock, belaying, while the third stood balanced on shoulders, placing more bolts to reach the elusive summit. Rappells facilitated the descent to the notch, where both teams grouped and laid out long rappells to the glacier below. It was the consensus of opinion that both of these spires had been possibly the most strenuous climbs in the Cascades, but that Burgundy, the fourth spire, would be even more inaccessible than either. Along with Silver Horn and several summits on Snagtooth Ridge, it offers some sensational climbing problems.

Fred Beckey