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North America, United States, Washington, Silver Star Mountain, Central Couloir to Near West Summit

Silver Star Mountain, Central Couloir to near West Summit. Anne Keller and I had both noticed a classic-looking alpine couloir splitting the west face of Silver Star (8,800'), and I couldn’t wait for spring. The 1,900-foot-long ribbon of steep snow and gully ice shoots the whole relief of the face and seemed to cut deep into the face at uniform width.

On March 15 we began our day at 6:15 a.m., and the morning started off with demoralizing post-holing until we gained the bare trail. We finally got to the base at 8:30 a.m. and noticed a flow of water ice marking the couloir entrance. The ice was not climbable, though, so we scrambled around on easy rock and began to simulclimb perfect névé and smears of gully ice. The walls became high around us and the couloirs slightly steeper as we progressed. We came to the first of two mixed cruxes: a large chockstone with steep ice smears pouring off both sides of the rock’s interface with the couloir walls. The left side offered rotten ice, but the right side went at fun M4 for a short pitch. The couloir again narrowed and became slightly steeper, and conditions and climbing continued to improve with every step. We looked out to the Cas-cades, the walls perfectly framing the Liberty Bell group. Before we reached the summit ridge, we met a second chockstone. This crux is shorter, at M3; we climbed it on the left up a small column of ice. Above, Anne stepped off the snow and up the final 125 feet of the line on easy rock, finishing the couloir on the flat slopes a few hundred feet north of the West Peak. We continued south up the ridge and stopped approximately 20 feet below the West Peak summit, where we took a break to grub on a flat bench. Then we descended down the glacier to Burgundy Col and back to the Methow Valley.

Mark Allen, AAC