Silver Star is one of the largest peaks in the Washington Pass area and contains one of the easternmost glaciers in the Cascades. While just shy of 9000′, this climb still requires over 4000′ of elevation gain to reach its summit.
Silver Star is not a technically demanding climb, though it requires good fitness and the ability to move steadily for many hours. Most people chose to climb Silver Star as an overnight trip, though for extremely fit parties, it can be done in a single, long day.
The climb offers a bit of everything; a steep approach trail through a beautiful, east side forest, a spectacular high camp, snow and glacier climbing, and even a bit of third and fourth class climbing up to its tiny summit. In some ways, Silver Star is the quintessential alpine summit, with the benefit of being achievable by most physically fit climbers.
We typically start on the Western flank of the mountain, just off of highway 20. Here we drop down several hundred feet and find a log to cross Early Winters creek on. After regaining the climbers trail on the other side of the creek, its up, up, up a steep trail until we finally and mercifully reach the larch bench. Most parties will set up a camp here and relax for the remainder of the day, though climbers attempting the route in a day will usually take a break here before heading up toward Burgundy Col.
From Burgundy col, the route drops down steep snow onto the northern flank of the mountain. After roping up here, we descend just far enough to wrap below the rock slabs of Burgundy spire and then head back up toward the base of the Silver Star Glacier. The glacier gains about 1500′ of elevation on snow and gets quite steep toward the top. There can be a few crevasses to weave through, especially later in the season. The top of the glacier is Silver Star saddle or the col between the true summit and the West summit. From here, several hundred feet of scrambling and a few tricky moves at the end take us to the very summit of the peak.
To descend the route, we retrace our steps back down. After reaching the Larch bench, we break camp and head down to Silver Star Creek. As with all climbs that begin with a downhill, this one finishes with an uphill. While its only a few hundred feet long, that last climb of the trip has earned the nickname “Heartbreak Hill”.
An aerial view of Silver Star showing the true summit in the center and the Glacier on the right-hand side.
- Good physical fitness
- Previous snow climbing experience is helpful but not required.
The Wine Spires have a ton of great alpine rock climbing. From a camp at the Larch bench, a few excellent options are the West Ridge of Paisano Pinnacle or the North Face of Burgundy Spire. If you are planning an overnight climb of Silver Star, consider a morning of rock climbing at Fun Rock on day 1, then hiking to high camp in the afternoon.