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Silvertip peak was not on my climbing radar until I decided to conquer the Mountaineers Everett Peaks list. I had seen it many times while hiking in the area. It never looked all that imposing, but, as it turns out the peak has a lot of character.
From the Monte Cristo Townsite, head up to poodle dog pass via the Silver Lake and Twin Lakes trail. The trail isn’t tough, though it does climb a considerable amount. Along the way, you will walk through some dense forest, cross a creek or two and get a few views to take in. Up until you reach poodle dog pass and Silver lake, the day is straightforward.
After reaching Poodle Dog pass you will get your first look at the day’s goal. Though it is meager in size compared to many of its neighbors, Silvertip Peak towers over Silver Lake below. I had seen this view 100 times in my life, but this particular day it seemed far more imposing than ever before. The summit block is massive and the ridge-line long. If you still wish to continue, head down to the lake and cross over the outlet stream.
After crossing the outlet stream you will encounter the only navigation you will need to do for the day. There are 40 trails going in all directions. Some go to campsites, some to the lakeshore, and others dead-end in the brush. Your main goal is going to be gaining the northeast ridge of Silvertip Peak. For me, I headed for the trail that leads to the “toilet” and found a trail leading up the hillside behind it. It was ruthlessly steep, undefined, and required some veggie belays to keep my footing.
Whatever path you choose, aim for the ridge crest where you will encounter a very well defined climbers path. Follow the path as it winds along the ridge and makes its way for the summit block. There will be a small amount of scrambling you encounter, but, all spots have good handholds.
When you arrive at the bottom of the summit block, the day will get a lot more interesting. If you did not bring a rope with you, stop here. I would not recommend attempting to free climb back down the summit block. It is a very very long fall if you slip. When you get to the end of the obvious ridge trail, there will be a small group of trees above you. To get to the summit, first work towards them using whatever scramble route feels best. This section will be class 2 or 3 and a great warm-up for what is next.
As you work your way up, make sure you are climbing toward the climbers left of the summit block. With each step the scrambling will intensify. The rock stays solid, but, the handholds become fewer and farther between. The summit block of Silvertip peak gets steep fast. It becomes very committing before you know it. The last step is especially difficult due to exposure and only one or two good holds that I could locate. If you can make this step, then it is a short 200 foot easy walk to the top of the peak. Honestly, for the best idea of how exposed this chunk of rock gets, check out the video.
While Silvertip peak isn’t going to make the front of Rock and Ice Magazine, it is a blast to climb. Access is easy and there is a good mix of scrambling and hiking.
My favorite part was the rappel back down. The rope that was in place with rappel rings stood frayed in several spots and had become extremely brittle. All except for one of the nylon runners left behind stand worn down as well. For this reason, I removed the rope strand that someone placed here along with two or three nylon runners. The rappel rings are still there along with my nylon runner and a few others.
Most importantly, I got to rig my own anchor, set up my own rappel gear, and walk off that precipice. It felt amazing. This was the first time it was all me rappelling on a full solo adventure. now I want more of it. If you climb Silvertip peak take enough of a climbing rack to do the same. There is no telling how long some of that gear has been up there.
Of course, no climb is complete without stashing a beer somewhere to celebrate. This time I hid one on the prominent creek that you will cross while climbing to poodle dog pass. Two hikers were getting water when I arrived back there. I ran past them and quite enjoyed their astonished faces when I came back downstream holding a 22oz brew in my hand. One proclaimed “that is a great idea”. My first thought was “I just ruined my hiding spot”. Good thing I have climbed all the peaks up this way now.
For a few other great challenges in the area you can always check out Columbia, Cadet, Kyes or Del Campo