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Trip Report    

Alpine Scramble - Silver Peak

Scramble of 7-22-2018: Another excellent trip up the north basin loop scramble route to Silver, with a little snow in patches, a lot of boulder hopping, and some route-finding, forest and brush bashing, and summit basking.

  • Road rough but passable
  • The road up to the PCT trailhead is fully snow-free and open.  A fair few vehicles chose not to cross low spots and rocky spots, but really with care and a little driving skill, all the problem spots are easily passable.  Just slow down and pick your way through.  There were no other notable access issues.  There is still snow up in the north basin, though not enough for glissading or other fun (in a real pinch, an ice ax/snow travel skills session could be run on one of the larger remaining patches, but the issue is that each patch is surrounded by boulders and rock, meaning that there is an actual consequence to a practice run that goes wrong...).

We left the PCT trail just into the forest, crossing the first two creeks that drain the north basin, but turning right/west off the trail before crossing the third.  We then took the path of least resistance into the brush and forest until we had passed the north end of the north spur  of the summit ridge.  At that point we turned left/south and crossed the creek that drains the SE portion of the north basin.  This puts you onto rockfall off the steep cliffs that line the spur.  Eventually, contouring and slightly but steadily rising crosses first one strand of forest, then more rockfall, then another strand of forest that drops one back into the stream drainage.  Across the drainage, one works as high as possible in moderately steep, moderately brush forest.  We chose to drop back into the drainage to have a little fun scrambling in and alongside the waterfall.  Above that, one enters the lower portions of the north basin proper.  We made our way over to the Large Boulder for a break to de-layer, drink, nibble, and apply sunscreen.  We then continued up large stable rockfall/boulders and snow patches into the upper north basin, just below the west spur ridge of the summit. 
At the earliest convenient point, you can ascend steep but stable boulder to a green ramp with some steep rock scrambling moves that leads up and over the ridge.  One then drops south into the well-worn rocky way-trails emplaced by years of spring skiers, scramblers, and snow shoers coming up the more usual western approach to the ridge and summit.  Annette Lake and Mt. Rainier/Goat Rocks/Mt Adams come into view.  The way-trails contour east and then turn up north toward the summit, where the way-trails become looser and grimier and some rockfall caution is necessary.
We took a half-hour to forty minutes on the bluebird summit, then retraced our route along the south side of the west spur, past where we had initially crossed it, and crossed back over the ridge to diagonal down on blocky boulders to the saddle that leads down several boulder fields (or way-trails tramped into the heather bordering the rockfalls) staying below/within the rim of the west spur as it turns northwest and then peters out.  At about this point, there is an internal forested ridge that parallels the spur: one turns into that and not far into the brush and forest, one finds a forest waytrail that leads more or less down the humpback of the forested ridge, crossing an occasional finger of rockslide (cairns allow one to regain the trail after crossing the rock).  The forested spur continues north and the way-trail finally turns east/NE off the ridge and down into more rockfall (more cairns, etc., as clues).  Once off the ridge down to the margin where the clearcut berry bushes give way to the forested fringe just north of the entire north basin, one looks carefully for the way-trail to fork, with one fork turning north into the clearcut bushes and the other continuing east in the clearcut/forest margin.  Turn north at this fork and a couple of hundred yards brings you conveniently through the shortest stretch of bushy clearcut to the closest extension of the forest service road network.  Stick with the main road as it twists and turns and, in about 20 minutes of road walking, brings one back in a large and satisfying loop around the whole north basin to the cars parked not far from the PCT trailhead.
Total time on foot: 8:40 am to 1:20 pm (4 hours 40 minutes), steady pace with several short breaks and a half-hour/40 minute longer summit break.  FS road travel each way about a half hour.  Another ten minutes to Dru Bru!

This is a fun scramble with a little bit of everything: forest and brush, stream and boulder, snow and steeper rock scrambling, and a final relaxing and shady way-trail down a moderate forested ridge.  You don't have to get up to early, it doesn't take all darn day, and yet it's a fun scramble pretty much the whole way, with very little true trail tramping.  The perfect Snoqualmie Pass trip!

Thanks to Glen F and Ed D for the explorations that helped pioneer this route!