| Silverheels puts up a fight
I had originally planned on attempting Silverheels from the west ridge, so I hadn't paid a lot of attention to the description of the Hoosier Ridge route. I read up on the west ridge route and liked what I read. I figured, 6 miles instead of 9, and only an extra 150 feet of elevation gain? Sounds good to me. Turns out a should have paid a little closer attention to the description of the Hoosier ridge ascent route.
I got to Hoosier ridge about 9am, not intending to start early. There was a little weather coming in the afternoon, but not enough to worry about. After travelling the additional 2 miles south on US 9, I found the parking lot described in the west ridge route page. Alas, although the parking lot had been plowed at some point, it did not look like a good place for me to be taking my Sentra. Small and sturdy, my Sentra, but not so good in that much snow. So back to Hoosier pass I went.
Turns out I would be the one breaking trail that morning, which wasn't so bad. It was a nice morning and I was above treeline in no time.
After some postholing (even in snowshoes!) in the willows, I made it to the ridge. From what I remembered from the report, eventually I'd want to be making a right hand turn and following another ridge to the base of Silverheels. I found myself on the right (south) side of the ridge and decided to keep to that side, hoping I would ultimately save a little of the up and down to get to the base of Silverheels. Eventually, the day's goal came into view.
At this point I was more interested in the amount of snow I was encountering - more at this point than I expected - but the weather behind me was worth keeping an eye on.
Shortly thereafter I made the mistake that meant I'd be doing a little more hiking than planned. I knew I was looking for some power lines, but could see none. Instead of making it to the ridge I needed, I instead followed the first small ridge running north/south.
It wasn't long before I realized my mistake, and although not a serious misstep, it did leave me needing to now gain the ridge I was aiming for by heading back towards Hoosier ridge, down into the bowl somewhat, and then up onto the north/south ridge I had mistakenly missed. Eventually I reached the power lines, the next bump, and then the saddle below the steep climb up onto Silverheels proper. I took time (and bared my hands) long enough to slurp down a power gel, but I was not in the mood for photos. The temps were not bad, forecast for around 10F, but the wind was steady to say the least, 30 mph, also as forecast. Lucky for me, the wind was at my back, and as long as I kept my gloves on, my gear and clothing were holding up fine.
After what felt like an endless climb up the steep portion of Silverheels, I started having some concerns about weather and visibility. I didn't want to miss my turn off the summit back down the north side on the way back, and I was quickly losing the ability to see any landmarks. However, at this point it was summit or bust, so summit it was.
And while I had managed to avoid having wind and snow in my face on the way up...
...the way down was another story. Turning to the wnw for the descent, I was now not only without visibility or landmarks, but I was in need of the right gear.
It took only a few minutes before my concerns about finding my route back down were alleviated. I found the same talus slope I had already visited, and in 30 minutes was back at the saddle. Another power gel later, I began the arduous journey back around the bump, past the towers, up the ridge, around the bowl, up the other ridge, and back to Hoosier Pass. Weather was not ideal but not an issue. Wish I could say the same for my fatigue.
Not the biggest ordeal, but I have to say Silverheels took a lot more out of me than I had planned for a "leisurely" Saturday winter hike.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):