Summit Elevation (m): 2911
Trip Date: Friday, July 13, 2018
Elevation Gain (m): 1200
Round Trip Time (hr): 6
Total Trip Distance (km): 9.5
Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 3 – you fall, you break your leg
Difficulty Notes: Pretty simple approach and easy terrain if following the route I did, until the summit ridge where the scrambling becomes “moderate”.
Technical Rating: SC6; YDS (3rd)
Long before Andrew Nugara made Silverhorn Mountain much more popular than previously with his new guidebook, I’d been interested in it after reading Rick Colliers report years beforehand. Funnily enough, before I asked Brandon Boulier about his recent ascent and for a possible GPX track, I didn’t even realize this peak was in Nugara’s guidebook, but it certainly explained its recent popularity for me! Friday the 13th would be a solo outing for me and I was really looking forward to it. There’s nothing quite like enjoying a whole mountain all to yourself. Canada must be a bit unique in this sense. You can park in the ditch along a busy highway and within 10 minutes of the road you’re on your own. All alone. For hours and hours it’s just you and the mountain and a few song birds for company. I love it.
I started up the ditch and did some very light bushwhacking before arriving in the main stream – oddly enough, this is not Silverhorn Creek, which is further north and flows out past Mount Weed. I was focused on how gorgeous the morning was as I followed Brandon’s GPS track up beside the waterfall on climber’s left, that Nugara also mentions. The views behind me quickly improved and it didn’t take long before Peyto Lake was showing up on my photos.
Being solo, I wanted to keep things as simple as possible, so when Brandon’s GPS track and footprints kept going up on the north side of the stream and curving left rather than going right as Nugara describes, I naturally kept following them until I knew I was way too far above the creek and should be traversing back into it to be even close to Nugara’s ascent line. But then I reconsidered. Why bother? I was having a glorious morning in a beautiful setting with amazing views and even foot prints and steps kicked into the steep dirt to follow. I couldn’t think of one good reason to lose all the height I’d gained or to deviate in any way from what looked like a perfectly efficient ascent line. So I didn’t. I just kept going up and up, following tracks in the dirt / scree as if they were kicked in snow. I owe Brandon for this easy and very quick ascent. Without tracks / steps I wouldn’t have had nearly so much fun!
After following tracks and kick steps up dirt and scree left and above the left-hand drainage, I continued on even steeper ground towards the upper bowl beneath the ridge joining Weed and Silverhorn together. I kept thinking the scree would turn terrible but other than a few short sections of hard dirt or miserable scree, it wasn’t bad at all. As a matter of fact it only took me around 2 hours before I was ascending more tracks in the scree bowl towards the ridge crest – much quicker than I was expecting. About 2.5 hours after leaving the car I was on the north ridge of Silverhorn looking at fantastic views in every direction and up some interesting terrain to the first of two false summits.
I easily and quickly ascended the ridge to the first false summit. From there the next false and true summits looked a bit intense but as usual, once I got my nose into things they tamed a bit. There were certainly some exposed sections on the ridge and I would rate this section as “moderate” scrambling. Looking down Nugara’s ascent line it certainly looked more difficult than anything I’d come up to the ridge on! It’s rated “moderate” too, so it can’t be that terrible. The gully itself looked a bit manky with old snow and some ice in it.
I greatly enjoyed the views from Silverhorn – no surprise given that it’s in the “Murchison Group” of mountain ranges. I can’t think of a single peak in that group that I’ve done with crappy views – except maybe Quill / Porcupine which were quite smoky but still had interesting views. Looking over at Quill now though, I want to redo it. The weather was so perfect for me on Silverhorn, I can’t think of a nicer day in the hills for quite some time. There was a cool breeze but views forever. I spent about 30 minutes on top, eating, hydrating and taking too many summit photos.
Since it was my daughter, Kaycie’s, 19th birthday BBQ that afternoon, I had to tear myself away from the summit and start heading back down and this is where I hit a peakbagging conundrum of epic proportions. Marmot Mountain is nothing grand – it’s only 2606m high and sits well below anything else in the Murchison Group, but it’s a named summit and I knew it was possible to tag it along with Silverhorn. BUT. I also knew that if I was late for the BBQ that would make me an ass. I wanted the bonus peak, I didn’t want the label of “ass”. What to do?! After thinking on it for a while, I decided that I would give the extra peak a pass for two reasons. Firstly, I didn’t want to be an ass. Secondly, it would push my stats for the day to well over 2200m elevation as I’d lose about 550m into the valley towards Marmot and then gain another 400 to its summit. Then I’d have to regain the 550m back. It was tiring just thinking about it – and all to nab a pretty insignificant peak. I figured I could nab it from the Dolomite Creek Valley some day – I’m sure I’ll be wandering through there again some time.
Overall, Silverhorn Mountain lived up to my expectations as a moderate scramble with stupendous views. I certainly chose the right summer day to ascend it and I could not have timed it better with Brandon Boulier kicking steps all the way up to the summit ridge. This mountain just might be replacing something on my “favorites” list soon.