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Silverhorn Mountain

Another small drop before the final slopes to the summit with Peyto Lake showing up at right.

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)
Mapwhat3words


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 Collier’s report years beforehand. Funny 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.

Silverhorn Mountain Route Map

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!

Looking back down the main gully now that I’ve started the traverse above the left hand one. Note the small group of trees at mid right – this is where I traversed from here.
My ascent gully at lower right. Views are opening up again with the false summit and ridge at upper left.
My ascent gully at lower right. Views are opening up again with the false summit and ridge at upper left.

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.

Interesting patterns on the ridge to the first false summit.
Interesting patterns on the ridge to the first false summit.

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.

Another small drop before the final slopes to the summit with Peyto Lake showing up at right.
Another small drop before the final slopes to the summit with Peyto Lake showing up at right.

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.

Great views from Silverhorn looking south (L), west (C) and north (R) along the Icefields Parkway including Bow Lake, Peyto Lake, Mistaya Lake and part of Waterfowl Lake (L to R).
Great views from Silverhorn looking south (L), west (C) and north (R) along the Icefields Parkway including Bow Lake, Peyto Lake, Mistaya Lake and part of Waterfowl Lake (L to R).
Weed, Noyes, Corona Ridge, Marmota, Quill, Conical, Abstruse, Recondite, Augusta, Marmot, Willingdon and Observation along with many others of course.
Weed, Noyes, Corona Ridge, Marmota, Quill, Conical, Abstruse, Recondite, Augusta, Marmot, Willingdon and Observation along with many others of course.
Summit views to Mount Weed.
Summit views to Mount Weed.
Corona Ridge with Cline and Resolute in the distance.
Corona Ridge with Cline and Resolute in the distance.
Quill Peak.
Quill Peak.
Peyto Lake.
Peyto Lake.

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.

Silverhorn Mountain
In the drainage, looking far up at Silverhorn Mountain at upper right.
In the drainage, looking far up at Silverhorn Mountain at upper right.
The waterfall in the drainage that is avoided on steep slopes to the north - on climber's left of the creek.
The waterfall in the drainage that is avoided on steep slopes to the north - on climber's left of the creek.
In a theme for my day, the by-pass slope is steep but not nearly as much of a grind as it appears, thanks to Brandon's recent tracks in the dirt.
In a theme for my day, the by-pass slope is steep but not nearly as much of a grind as it appears, thanks to Brandon's recent tracks in the dirt.
The peak is at upper center here and Nugara's route goes up, or on climber's left of the obvious gully.
The peak is at upper center here and Nugara's route goes up, or on climber's left of the obvious gully.
The left hand gully was full of old snow that looked ready to collapse. I kept following the tracks above it on the left.
The left hand gully was full of old snow that looked ready to collapse. I kept following the tracks above it on the left.
Looking back down the main gully now that I've started the traverse above the left hand one.
Looking back down the main gully now that I've started the traverse above the left hand one.
Looking up the lefthand gully.
Looking up the lefthand gully.
I stayed on climber's left until reaching the light brown colored scree bowl high above me here where the track took a 90 degree turn to my right and headed up towards the ridge.
I stayed on climber's left until reaching the light brown colored scree bowl high above me here where the track took a 90 degree turn to my right and headed up towards the ridge.
Near the light brown colored scree and taking the 90 degree turn to my right, up to the ridge crest at upper left here.
Near the light brown colored scree and taking the 90 degree turn to my right, up to the ridge crest at upper left here.
My ascent gully at lower right. Views are opening up again with the false summit and ridge at upper left.
My ascent gully at lower right. Views are opening up again with the false summit and ridge at upper left.
The ridge crest, looking north towards Mount Weed with the Silverhorn Creek drainage at right and hwy 93 and my approach at lower left.
The ridge crest, looking north towards Mount Weed with the Silverhorn Creek drainage at right and hwy 93 and my approach at lower left.
Interesting terrain to the first false summit with some nice color sneaking into the frame.
Interesting terrain to the first false summit with some nice color sneaking into the frame.
Interesting patterns on the ridge to the first false summit.
Interesting patterns on the ridge to the first false summit.
The ridge to the false and true summits looks a bit intimidating from the first false summit.
The ridge to the false and true summits looks a bit intimidating from the first false summit.
Thankfully the ridge to the 2nd false summit is less intense than it appears. There is some exposure in places.
Thankfully the ridge to the 2nd false summit is less intense than it appears. There is some exposure in places.
Shale ramp to the next false summit.
Shale ramp to the next false summit.
Another small drop before the final slopes to the summit with Peyto Lake showing up nicely now.
Another small drop before the final slopes to the summit with Peyto Lake showing up nicely now.
A Rick Collier register from 1992 with several dozen ascents since then. In 2017 the mountain got quite popular, likely thanks to Nugara's guidebook.
A Rick Collier register from 1992 with several dozen ascents since then. In 2017 the mountain got quite popular, likely thanks to Nugara's guidebook.
Great views from Silverhorn looking south (L), west (C) and north (R) along the Icefields Parkway.
Great views from Silverhorn looking south (L), west (C) and north (R) along the Icefields Parkway.
Weed, Noyes, Corona Ridge, Marmota, Quill, Conical, Abstruse, Recondite, Augusta, Marmot, Willingdon and Observation along with many others of course.
Weed, Noyes, Corona Ridge, Marmota, Quill, Conical, Abstruse, Recondite, Augusta, Marmot, Willingdon and Observation along with many others of course.
A tighter panorama towards Bow and Peyto Lakes.
A tighter panorama towards Bow and Peyto Lakes.
Looking north over the false summits to Mount Weed and Noyes (L) with Quill Peak at distant right.
Looking north over the false summits to Mount Weed and Noyes (L) with Quill Peak at distant right.
Mount Weed.
Mount Weed.
Quill Peak.
Quill Peak.
Looking over Marmot Peak towards the Willingdon Group at distant left and Bobac / Watermelon at distant right.
Looking over Marmot Peak towards the Willingdon Group at distant left and Bobac / Watermelon at distant right.
Lovely views over Bow Lake towards Crowfoot Mountain with Balfour rising at right and Temple at distant left.
Lovely views over Bow Lake towards Crowfoot Mountain with Balfour rising at right and Temple at distant left.
The green valley at foreground bottom is used to access a the Delta Creek drainage and Mount Patterson (R).
The green valley at foreground bottom is used to access a the Delta Creek drainage and Mount Patterson (R).
Looking past Mount Weed (R) towards the recognizable forms of Howse, White Pyramid and Chephren across Mistaya and Waterfowl Lakes.
Looking past Mount Weed (R) towards the recognizable forms of Howse, White Pyramid and Chephren across Mistaya and Waterfowl Lakes.
Bobac Mountain.
Bobac Mountain.
Watermelon Peak
Watermelon Peak
Mount Balfour.
Mount Balfour.
Mount Olive's twin summits with St. Nicholas in front.
Mount Olive's twin summits with St. Nicholas in front.
Looking up the shrinking Peyto Glacier towards Mount Rhondda (L) and Habel (R).
Looking up the shrinking Peyto Glacier towards Mount Rhondda (L) and Habel (R).
Mount Baker.
Mount Baker.
Mistaya.
Mistaya.
Mount Forbes.
Mount Forbes.
Four of the five Lyells in the far distance.
Four of the five Lyells in the far distance.
White Pyramid and Mount Chephren.
White Pyramid and Mount Chephren.
Mount Amery in the distance.
Mount Amery in the distance.
Mount Cline (L) with Resolute to the right.
Mount Cline (L) with Resolute to the right.
Corona Ridge at right.
Corona Ridge at right.
Marmota Peak where we found an original 1976 ascent register from Tony and Gillian Daffern.
Marmota Peak where we found an original 1976 ascent register from Tony and Gillian Daffern.
I'm really wishing now that Phil and I didn't have all that smoke when we did Quill Peak - it's a very interesting and unique looking mountain.
I'm really wishing now that Phil and I didn't have all that smoke when we did Quill Peak - it's a very interesting and unique looking mountain.
Abstruse ("Perren") Peak is 3267m high and located north of Recondite.
Abstruse ("Perren") Peak is 3267m high and located north of Recondite.
Simpson ("Profound") Peak is 3275m high and to the north of Recondite.
Simpson ("Profound") Peak is 3275m high and to the north of Recondite.
Recondite always looks fierce from the west. The peak behind Recondite here is 3215m high and unnamed.
Recondite always looks fierce from the west. The peak behind Recondite here is 3215m high and unnamed.
The Willingdon Group just barely shows up over Clearwater Mountain and it's north ridge.
The Willingdon Group just barely shows up over Clearwater Mountain and it's north ridge.
The views south towards Observation Peak and along the Murchison Group towards Bow and Peyto Lakes are keeping me highly entertained.
The views south towards Observation Peak and along the Murchison Group towards Bow and Peyto Lakes are keeping me highly entertained.
Marmot Mountain is the small one in the foreground. Bobac at distant right.
Marmot Mountain is the small one in the foreground. Bobac at distant right.
An unusual view of Peyto Lake with the Peyto Glacier draining into it.
An unusual view of Peyto Lake with the Peyto Glacier draining into it.
Starting a very pleasant descent towards Mount Weed. You can see the easy descent slopes into the valley at right which would lead to Marmot Peak.
Starting a very pleasant descent towards Mount Weed. You can see the easy descent slopes into the valley at right which would lead to Marmot Peak.
Looking back at the interesting scrambling to the summit.
Looking back at the interesting scrambling to the summit.
The easy descent slope towards Marmot Mountain goes down the left off the false summit and into the distant valley at left. Silverhorn at distant right here.
The easy descent slope towards Marmot Mountain goes down the left off the false summit and into the distant valley at left. Silverhorn at distant right here.
Phil and I wondered about ascending Silverhorn from the lovely valley that is the source for Silverhorn Creek.
Phil and I wondered about ascending Silverhorn from the lovely valley that is the source for Silverhorn Creek.
My descent slope curves nicely down from the ridge.
My descent slope curves nicely down from the ridge.
Looking up at the false (L) and true (R) summits from the fast exit slope.
Looking up at the false (L) and true (R) summits from the fast exit slope.
Gorgeous views towards Peyto Lake on my way down.
Gorgeous views towards Peyto Lake on my way down.
I would traverse out to just right of mid-center here, staying high above the drainage below.
I would traverse out to just right of mid-center here, staying high above the drainage below.
Looking up Nugara's ascent gully towards the summit.
Looking up Nugara's ascent gully towards the summit.
The gorgeous falls on approach, looking to the summit high above now.
The gorgeous falls on approach, looking to the summit high above now.
Another view of the falls.
Another view of the falls.
Avalanche debris on the lower part of the waterfall by-pass with Patterson rising in the background across hwy 93.
Avalanche debris on the lower part of the waterfall by-pass with Patterson rising in the background across hwy 93.

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.

4 thoughts on Silverhorn Mountain

  1. Found this one a bit of a grind, not sure if it’s this season but the slopes seemed loose and hard. Very consistent grade, by the end of the day 10km felt like 20.

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