But First... Let Me Take a Selfie - North Spur to Silverheels
But First… Let Me Take a Selfie
It’s a tough life being a fair-weather winter climber.
Winds at 30 miles per hour with gusts to 50? I’ll sleep in.
Mercury forecasted to drop below 20? Not interested.
Snow might fall? Absolutely not.
And yet, I still found it in myself to be disappointed with the last several weekends of winter, when the skies had the audacity to be anything other than the pristine calm we enjoyed atop Quandary in Mid-January.
This weekend I was determined to do something – which mountain wasn’t particularly important. I missed being outside, so when Taylor suggested that we check out Mt. Silverheels, I agreed at once, and quickly recruited Addison to join us. The weather forecast passed my inspection ( 22 Degrees / 25 MPH winds), and we were set to go.
We met at the creepy Park n’ Ride somewhere along 285 at 6 AM and headed for Fairplay. Along the way, Taylor quizzed us on Silverheels (the woman). Apparently my recollection that she was a Prostitute-Philanthropist wasn’t entirely accurate. Regardless, the jokes were too good to pass up. Addison took to calling Silverheels “Whore Mountain.” I’m still not sure if he knows its actual name…
We arrived at the top of Hoosier Pass around 7:40, donning our shells, gaiters, and snowshoes to begin the hike. The skies were clear, and the sun was rising, as we surveyed the trailhead directly across CO 9 from the parking lot. We were ready to get moving, but first…
I had to take a selfie.
There was a decent trench leftover that took us to treeline with only a few instances of postholing around some willows. I should note that snowshoes are required in this area unless you enjoy misery.
Headed to the ridge
We located a large cairn just above and to the right of the path on which we had ascended, and then headed directly for the point above us where the gently sloping west face to Hoosier Ridge sharpened to a broad ridge. We kept our snowshoes on more for convenience than for need until we stopped for breakfast at long, undulating Hoosier Ridge’s beginning around 12,750’.
Quandary looks snowy!
Addison knows it takes work to mount a wild one like Silverheels
We stashed our snowshoes and considered the route before us, noticing a slightly corniced bowl above us that would require us to begin the traverse to Silverheels a bit higher than we had planned.
We were almost ready to, but I forced everyone to wait.
I had to take a selfie.
As we summitted the first point beyond our snowshoe stash, we realized the true length of Hoosier Ridge – to simply gain the spot where we would turn right for Silverheels, we needed to negotiate several gentle points with frustrating undulations in between.
Taylor on his way through the undulations - can I use this word some more, please?
The ripples in the ridge yielded pretty quickly, and we veered towards Silverheels above the small cornice. We made a descending traverse through low-angle snow with occasional clusters of grass poking through.
The North Face of Silverheels from the saddle directly below it.
We joined the ridge between Hoosier Ridge and Silverheels and dropped down into the first of two miniature saddles, this one crowned with towers supporting power lines. I meant to take a picture, but my camera was too busy.
I was taking a selfie.
From the power lines, we gained a small bump and dropped to a slightly lower saddle around 12,400’ directly below the north face of Silverheels.
Addison is bashing his way down to the saddle.
From here, you must gain almost 1200’ on a wind-scoured rib to reach the gentle summit ridge of Silverheels. It’s a slog. The slope was pebble-strewn and slid like summer fourteener gravel in some spots, even while supported and covered by snow. We stopped for a quick food break around 13,100. Above this point, the wind really began to throw snow around. I currently have two very small, red triangles high on my cheekbones as a result of the unfortunate gap between my goggles and facemask – frustrating. The blowing snow did make for some good pictures though!
Taylor is somewhere up there through the snow.
Fortunately, the slope passes fairly quickly, and one break later, we arrived at the gentle summit ridge. With Addison playing catch up, Taylor led the way to the summit to find a mostly-filled-in wind break. The wind was noticeably stronger on the summit – probably blowing at a sustained clip of 30 MPH. We took what cover we could and waited for Addison to crest the summit plateau ten minutes later. This was his first winter-conditions climb – no one has ever tamed “Whore Mountain” quite like him.
Addison is about to summit Silverheels.
It's tough to snag "Whore Mountain" - nice work man!
He asked me to take some more pictures, but he needed to chill out. It was time for a selfie.
This is us not working hard.
We relaxed on the summit for fifteen minutes before the wind got to us, and then began the trip down. The wind continued to rush even after we left the summit block. My camera died from an excess of selfie, so I broke out the iPhone. Problem solved.
Taylor and Addison descending the rib from Silverheels.
Addison working his way down to the saddle.
A look back at the North Spur. If only the snowpack were in better shape, that gully looks like a blast to glissade!
We made it the saddle in what seemed like no time, and gained the first bump on the ridge back to the turnoff at Hoosier Ridge. As began our descent to the second lowpoint with power lines, the wind began to accelerate even more. We stumbled through the power lines, marveling at how steady the thirty-foot towers were in the howling wind.
As we gained the point beyond the power lines, the wind reached ridiculous speeds and did not diminish in any manner until we rejoined Hoosier Ridge. I would estimate that the wind reached sustained speeds of over fifty with gusts to seventy miles per hour. We had to stop frequently and turn away from the wind to keep the experience hovering just above exasperating.
Taylor "assuming the position." The wind was screaming!
Having regained 500’ from the saddle to the ridge, I assumed that we were finished with elevation gain. We were reintroduced to the (now obnoxiously) undulating ridge. We probably only tacked on an addition 250’ of gain before the final descent began, but tired and whipped by screaming winds, we were not pleased.
I took this selfie to express my dissatisfaction.
We grabbed our snowshoes and semi-plunge stepped down to tree line.
Looking back at the west slope to Hoosier Ridge
I spotted our now filled-in trench fairly quickly, and followed it until it met up with a well-defined path to the trailhead. Evidently there had been a lot of traffic since the morning.
A well-packed trail through the trees - almost to the car!
All that was left to do was to cross the road, but I held everyone up. I had to…
Take off my snowshoes.
Thanks for reading – hope you enjoyed!
P.S. – This TR was inspired by this atrocity. Watch it, and all will make sense.
P.S.S - Mileage = 9.5 / Gain = 3850'
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