Silver Star via Starway 2021/01/18

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Silver Star via Starway 2021/01/18

Post by rubiks » January 19th, 2021, 10:05 pm

Photo of the day:

A buddy and I were looking for an all day hike to enjoy the good January weather, and decided on Silver Star via Starway. The Field Guide made this hike out to be a bit of a bushwhack, and there weren't any recent trip reports so we weren't sure what to expect.

In 2021, this trail is in great shape. The first mile is as steep as advertised, very wide and clear up to the top of the ridge.
Steep climb somewhere in the first mile

On the ridge the trail got narrower and brushier in spots but not difficult to follow. It was flagged in places, but I didn't notice how extensively because I hardly needed to look for flagging. On a spectrum of bushwhack to well-maintained trail, it's much closer to the trail side. It seems to get enough foot traffic to keep brush at bay, and while there were a few trees down it was also clear someone had been up there recently doing some trail work.

Some blowdown on top of the ridge
Extent of snow on Starway Trail, and some early views

That said we did lose the trail briefly on the way up, on a couple switchbacks in the snow just before the junction with Bluff Mountain trail. Approaching from above on the return, it was easy to spot the actual trail and where we went wrong on the way up. The junction with the Bluff Mountain trail was well signed, it would be difficult to miss it coming from either direction.
Bluff Mountain trail approach to Silver Star

Because the navigation was so easy the biggest problem turned out to be traction. There were three spots (just north of the 3977 peak, north of the junction with Bluff Mountain trail, and Bluff Mountain trail on the north side of Silver Star) that involved a steep traverse across a north facing slope. We both had microspikes and poles, crampons and an ice axe would have been appropriate too.
Last of the three north facing slopes that required traction. Bluff Mountain trail wrapping around the north side of Silver Star

The panoramic views from the summit were as spectacular as ever, and we shared them with maybe two dozen other hikers. Unsurprising, the only other hikers we saw all day were within a quarter mile of the summit.

The highlight of the return trip was a lovely little tarn just off the trail. It had a thin layer of ice on the top, which had frozen in an beautifully intricate geometric pattern. The scene looked like something out of a fairy tale.

Partially frozen tarn just offtrail
Something about nucleation sites and crystal structure and grain boundaries...

Other notes: Total distance was right around 10 miles. Elevation gain came out closer to 3800', some 1000' more than listed in the Field Guide. Road 41 to the trailhead is also in fine shape, pot-holed and wash-boarded but navigable with a passenger car if you are careful.
You know exactly what to do.
There's no need to be afraid.
Keep walking.

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