If you are looking for a route to get to any of the peaks around Silver Lake, this could be the ticket, especially if you want some solitude. Mount Spickard via the Silver Glacier, Mount Custer, and Mount Rahm are all candidates for an ascent from this direction. Also Devils Tongue, Devils Toothpick and McNaught Peak are especially accessible from Silver Creek considering they rise from the North to Northeast side of the lake.
Like all routes there are some pros and cons to consider when choosing a route-
-You don’t have to leave the country and enter Canada to get here.
-This is generally a shorter drive for most people, and you get a spectacular boat ride!
-I would consider this to be a preferred route to get to Devils Tongue, Toothpick and McNaught Peak, as the scramble around Silver Lake is surprisingly technical.
-Lot’s of ‘schwacking…..but isn’t that what you came to do in the North Cascades?
-No established route…except for the first 2 miles or so there is a faint trail leading to an old mining cabin.
-If you’re going to climb Mount Spickard, the route around Silver Lake is hairy, as mentioned above.
Drive Highway 20 (North Cascades Highway) to milepost 134 and the Ross Lake/Dam Trailhead. The Trailhead is on the north side of the highway. You can get on Highway 20 in Burlington, getting off I-5 on Exit 230. After Parking at the trailhead, hike down the trail for 1 mile, turn right onto the gravel road and end at the Ross Lake Resort dock. From here you will take the water taxi to your desired destination. See below to contact Ross Lake resort for instructions on getting a water taxi.
It is strongly recommended that you make reservations with Ross Lake Resort for your boat ride up the lake, reservations are required if you want to be taken from a trailhead on Ross Lake back to the parking area on HWY 20.
Ross Lake Resort:
Phone: (206) 386-4437
Address: 503 Diablo St.
Rockport, WA 98283
The water taxi from the resort is available to transport up to six people seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Below I listed the fares to all the trailheads on Ross Lake. Yes, Silver Creek is the most expensive.
Big Beaver $50.00
Devils Junction $85.00
Lightning Creek $100.00
Little Beaver $125.00
Silver Cr/Hozomeen $165.00
Route DescriptionThe Valley:
Once at the “trailhead”(there is no real trail), you will begin your adventure up the valley. There is a faint path leading up the north side of the creek to an old mining cabin about 2 or 2.5 miles up the valley. I’m not positive where the trail starts exactly; we started on the wrong side of the creek and ran into it quite a ways up the valley after thrashing around for a while.
After you arrive at the cabin, this is where the real cross country fun begins. The cabin is collapsed so don’t assume you’ll be able to take refuge in it. Continue up valley, following the path of least resistance, there are no more blazes or anything to guide you, so don’t stress over looking for them. The travel is generally not too bad in the forest, but in the creek crossings and gullies slide alder is the name of the game and is very slow going. We stayed close to the creek and found access to water every so often. We had to travel up and away from the creek to avoid cliffs at some points. You will not be able to see how close you are to the head of the valley until you are there, a bit discouraging but just keep going and you’ll get there.
At the head of the valley, you can find some camping near the creek in the gravel beds at the base of the headwall. Due to time constraints, you should probably plan on camping here. (The boat doesn’t start transporting until 9a.m. so you won’t be at the trail head until around 11 a.m. or so). Note: another option would be to camp at Ross Lake when the boat drops you off. There is actually a campground there with food lockers, tent platforms and all. You could camp here for the night, and then get a full day to get up the valley.
The headwall is definitely more challenging than the valley. Much steeper terrain, more brush, and more difficult route finding. From your camp in the valley, head up the hill taking the path that looks best for you. We traveled directly up the creek for a long ways before heading into the brush on the north side of the creek. We never went to the south side. Our basic thought process was to either stay in the creek bed, or link up the bigger tree stands. Anything in between was some of the thickest shrubbery I’ve ever been in. There were sections of 3rd class scrambling but after about 5000 feet the terrain turns alpine in nature and traveling is no problem, you’ll be able to see the top of the hill from here.
Once you have reached the top, you’ll be greeted with a great view of Silver Lake, and the route around the lake. You should be able to access Devils Tongue, Devils Toothpick, McNaught Peak, and Mount Rahm from here without having to traverse the lake. If you are traveling around the lake, keep reading.
Traversing Silver Lake to get to Mount Spickard looks like an easy scramble close to the water, but once you’re on the slabs and talus it can prove to be quite the opposite. The general idea is obvious, scramble rock around the lake until you arrive at the south end of the lake. I won’t go into much more detail, as there is nothing more worth telling, other than what we encountered. We stayed within 100 vertical feet of the water, usually much closer. The majority of the route was 3rd to 4th class scrambling on slabs with some very loose scree between. We did encounter one or two vertical low 5th class sections. We chose not to belay because in the event of a fall you would be in the water before the rope caught you anyway! Take your time and be careful. You may be able to find a route much higher in the scree slopes above the lake, but be warned, we found all the rock in this area to be very loose and time consuming as well.