OverviewThe Silverhorn is a subpeak of Mount Athabasca located west of the main summit. The North Glacier Route, and AA Col Route both pass over its top. The north buttress of the Silverhorn provides a steeper and thus more interesting and challenging route to its top. This is known as the Silverhorn Route.
E.R. Gibson, G.G. Macphee, N.E. Odell, and F.S. Smythe made the first ascent of the Silverhorn Route in August of 1947.
A good trail leads from the climber's parking lot on the snocoach road to the glacier. Once on the glacier, follow the Normal Route to a point where the base of the Silverhorn is easily reached.
The route is very straightforward. Simply climb straight up the crest of the buttress to the top. At several points, the slope is broken by small crevasses which are easily overcome.
As with any snow and ice route, the amount of snow vs ice and the size of any crevasses encountered will vary depending on the time of year and from year to year. Generally, the later in the season that the route is climbed, the more ice will be encountered.
Climbing on Silverhorn:
How steep is it?
Remember that people rarely actually measure the steepness of an ice slope when they are climbing it and that ice slopes can seem much steeper than they really are - especially if they are exposed. But, also keep in mind that conditions on ice faces and glaciers do vary from year to year and whole features can change over time.
Different parties at different times have reported ice from 35 to 55 and even as steep as 60 degrees. Most sources indicate that the ice is moderate and in the 35 degree range of steepness.
When I climbed the route in 1976, we had about two rope lengths of 30 to 35 degree ice. We descended the route and were able to walk down the ice facing out.
Ari's Basecamp lists the route as Grade II / III 35 degrees (AD).
Geoff Ruttan, former SP member who put up the original Silverhorn page reported the ice to be 35 degrees.
The following reports indicate that perhaps the route has increased in steepness in recent years.
Obviously, one needs to go well prepared for fairly steep ice and variable conditions.
SP member rhlaird adds the following:
I think that Dougherty's description of this route as "somewhat steeper" than the Normal Route is very misleading. When we climbed this route in August, there were many sections of long 40 plus degree ice that dinner plated badly, making for a fairly technical route. It may be a steep snow slope early in the season, but I think it needs more description based on when one is climbing.
(Dougherty is the author of Selected Alpine Climbs in the Canadian Rockies)
SP member Derex21 adds the following:
We climbed the Silverhorn route under perfect conditions on June 25, 2004. Great snow and step kicking until the last 100m or so, then at least 40 deg. ice and front pointing to near the summit of Silverhorn. With only one ax, we should have belayed that section, but didn't.
Essential GearStandard glacier travel gear, several ice screws, and perhaps some pickets.
Some persons may want an extra ice tool in addition to their ice ax, depending on experience level and conditions.