Archive for July, 2013

Location: Southwest British Columbia

Elevation: 2,596 metres

Range: North Cascades

Candidate: #55

I remember the name Silvertip from my childhood because my parents often took us to the Silvertip campsite in summer. It was one of our regular camping spots. I had no idea that there was such a fantastic mountain giving its name to the campsite.

Silvertip Mountain is the 35th (or 34th depending on the source) most prominent peak in British Columbia and the most prominent non-volcanic peak in the Cascades. It stands 1,871 metres above the Hope Slide Pass and is the most southern of the ultra-prominent peaks of British Columbia, located only 16 kilometres north of the American border. Regarding Silvertip’s prominence, as the entry of SummitPost mentions, if the American border were extended north 16 kilometres to include Silvertip, it would be the 6th most prominent peak in Washington State and the 25th most prominent in the contiguous states. Why do Canadian mountains exhibit such prominence? A big thanks can go to the ice age glaciers which were much more extensive and did that much more to change the landscape in Canada than in the States. The same reason why Mount Robson is only the 68th highest peak in the Rocky Mountains but has the highest prominence: Canadian glaciers were that much thicker and powerful.

Silvertip Mountain is not an overly technical mountain to climb but that does not mean it is easy. The two most common routes are the southwest ridge, which is said to cover a variety of terrain but is the least dangerous and recommended for first-time visitors to the peak, and the northwest side of the peak where people leave from the Sumallo River valley and climb up steep gullies to the ridge. The hazard of the gully routes is that there is a lot of loose rock that can easily be set in motion. Although the recommended climbing season is during the drier period of July through September, the gully routes are best taken in June when there is still snow covering the rocks. Earlier than that, there is likely to still be snow at the summit, making it a greater challenge to reach the top. To read an account of one party’s ascent by the northwest route, check out ClubTread here. Note that there is a false summit before the true summit and that some scrambling is involved on this final leg of the climb.

Silvertip Mountain first appeared on a map by cartographer Henry Custer with the name, “East Skagit Mountain”. The name was changed a couple of times until finally being given its current name. Because of its height, Silvertip maintains a snow cover on the summit well after surrounding mountains have lost theirs, thus giving the tip of the mountain a silvery appearance. It was first climbed on July 5th, 1908 by a Canadian Border Survey party, led by E.T. De Coeli and then not climbed again until 1940. The first winter ascent was in 1981. Silvertip Mountain is rarely climbed in winter due to the avalanche risks and even in summer few parties attempt to reach the summit. It’s a long hike with a lot of elevation gain and the dangerous route up the scree gullies probably deters many people as well. The views from the summit are, as one would imagine, breathtaking. For a good collection of images visit the SummitPost site mention above.



Flickr 100 Famous Mountains of Canada









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