LoJ: #351 (G & M: #350) / 13,357' Willow Benchmark Mount Silverthorne

Range › Gore Range
Quadrangle › Willow Lakes
Summit Location › Peak Route Icon N 39° 39' 13.92", W 106° 11' 21.18" (Not Field Checked)

Peak Summary

Willow BM/Mt. Silverthorne by our suggested route is a Class 2+ hike from Deluge Lake. Our route includes Snow Peak as well. This suggested route includes a backpack trip to Deluge Lake and setting up a base camp for 4 - 13er summits. The trailhead is accessible to any passenger vehicle. Mt. Silverthorne could also be accessed as a long day hike from the Gore Range Trail.

Willow BM/Mt. Silverthorne S Ridge & Couloir Route

Class 2+
backpacker icon + Peak Icon Peak Icon
Backpack + Long Day
Climbed with "Snow Peak"
RT From Deluge Lake/Gore Creek TH: 14.15 mi / 7,075'
RT From Deluge Lake with "Snow Peak": 6.15 mi / 4,025'
From "Snow Peak": 2.40 mi / 1,760' (One-Way)
  • Trailhead
    • Deluge Lake/Gore Creek TH

      From either direction on I-70, take exit 180 about 4 miles east of the main town exit for Vail. As you exit, go south and onto Big Horn Road. Drive east on that road 2.3 miles through condo and residential village to the trailhead. Big Horn Road will turn NE and cross under the interstate, then make a broad curve to the east and SE. Parking for the trailhead is on that curve. Just a short distance past the trailhead is the entrance to the Gore Creek Campground. There may be some more shoulder parking on the road just beyond the CG. A little more past there, the road is barred from vehicular traffic and becomes the bike trail over Vail Pass. On weekends, the available parking fills beyond capacity. Arrive early if you want to park close to the trailhead.

      Camping

      Just east of the trailhead parking is the Gore Creek Campground, a National Forest Service fee area with vault toilets and water. Reservations may be made for campsites at reserveamerica.com. Other than that, there is virtually no other place close by with at-large/primitive camping. Your best bet may be to go up to the summit of Vail Pass and drive down the Black Lakes Road where there is a pullout parking area right where the road is barred from vehicular traffic and becomes the Vail Pass bike trail, east end. This is not a primitive camp location but you may be able to sleep in your vehicle.

      Campsite Locations

      Gore Crek CG › N 39° 37' 37.14", W 106° 16' 26.33"
      Fee required. 8750 elevation.
      Lots of interstate traffic noise.
    Approach Maps Photos
    • From Deluge Lake/Gore Creek TH via Deluge Lake & "Snow Peak":

      • Deluge Lake Trail  Moderate | RT: 8 mi / 3,050’

        Of the five trails that begin from near Vail and head generally north into the Gore, four are initially very steep as they climb out of the valley. Only the Gore Creek trail avoids this problem, but there are two trails that take off from this trailhead location and they are now joined at one start at the upper end of the parking lot. A short distance up the trail is a register where you should stop to sign in if overnight permits are required.  Head up the Deluge Lake Trail, #2014, for an unrelentingly steep hike.

        Turning onto the Deluge Lake trail, you will first find yourself heading west and somewhat downhill for a while before the trail turns abruptly to the ENE and begins the long, gruesome, relentless climb. In two miles, the trail gains about 2,300 feet in elevation! With fully loaded packs, there is no way to make this fun or remotely enjoyable. In addition, the highway noise from I-70 far below, carries up the canyon and proves highly annoying until you finally turn out of the main drainage and head up the Deluge Creek drainage. There are a few switchbacks on the lower end of the trail, and then some others near the higher end, just before it starts to level out some. In between, it is extremely steep and it will be a footing problem on your way back down and out with lots of loose dirt & gravel. Hiking back down, as you encounter day-hikers coming up, you will likely not see too many smiling, cheerful faces. Most will have this look of "Why didn't they tell me this trail was so steep?"

        Above the higher switchbacks the trail begins to level out some and takes you across a small creek, through a brief fern forest, across some talus and then on to a nice meadow, still well above the main Deluge Creek. Continue on, passing through more forest and then coming to Deluge Creek, after having crossed a subtle ridge and losing a little elevation. Cross the creek and continued parallel to it, having now broken out into more open meadow. Ahead, you can see the higher bench that harbors Deluge Lake. We had thought we might see a good campsite in this stretch but not seeing one, we found ourselves going all the way to the lake. It took us just over 3 hours with breaks to pack up there. The lake is a beautiful location, half surrounded by Grand Traverse, Mt. Valhalla and Snow Peak, and half by the open tundra of this upper bench. Some nice groups of campanula graced the trail approaching the lake when we packed in in early August. It was blissful solitude there on a weekday.


        Camping

        We spent extra time trying to locate a good campsite, but at the lake, there is no tree cover, so we had to settle for a somewhat exposed site, down south from the lake a bit, and about 100 yards east of an unoccupied cabin. See our approximate coordinates for that site. There were a few very low conifers there.


        Campsite Locations

        Deluge Lake Camp N 39° 39' 14.44", W 106° 13' 34.26"
        Elevation 11,750 ft.

        Open This Approach in a New Window
      • Snow Peak North Ridge  Class 3 / 1.0 mi / 1,300’ One-Way


        We have sequenced Snow Peak (UN13,024) with Willow BM/Mt. Silverthorne. In this sequence, we are assuming a climb of Snow Peak first, then heading on over to Mt. Silverthorne. One-way mileage and elevation gain for Snow Peak are measured from a suggested base camp at Deluge Lake. Round-trip mileage and elevation gain for Snow Peak, in this case, assumes returning back to the lake without going on to Mt. Silverthorne.

        Some trip beta we had indicated that there was a use trail that would lead us from Deluge Lake to the top of Snow Pass to the east and above and west of Snow Lake, but from Deluge Lake and vicinity we had not seen a clear sign of this trail. Without one, the trek through the endless, steeply sloping scree up to Snow Pass would be a difficult one, so it's worthwhile to find this trail.

        From the east side of Deluge Lake head generally ESE, following a stream drainage, in the direction of Snow Pass, gaining some elevation through tundra and then ascending a steep, giant, boulder step to a bench-type boulder field SW below the south ridge of Valhalla. Cross the large, stacked boulders carefully, and start ascending on a steep, tundra slope just to the right edge of talus that comes off the cliffs above. As you ascend up in this sparse tundra, a clear path begins to emerge and then it abruptly turns east from the talus and begins a long, angling ascent toward the pass. We have included a Google Earth view to try and show this trail. It is actually visible on GE. With the advantage of this trail you can move quickly along and have little difficulty crossing the numerous scree fields. As you progress toward the pass, you may have an opportunity to see a number of mountain goats. They seem to enjoy the Snow Pass saddle. As the trail brings you to a few hundred feet under the pass, it climbs more steeply on braided trails created by both hikers and goats that lead up through gravel and small scree with poor footing. At the pass, spend a little time admiring the spectacular view all around. The peaks surrounding Snow Lake are unbelievably rugged.

        From the Snow Pass saddle, head south and up along the crest of Snow Peak's north ridge. The first part is a tundra stroll with about 100 feet in elevation gain to a rocky step. Bypass this  on the left and top out at a small, minor saddle of tundra and scattered rocks. Make a mental note of this spot. On the way back down, if continuing on to Snow Lake and Mt. Silverthorne, you can veer off here and save going all the way back to the saddle.

        Past this minor saddle, continue more steeply up along the ridge. Tundra will gradually give way to mostly broken and embedded rock. As you near the summit block, the ridge will come up against a sheer wall on the right with an imposing drop off. Head left to avoid the problem and begin the scramble on the great blocks of rock. After swinging left some, begin to head back to your right and clamber up to the blocky summit where there's little place to sit comfortably. The last bit of scrambling makes this otherwise quick and easy summit a little more enjoyable.

        From the Snow Peak summit, you can plot out much of a route over to Mt. Silverthorne. The views of the rugged ridges and peaks surrounding Snow Lake are quite impressive. Snow Lake itself doesn't seem to have many visitors. The hike down to the lake and continuing east past the lake at the right time in the summer offers a plethora of wildflowers to photograph against the rugged, rocky backdrop of the peaks.

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    Peak Icon Route Map Photos

    Route Info Willow BM/Mt. Silverthorne S Ridge & Couloir

    Route Description

    Year Climbed: 2012

    Willow BM/Mt. Silverthorne is part of a longer day-trip from a base camp at Deluge Lake and is sequenced with Snow Peak. One-way mileage and elevation gain are measured from the summit of Snow Peak. Round-trip mileage and elevation gain assumes completion of the sequence.

    Some trip beta we had indicated that there was a use trail that would lead us from Deluge Lake to the top of Snow Pass to the east and above Snow Lake, but from Deluge Lake and vicinity we had not seen a clear sign of this trail. Without one, the trek through the endless, steeply sloping scree up to Snow Pass would be a difficult one, so it's worthwhile to find this trail.

    From the east side of Deluge Lake head generally ESE, following a stream drainage, in the direction of Snow Pass, gaining some elevation through tundra and then ascending a steep, giant, boulder step to a bench-type boulder field SW below the south ridge of Valhalla. Cross the large, stacked boulders carefully, and start ascending on a steep, tundra slope just to the right edge of talus that comes off the cliffs above. As you ascend up in this sparse tundra, a clear path begins to emerge and then it abruptly turns east from the talus and begins a long, angling ascent toward the pass. We have included a Google Earth view to try and show this trail. It is actually visible on GE. With the advantage of this trail you can move quickly along and have little difficulty crossing the numerous scree fields. As you progress toward the pass, you may have an opportunity to see a number of mountain goats. They seem to enjoy the Snow Pass saddle.  As the trail brings you to a few hundred feet under the pass, it climbs more steeply on braided trails created by both hikers and goats that lead up through gravel and small scree with poor footing. At the pass, spend a little time admiring the spectacular view all around. The peaks surrounding Snow Lake are unbelievably rugged.

    From the pass, decide if you want to go ahead and climb Snow Peak now, or later in the day upon return from Mt. Silverthorne. If continuing on, descend directly toward the lake, at first with no trail, but lower down, you should pick one up that leads through lush vegetation, laden with flowers in mid-summer. If you've completed Snow Peak, descend the north ridge as you went up either all the way back to the Snow Pass saddle or shortcut down a fairly tundra-covered slope east off the north ridge at about 12,700 ft. and pick up the path to Snow Lake further down. This short cut has some rubble, but it's mostly good footing. The trail drops a good 400 feet straight down before angling off toward the north shore of the lake where it contours well above lake level and deposits hikers at the east end. It took one hour from our campsite to hike here. Continue on from the lake, walking on down through more luxuriant vegetation and flowers, at the right time of the summer, a photographers paradise. The faint trail is difficult to follow at times through all the plants. It stays on the south side of the drainage. Follow it until you come to a nice, level area where the creek turns to the south and the stream has a few nice ponds. 

    On the east side of this creek, there is a steep and fairly narrow gully that comes down from above and provides access to a broad, gently sloping terrace SW of Willow and its’ south ridge. The ascent up this gully is a good scramble through typical Gore rocks and overgrown vegetation. Frequent use by the local goats has left a good path to follow though. About 500 feet up, the gully levels out and opens into the broad tundra basin above. Walk east toward the south ridge, gaining it at a saddle. Turn north, hiking up through a tundra, embedded boulder mix on the ridge. You have the option of continuing on this ridge all the way up. As for us, we elected to do the following: About 200 feet up, contour right and in the direction of a tundra filled bowl. Hike on up through the tundra and grass a good 300 feet in elevation to the base of a large, rubble-filled couloir that leads to almost the summit of Willow. This couloir is much easier said than done, however. The upper couloir was one of those rubble-filled types where most every rock is precariously placed atop another and you never have secure footing. There is also plenty of “two-steps-forward, one-step-back” scree to deal with. Higher up, Carrie continued in the rubbly gully while Tim ventured onto the east side and found he could make more secure progress scrambling on rock ribs above the gully. We both emerged to the summit plateau at about the same time, but a little apart from each other. From here, it is just a short stroll north to the Willow BM/Mt. Silverthorne summit. It took us about 3 hours from the Deluge Lake campsite. 

    Bonus Points: Across the high bench just below and off to the east about a half mile is the 13,333 ft. pinnacle that from Silverthorne, some refer to as Mt. Silverthorne. The name "East Thorn" has been given this point to distinguish it from the true Mt. Silverthorne summit. From the bench level, this challenging spire of rock rises nearly 300 feet and at the previous urging of a peakbagging friend, it beckoned us to ascend its heights. So we decided to give this little challenge a try and headed on over there. The bench terrain is mostly large, flat boulders with interspersed tundra. We moved fairly quickly across up to a point, but then had to gain some elevation and begin a contour over to the base of Silverthorne that took us through a relentlessly slow complex of stacked boulders and rubble, that greatly slowed our progress – so much so that it required overall, 1:15 to make the entire round trip that only covered a mile at best. After dealing with all the boulders, there were two notches to work our way through before reaching the base of the pinnacle. From there, we scrambled our way to the summit on 3rd, and even 4th class pitches with some exposure. It started out fairly easy at the base but quickly advanced into some 4th class work. There were a few route decisions to make and about 2/3rds of the way up, we had to make a couple of low 5th class moves to continue.  Near the top, there was a narrow, catwalk-like ridge section with a large block to work around and then a final scramble onto the small, rock summit. Admire the precipitous drop to the south. Though it had not taken long, this little pinnacle had been a fairly exhilarating climb. After a very short break, we carefully descended, taking a somewhat different route back down that avoided one of the exposed, 5th class moves and negotiated the boulder fields back to our stashed packs. We exercised a lot of caution, having neither rope or helmets for protection. We were a little worried that having been gone so long, a marmot might have explored our packs for some food, but we found nothing damaged. Including a side trip to East Thorn will add 1.2 miles RT and about 250 vertical feet.

    For the return trip, basically return as you came. Another "bonus point" activity would be to traverse west from Silverthorne to UN12,904, aka: "Hail Peak." See reports on LoJ for that traverse. The same summit could also be ascended from east of Snow Lake as well. Overall, it's 2.75 miles from Mt. Silverthorne back across Snow Pass to Deluge Lake.


    Additional BETA

    Links to other information, routes & trip reports for this peak that may be helpful.
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