I had always wanted to check out the Silent Pass area after reading about it in the Hikes Around Invermere. Two hikes intrigued me: from McMurdo Cabin up to the col separating the valley from International Basin, and the Silent Pass area just outside the SE corner of Glacier National Park.
My hiking parner Ian and I headed to the area on an unsettled Monday (Aug 14), driving Hwy 95 to Parson then up the Spillimacheen River FSR to McMurdo Creek.
We set up camp at the end of the road (easily driveable by car), we got ready for an evening hike, but first had to wait an hour for a passing shower to end.
End of road is obvious!
Aug 14: McMurdo Cabin (2.2 km, 120 m elevation gain)
Just over 1 km of road walking led to a wet meadow where we had excellent views of Spillimacheen Glacier (and luscious strawberries!). Dawdling for photos, we reached the cabin in an hour. Our plan to hike past the old mine into the basin was dashed just past the cabin by a raging torrent, for which we couldn't find a safe crossing, so we explored around the cabin a bit before heading back for dinner. Good thing, too, as the skies opened up again just as we got back.
Great views of Spillimacheen Glacier:
McMurdo Cabin is the remnant of a small mining camp. There are remnants of other log buildings, rusty tin cans and metal equipment, and a real tiny root cellar:
Aug 15: Silent Pass (4.3 km, 443 m elevation gain) and Silent Mtn (another 4 km and 600 m gain)
Just a gorgeous day! And we had the place all to ourselves, not another soul around. This is a very very rewarding hike in spectacular scenery, not very strenuous except for the last ½ km to the summit. I highly recommend it. We hiked up the wet/dewey/frosty overgrown road for 2.7 km, then up the trail to Silent Lake. Unfortunately, the trail was becoming eroded by ATV traffic but it petered out about halfway up.
Silent Lake is a beautiful lake reflecting Spillimacheen Glacier and its peaks to the SE. There is a campsite at the outlet, and maybe good fishing. We spotted a pair of loons and several waterfowl.
From the lake we headed NW through the lush meadows towards Silent Mtn, then veered SE to reach the mountain's south ridge, passing through some VERY fresh grizzly diggings—the dirt had not been washed off the rocks by last night's rain, and the vegetation hadn't yet wilted. Never saw the griz, but we did watch a golden eagle hunting for rodents.
Silent Mtn in background. We ascended the summit on the left. Highest summit is the big round knob on the right:
One of 3 golden eagles we saw that day.
When we reached the south ridge, there were spectacular views westward to the Selkirks. We ascended the south ridge, which was a rubble pile of ever-bigger boulders, to the middle of the 3 peaks that make up Silent Mtn. The views just kept getting better and better:
Panorama from near the summit:
We considered traversing across to the east summit, which seemed to be highest, but there were a couple of potentially dicy cruxes, so instead we did the much easier traverse to the NW summit, which is the exact SW corner of Glacier Park. While crossing a patch of snow (actually the top of Silent Glacier) we surprised two whitetail deer, who darted across the glacier and down into the next valley. We were amazed to see them so high, and so far away from any food.
Looking across Silent Glacier to NW summit. Mt Sir Donald in distance:
We took a long time on top, enjoying the superb scenery of the area. When we left the NW summit, rather than retrace our route, we crossed the top of the basin back to where we first ascended the ridge. This rockhopping was a lot tougher than we expected, and I lost my bear spray somewhere in the rubble. This basin is the headwaters of the Duncan River which eventually flows into Kootenay Lake.
Looking down the Duncan River valley:
Back down the ridge and across the meadows, enjoying late afternoon light. More fresh bear diggings (did I mention I lost the bear spray?!), then down through open forest back to the shores of Silent Lake (loons still there), and back to camp at dusk. Just an outstanding day!
We broke camp with the intention of hiking into Caribou Creek basin a little ways to the north, but found the road just a bit too overgrown for my liking. For plan B, we thought about the Bugaboos but decided to drive back to Rogers Pass and hike Abbot Ridge. It was a very warm day, lighting was not good for photos, so I've got no pics to show.