Mt. Silliman, Sequoia National Park
July 14-16, 2000
In 1864 the Brewer Party climbed Mt. Silliman in an attempt to find the highest peak in California.  From Mt. Silliman they saw a high mountain crest 10 miles to the southeast which they took to be the Sierra Crest.  After climbing Mt. Brewer on this crest, they saw that it was only a secondary crest, the Great Western Divide, and that there were still higher mountains east.

In July 2000 I set off with a group of folks from the Sequoia Natural History Association to climb Mt. Silliman.  Up until that point in my life, I really had no interest climbing peaks.  For me hiking and backpacking is more about the journey, not the destination.  But knowing the story how Mt. Silliman figured into the early exploration and mapping of the Southern Sierra, I thought it would be fun to attempt it.
Mt. Silliman as seen from the vicinity of Wuksachi Lodge
Leading the trip was longtime Park Naturalist, Jim Warner.  Jim is one of my most favorite people, he's upbeat and so knowledgable about Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks.  He's in his 60's but still unbelievably fit.  Several times along the trail Jim would be yards ahead of us and singing while we were grasping for breath!  He sings in a barbershop quartet in his spare time :)

We set off from Lodgepole Campground, elevation 6,700 feet, on the morning of July 14th.  The first part of the trip was on an established trail, the
Twin Lakes Trail.  The first mile is a steady push up.  But you are rewarded with a fairly flat second mile.  At Silliman Creek we left the trail behind and bushwacked up to Silliman Meadow.  The flowers were spectacular! 

Just past the meadow we ate lunch and talked trees.  Above are my notes that I took on this day and the map I drew of our route.  Below is a picture of Jim examining the wildflowers.

Jim looks at the wildflowers
We made camp on a flat where the creek turned east, at about 8,800 feet.   We ate dinner, told stories, and I slept without a tent under the stars...

The next day we set off to first climb up huge granite slabs on our way to Silliman Lake.  Here grows the southernmost grove of Mountain Hemlock in the United States. 

Our Group heads up the very steep slope to Silliman Lake, Mountain Hemlocks are behind us
I pose on our slick rock route
We took a break at Silliman Lake, elevation 10,049 feet, and 3 members of our party decided to not go any further.  The rest of us continued picking our way up through rock gardens on Silliman's western flank.
There are an amazing amount of wildflowers in the lush meadows between the rocks
Looking back down on Silliman Lake
Up up up and finally we neared the summit.  Huge, gnarled, old Foxtail pines grow here.  They're a close relative to the Bristlecone Pines and grow to be ancient trees themselves.

On the trip and making it all the way to the summit of Mt. Silliman was Don, age 76.  He had been hiking most of his life in the Sierra and he was certainly an inspiration to help me get to the top!

Foxtail pine near the summit
I made it! 11,188 feet

View looking east along the Kings/Kaweah Divide, Black Kaweah is the dark peak furthest to the right, a violin-shaped snowfield just to the right of center is "pointing" at Mt. Whitney
We spent about an hour at the top, signed the register, and just admired the view.  Jim pointed out Mt. Whitney, which from our viewpoint was just one not-so-spectacular peak lost in the sea of granite.

Looking down at Little Lakes
I hiked to Little Lakes the summer before which was my first solo off-trail adventure
Then it was down down down back to our camp on Silliman Creek.  The next day we hiked back to Lodgepole.

This trip gave me tremendous confidence on my abilities to trek off trail and climb mountains. The very next weekend I climbed
Alta Peak, a peak just to the south of and across Tokopah Valley from Mt. Silliman!

I got this picture from Lynn, a lady on the trip.  I'm the one with the red pack, which just happens to match the scarlet gilia blooming in the foreground  :)
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