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
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.
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
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.
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.
|Mt. Silliman as seen from
the vicinity of Wuksachi
|Jim looks at the
|Our Group heads
up the very steep
slope to Silliman
|I pose on our
slick rock route
|There are an
of wildflowers in
the lush meadows
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!
|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
|Looking down at Little Lakes
I hiked to Little Lakes the summer before which
was my first solo off-trail adventure
We spent about an
hour at the top,
register, and just
admired the view.
Jim pointed out Mt.
from our viewpoint
was just one
peak lost in the sea
Then it was down down
down back to our camp
on Silliman Creek. The
next day we hiked back
This trip gave me
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.
|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 :)