On a Silver Platter

15-16 Jun 2013 - by Aaron Schuman (view roster page)

The Silver Divide separates the Middle Fork and the South Fork of the San Joaquin River. It is a grand sweep of granite, looking down in one direction on the Southern California Edison waterworks of the Sierra National Forest (Wishon, Courtright, Florence, and Edison Reservoirs), and in the other direction on the steep descent of the Western Sierra Nevada into California's Central Valley. Silver Peak (11878) is the high point of the divide. We set out to climb that mountain.

Lisa Barboza led our party to Silver Peak on June 15 & 16, 2013. Linda Sun, Sandra Hao, Stephane Mouradian, Greg Johnson, Chris Wahl made up the group, along with your reporter, Aaron Schuman. All the photos in this report are Greg's.

I had attempted the peak previously, but I found that the hiking distance was too great for a two-day weekend. Our plan was still for a two-day trip, but we were going to push further than the lake on Saturday, and be better positioned on Sunday to complete the expedition.

We started out at around 7:00 a.m. at the trailhead just beyond Vermilion Valley Resort (VVR), at 7500 feet, near Lake Thomas A. Edison. We hiked seven miles up the trail to Devil's Bathtub in just a few hours. We walked cross-country counter clockwise to the beach on the north side of the lake, and took a swim in the mild water. We continued past a meadow and some slabby granite, up to the timberline and the headwaters, at around 10000 feet. There we made camp among the last of the pines and the mosquitoes. Although there was still time, advancing further didn't make much sense because there weren't good campsites beyond.

Linda_and_Chris_in_the_Little_Loose_Chute_2013-06-16

Photo: Linda and Chris in the Little Loose Chute

We awoke in the dark at 4:00 a.m., and started our climb in first light at 5:00. We followed the route advice of Bob Byrd instead of the guidebook by R.J. Secor. We aimed for the divide a little higher and a little further east than the saddle; in order to avoid the steep snow that we knew would be on the opposite side of the saddle.

The chute we selected had an interesting chockstone obstacle and quite a bit of loose rock. We were disciplined about only moving one at a time in dangerous spots, and we minimized our risk from rock fall.

Summit_of_Silver_Peak_2013-06-16

Photo: Summit of Silver Peak

We cleared the ridge at 11000 feet, dropped down 500 feet on a talus face to a frozen tarn, gained the class 2 southwest flank of the mountain, marched on up, and reached the summit at 10:00 a.m.

We lingered only briefly to admire the view and to read the summit register, because we knew we still had a long day ahead. Stephane surprised us by finding a cell signal at the mountaintop, and telephoning his wife Kirsten.

Stephane_and_Lisa_swimming_in_Devils_Bathtub_2013-06-16

Photo: Stephane and Lisa swimming in Devils Bathtub

We returned the way we came, down the slope to the frozen tarn, up to the ridge, down the loose chute, and into our camp at 1:00. We struck camp, descended the slabs, crossed the meadow and reached the lake, where we had another enjoyable swimming party. We hiked the other side of the lake and found it easier going. We found the trail and descended back to the trailhead.

We decided to try out the kitchen at VVR. The waitress went by the nickname "Molasses", and so we can't say we weren't warned! But the tasty, hot meal was just the way we needed to celebrate a great late spring climb in the Western Sierra.


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