Silver Peak For Jeff's Sierra Club I Provisional

  • Updated: July 15, 2013
  • Post By: Matthew Hengst

  Silver Peak (11,878')
When: July 13th to 15th, 2013
Where: Lake Thomas Edison, Sierra Nevada
Who: Matthew Hengst, Jeff Atijera, Gracia Delavida, Laurent Hoffman, Karyn Strong, Steve Kotzbauer, Elizabeth Bell, Jai-Meng So, Kamyar Miremadi
Pictures: [Matt]
GPS Track: [Map]

One of my main leisure activities is leading trips for outdoor outings program of the Angeles Chapter of Sierra Club.

I never knew Sierra Club had an outings program until I ran across it almost by accident a few years ago.  While criticisms about paperwork and bureaucracy could be made the program has an advantage over many other similar groups (like Meetup, Outdoors Club, ect) in that trip leaders are actually trained and certified by the club to lead at various levels.  This means the occasional incidents of people getting abandoned mid outing don't generally happen.

In Angeles the chapter rating are divided up into 4 levels.  Easiest to get is the O rating which allows you to lead trips on trail only.  Then there's the I rating which lets you lead trips involving cross country travel where navigation is more of a challenge.  Above that you have the M rating which allows you to lead 3rd class rock and snow climbs that use ice axes and crampons.  And finally there's the E rating which lets you lead 4th class or low 5th rock and steep snow where a fall could result in someone dying.

There are increasingly difficult requirements for each level that stretch from basic classroom courses to field evaluations of navigation, rock, and snow skills.  Once you've completed all the qualifications the final step is to lead a provisional along with someone who has had the rating for at least two years after which you both submit a written evaluation.  (Yay paperwork!)  Then not only can you lead for the club but you get a swank certificate and patch.

This particular weekend was fellow WTC Kaweah staffer Jeff Atijera's I provisional and I was acting as the evaluator.  This means it was one of the rare occurrences where I just basically show up and someone else does most of the work.

The trailhead for this trip was Lake Thomas Edison which is interesting on several accounts.  First off it's a west side trailhead which means lots of greenery but we pay for it with a long drive / approach.

In fact the drive from Fresno is so long you're actually only about 30 miles as the crow flies from Bishop when your at the trailhead.

Granted it's an 8+ hour drive from Orange County.  Not exactly something you want to be leaving at our usual 7 or 8 pm for.

So instead I flew back from Boise, landed in OC at noon, and made a rushed trip to the store and my increasingly attrocious apartment / gear storage shed before running off to the local park and ride to meet the group at 3:30 pm.

We hit some traffic going through LA which is pretty much unavoidable.  By the time we passed over the Grapevine we were all starving and decided to stop at the Black Bear Diner in Bakersfield.

It was busy but we managed to amuse ourselves while we waited and thoroughly enjoyed a sizable and largely bacon stuffed dinner before getting back on the road.

After Fresno the roads get increasingly windy until you're bouncing down roads barely big enough for two vehicles to pass each other.  Being in the Party Jeep I had a blast and made good time.

The original plan had been to camp at the Vermillion Campground but upon arrival it turns out the trailhead itself has camping, bear boxes, and pit toilets all for the low low cost of $0.

We arrived late, found the others,  and quickly passed out.

Since we only had about 5 miles to the lake we slept in until a decent hour and got things moving.  After last weekends experience in Milestone Basin I was just relieved we weren't descended upon by a cloud of blood sucking mosquitos right after sun up.

Soon everyone was packed up and ready to move and we set off.

It's only 5 miles and 1300' gain from the trailhead to Devil's Bathtub where we planned to camp.  We did a leisurely pace and about 4 hours later we arrived.

We didn't see anyone else on the trail except for one rather clean looking gentleman with a large knife on the front of his pack and a holster on his hip.  Obviously he was protecting himself from the ferocious ground squirrels we saw frolicking around.

We found extensive campsites on the south side of the lake and other than one guy off to the west side we had it all to ourselves.

We threw up tents and headed for the lake.

There was a rock a good distance away and after the initial flailing and carrying on most of us swam out to that.

Sadly conditions kept swinging between pleasantly warm sun and damn cold wind with the latter being rather unpleasant.  Still we stayed for a good long time.

(Long enough for me to get the worse sunburn I'd had for several years.)

We eventually climbed out and dried off.

This area is low enough you're allowed to have campfires which was part of the reason we planned a three day trip.  Sadly the low snow year and dry conditions had led to a fire restriction so we had to satisfy ourselves by firing up our stoves and playing a rousing game of Apples to Apples completely with victory rice krispy treats + tequila shots.  We're a classy crowd.

Things winded down as the sun set and we all turned in for the night by 10:30 pm or so.

Jeff got the group up and moving at an extremely reasonable 7:30 am.  Shouldering our packs we skirted the east side of Devil's Bathtub following occasional ducks and a periodic use trail we did a lot better job of following on the way back.  (Basically stick closer to the shore and you'll be happier.)

Climbing the drainage north of the Bathtub led to a series of rather scenic meadows.

At about 10,200' we swung to the north and climbed out of the drainage.  We climbed over the saddle by point 11,470 which was straightforward but a bit more difficult that the saddle to the east we took on the way back.

Finally we could see our peak across the way.

But first we were going to have to descend about 900 ft and climb back the other side.

The descent wasn't pleasant and we had to take our time to get the entire group down safely due to rock fall.  There was enough dirt to make things precarious but not enough to allow plunge stepping.

Finally we were all down.

We were under at time pressure at this point and a few people stuck behind while the rest of us double timed it up the slopes to the high point.

We made good time though we were all watching the clock not wanting to be on this side of the ridge when it got dark.

Still, there's serious business that needs to be done on a peak.

Not to mention views must be enjoyed...

Silver is notable as one of the peaks that helps funnels weather out towards Mammoth Mountain making it such a prime ski location.  We could see it off in the distance along with several east side peaks.

Retracing our steps we picked up our other hikers and climbed up to the easier saddle I mentioned earlier and worked ledges to get down the southern side.

We lost the sun sometime after we reached the meadows which made the jaunt down the drainage and around the lake seem to last forever.

We reached camp at 10:30 pm or so making it a respectable day.  Everyone was still in high spirits if famished and we sat around for another hour or so cooking dinner.

Monday we just had to get out and home.  While the hike out wasn't going to take real long we did have that 8+ hour drive ahead of us.  We woke up the next morning and got moving at 8.

We made the trailhead without incident and headed for the always excellent Velasco's in Prather for the traditional post trip Mexican food.

And that was that.  Jeff made things easy on me by doing an excellent job which made the paperwork easier.  Next up was 4 days back in Boise pretending to be gainfully employed and then it's off to Mammoth for another provisional eval.

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