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    Highland Peak Hike
    (Saturday, October 05, 2002 in the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness, CA)

    See also my photo album from this hike.

    I picked up Felix at his place and we drove to my family's cabin just east of Arnold. The drive took 4 hours, not too bad for a Friday getaway from the Bay Area, but a good 75 minutes longer than it should have been. We retired early, since I wanted to get an early start, what with it getting dark earlier at this time of year. The alarm went off at 6, and I ate breakfast. Felix soon came upstairs and ate, then we hit the road at 6:30. The drive to the Noble Canyon trailhead took about an hour, and after a bit of fussing with my equipment, we hit the trail at 7:50.

    Lakelet just above Noble Lake According to my car's outside thermometer, it was 35°F as we set out - chilly, but not too bad, and we warmed quickly as we hiked. I'd decided to start from the Noble Canyon trailhead, rather than the PCT at Highway 4 because 1) I'd already hiked to Noble Lake via the PCT on July 4th, and 2) although longer, the Noble Canyon Trail is much more gently graded - I didn't enjoy climbing back up to Highway 4 on my return trip in July! Unfortunately, we lost the trail pretty quickly and had to travel crosscountry along Noble Creek. Normally I wouldn't have minded too much, but the majority of this hike was going to be off-trail, and I wanted to enjoy what trail we could! We found the trail again, only to lose it almost immediately - argh! Fortunately, since I'd hiked here once before, I knew the general direction we wanted to go. We did wind up going up a fairly steep ridge, and arrived above our first destination, Noble Lake. We had to hike down a little bit to a lakelet above Noble Lake to filter some water, as this would be our last opportunity for 7+ miles of steep crosscountry trekking.

    Felix climbing up Peak 10824 Our offtrail excursion actually saved us some mileage (with a price to pay in steepness), and we quickly headed up to the saddle between peaks 10824 and 9741. I remembered having a tough time getting up Highland's false summit, Peak 10824 in July, and was dreading slogging up its scree-lined slopes again. The scree was not too bad, only slightly irritating, but the steepness really, really slowed us down. An hour, and not even a mile after we left the saddle, we summited Peak 10824 and were treated to most Adam on Peak 10824 excellent views of Highland and Silver peaks. If we hadn't known that 10824 was a false summit, we would have been really, really sad, as Highland is still a good (and steep) ways away! I felt slightly silly that Barry and I hadn't quite summited 10824 on July 4th, as where we stopped was at most 10 minutes from the summit, but we didn't know that then. Felix and I stayed a little bit on the summit, enjoying the great views. It was pretty hazy, but we could still make out Highland Lakes in the distance, with the Dardanelles far beyond.

    Highland Peak from the saddle between it and false summit
10824 It was some fun, but slow, class 3 downclimbing from Peak 10824's summit to the saddle between it and Highland Peak, losing about 300 feet in 0.4 miles. This was the first even remotely technical climbing I had done in many years, and I enjoyed it a good deal. From the saddle, Highland Peak looked somewhat intimidating 400 feet above and 0.3mi beyond us. We snacked some at the saddle and enjoyed a nice view of Silver Peak and the mountains to the north.

    Sonora (left) and Stanislaus (right) peaks as seen from
Highland Peak To my surprise, the remaining climb up to Highland was pretty fast and not at all difficult, primarily a boulder hop on the vast pile of talus that is the upper reaches of the peak. I actually thought we were arriving at a false summit, but upon seeing the USGS survey marker (and the fact that there was nowhere to go but down for miles around :), I knew we were there. This was my first off-trail peak (my only on-trail ones previously were Mt. Tallac and Mt. Whitney), and it was pretty sweet! We signed the summit register, and took in the views, which weren't really very different than those from Peak 10824, except for the view of Peak 10824 itself. We had a good view of Sonora and Stanislaus peaks in the distance, which I planned to attempt the following weekend. It was 57°F at the summit, but felt much warmer, as I was perfectly comfortable in short sleeves and light pants. We decided to leave Silver Peak for another day, as it was getting on in the day, and the traverse and summiting of both of Silver's peaks would take a couple of hours most likely. This would turn out to be a very wise decision!

    Highland Peak from the saddle between it and Silver Peak There was some more fun class 3 downclimbing off of Highland's peak, and some rather steeper and trickier routefinding than we'd expected getting to the saddle between Highland and Silver peaks. After what seemed like entirely too much time, we arrived at the saddle, and began our descent to Noble Canyon.

    We left the saddle and headed more-or-less east towards Noble Canyon along a rather steep ridge. There was a scrubby meadow that looked like a reasonable target (it wasn't), and we headed towards it, only to find it was calf-high in fairly thick brush - bleah! There were cow paths (what the heck were cows doing up here?!?) here and there, and we stuck to those as best we could. The "meadow", although less steep than the previous terrain, was still quite non-level, and it got much, much worse once we reached its end.

    Felix downclimbing the last bit of Highland Peak Our final leg of descent to Noble Canyon was ridiculously steep - definitely not the route recommended in our guidebook, but it did take us closer to the car. In several places we were more doing a controlled slide than actually hiking, as the surface was extremely loose in places, and quite steep throughout. We intersected a dry creekbed, and followed that, figuring it would eventually dump us out on Noble Creek, and we could then find our trail with relative ease. As luck would have it, we found the trail much sooner than I expected, and it was a few short and easy miles back to the car. We finished at about 6:20, making this a very long day!

    This was probably not the best choice for my first backcountry peak, but what the heck - it was a fun adventure (if a painful one!). The other peaks in the area should be easy by comparison (famous last words...)!

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    Hike Stats:
    Distance: ~12mi
    Total Time: 10h 30m (including ~90min stopped taking pictures, catching my breath, and gawking at the summit views)
    Total Climbing: ~4000 ft
    Difficulty: 4+
    Scenery: 4
    Trail condition/markings/etc: 1 (Noble Canyon Trail)
    Calories burned: 7298

    Last modified 08 February, 2011 MST
    Copyright © 2009 Adam R. Paul
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