TRYON PEAK (9,970') September 8, 2003
Thinking I would enjoy my 8X on Highland Peak (10,934'), I woke up so early on this Monday. Motoring in the night up U.S. 50, I stopped to enjoy a break in South Lake Tahoe, CA. Motoring again, going over Luther Pass, I eventually came to Markleeville, CA, on CA 89. I strolled about a bit in the dawn light, snapping a few photos.
With gas running some $2 a gallon, I view it as paramount to use the daylight to its full. I was scheduled to meet the SPS group at 8:30 a.m., at the "Noble Creek Trailhead." I had lots of time. The aspen were plenty green, still, as the fall colors need another month to happen. I enjoyed being up so early, and came to what I believed was the intended trailhead at 7:50 a.m.
Watching for the others to come by, I anxiously watched the time. Some other motorists were enjoying the beautiful mountain views gained from this, CA Highway 4, the Ebbetts Pass Road. Soon the meeting time arrived. No climbers! I figured they were enjoying breakfast somewhere, or miscalculated on their driving time. I had to consider that the group perhaps had dissolved on the past weekend peak climb, or some catastrophe had happened. With the wilderness message board a hundred feet down the trail, I had no doubt that this was one place from which to start the climb of Highland Peak.
After 9:07 a.m., I motored up to Ebbetts Pass and the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) trailhead parking lot. Three vehicles were there, with no one around. I motored back down east to the place where I had waited. Still nobody! I continued dropping down the highway back to Silver Creek campground.
Two trucks were parked where I suspected a trail took off. I looked into them, and saw that this was the group's transport. It was 9:30 a.m. Too late to catch up, for me. This was a fast group, and I then had no way of knowing which way they'd go up the peak. This unsigned trailhead was 400 feet lower than where I had waited. Why would they do that?
It was my game, now. I motored back to the PCT parking near Ebbetts Pass. I'd do a solo hike along the PCT, headed south.
Starting just after 10 a.m., I enjoyed the views and wild nature of this trail. High volcanic cliffs towered high above. The trees were big and tall. The trail climbs a bit, then drops down along the head of Noble Canyon. I heard someone shouting, and thought maybe it was the group. I called back, but then heard nothing.
Looking at my map, I saw I could easily climb Tryon Peak. This appeared to be a short, cross-country climb from the PCT. This would be a new peak for me, and a fine addition to my peaks guide. I made good time to Noble Lake, and saw some cattle grazing, with a cowboy on a horse. A sign points out the peak, and I knew this drive wouldn't be a waste. The PCT climbs to a pass, where a barbed wire fence is stretched across. I took off west, cross-country, up the hilly ridge.
Looking for a use trail, I climbed up some boulders and came upon some stacked rocks, or "ducks." The gradient lessened, and I was soon in sight of the summit. I topped out at 12:42 p.m., about a half hour after leaving the trail.
There are two summit cairns and a bathtub shaped rock ring. I took off my pack, and snapped photos through the haze. High clouds had come over, and I wondered if I could see my friends on Highland Peak. Before, I had my film camera to use a polarizing filter, which clears the view, by optical physics, and makes distant views sharper and clearer. Now, I can do this by software.
I found no register. Because I had planned to lighten my load by taking out as much as I could of some non-essentials, I had no cans or books. No matter. It'd be gone shortly, the way these things go.
Wishing to get back to check on my group, I started back down at 1:15 p.m. I found a route marked by ducks, and stayed slow to be safer. Back to the trail, I knew I was safe enough, now.
I had passed some backpackers on my way up. Past Noble Lake, I came upon an inexperienced couple, whom I spoke with. Dark clouds were forming above, and I warned it could rain in "two hours." They had only a short way to go to the lakes, so they went on.
The drop along the PCT here is of some interest to me. I estimated it was only a dip of 300 feet at first. I realized it must be more, so I will bump up my stat in my peaks guide. It drops, then climbs a bit, then drops some more. Peak climbers tired from the ascent may see this as more than I say!
I returned to the parking lot by 3:51 p.m. Drinking a soda, I motored back down to the trucks at the lower trailhead. No one was back, yet. I climbed up the trail here, and took photos. There are no signs, and how they would figure this was the way is beyond me. Then, they are all from Southern California.
Hearing a yell, I saw that they had completed their climb, and were all back at 4:45 p.m. They would have had to have made good time to be back so soon. I probably wouldn't have kept up with them.
They were beat, and I tried to advise on the routes up their next few peaks, up here. The USFS maps often don't jive with the actual trails and roads. I was going home, and told them one source predicted rain for this night, and the next day. They seemed too tired to listen to anything I said, so I wished them good luck.
Motoring off with plenty of daylight, still, I strolled about back in Markleeville, and snapped more photos. I am too strapped for cash to partake of a fine meal, here, and wished to use the light to take more photos. I stopped quickly at the rustic lodge near Picketts Junction along Highways 88 and 89. The aspen here are spectacular when they turn.
Carson Pass was good for pictures, with a Sierra Wave to the east, and high clouds. I stopped at my favorite viewpoints, and enjoyed the thought of being home earlier. Coming back to the Central Valley, new development along U.S. 50 created a never seen before, electrically lit-up, dusk scene that I will have to come back to capture.
I hiked some 12 miles with 2,600' gain. I spent only some $3, and shot some 315 digital photos and movie clips.
I wore a light pullover all day, and no mosquitoes bothered me at all. It was windy atop the peak, and jeans were fine for my hiking. I used no lotions or sprays.
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