Peak 11,424ft P300
Peak 11,391ft P300
Peak 11,347ft P300

Tue, Aug 25, 2020
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 GPX Profile


It had been quite a few years since I last visited the Silver Divide and Lake Thomas Edison. I had been here to tag the two SPS summits (Silver Peak and Mt. Izaak Walton) more than a decade ago, then left the place alone. While looking for someplace to visit this week, I noticed there were quite a few summit in the area that had been neglected. I planned an ambitious outing today, hoping to tag five of these summits along the crest of the divide, but had to settle for three. The approach alone was 8mi just to reach Goodale Pass, but the bigger issue was that the ridgeline was harder than I might have hoped. There was nothing technical, really, as most of it was class 2, but there was just so much talus and boulders that I could manage in one day. The boulders were particularly slow-going. I guess this just leaves room for more opportunities for future visits.

I had gotten an early start before 6a from the trailhead on the west end of the lake, near the Vermillion Valley Resort. I spent something like 3.5hrs making my way up the trail, past various junctions, aiming for Goodale Pass between the first two of the day's summits. It was below 50F to start and continued to be chilly as I gained altitude. The sun made a brief appearance before ducking behind Peak 11,278ft. I was glad for the cool temps and shade in the morning, knowing it would warm up as the day progressed. Though the TH parking was half full, I saw no one all the way up, and saw no one camped along the trail, either.

I left the trail as it was switchbacking up to the pass, skipping the last half mile to make my way more directly up to Peak 11,424ft. Much of the ascent was up compact sand & talus slopes, the peaks along the crest primarily composed of coarse granite. I found two closely-spaced summits vying for the highpoint, and of course I climbed the lower one to the north first. The southern one turned out to be several feet higher, and getting between the two offered the best scrambling of the day. In fact, really the only fun scrambling of the day. The smoke that had followed me across the state yesterday was absent this morning, leaving fine views across the range. Ritter/Banner stood out to the far north, other peaks of Southern Yosemite and the Mammoth Lakes area were arrayed northwest to northeast. There was a good view looking east and west along the Silver Divide, and it was here that I first realized how far away some of the peaks I had planned for the day were. I left a register before starting back down to the west towards Goodale Pass.

A trio of backpackers went over the pass north to south shortly before I reached it. I would have caught them soon enough, but I turned off the trail only a few hundred yards after I had started down it. There was an obstacle to avoid just west of the pass, so I dropped down on the south side a short distance to pick up a wide talus slope that would bypass this and get me on the ridge about half a mile northeast of the second summit, Peak 11,391ft. I took a bit over an hour getting between the first two summits, the distance about 0.9mi as the crow flies. I found a broken glass jar at the summit rocks, the lid badly bent, as though the jar had been smashed by a rock, rather than accidently dropped. It was likely the jar left by MacLeod/Lilley in 1978. I added their names along with Smatko's to a register a left in its place.

The distance to the third summit was another 0.9mi, but I had to drop down further on the south side to get around some difficulties on the ridge. While climbing up to Peak 11,347ft, I found myself getting more tired than I had expected (or rather, hoped). I found some plastic pieces around the summit rocks, but no register, so I left my last one here. I noted the 4th summit was another 0.9mi further west along the crest, but this time I would have to drop to Graveyard Lakes to avoid tediousness along the connecting ridgeline. And frankly, it was all seeming pretty tedious by now. I decided to leave the last two summits for another time, and enjoy a more leisurely descent through Graveyard Lakes. I knew I could pick up a trail near the lower lake that would take me back to the Goodale Pass Trail I'd ascended in the morning. There were more boulders to negotiate and some minor cliffs to get through, but once down to the largest of the Graveyard Lakes, the going was far more enjoyable. Easy cross-country down forested slopes got me to the lowest of the lakes in about 15min. I found a couple camping here, catching them a little by surprise. Further along the trail I stopped to take a quick swim in the lake, a most refreshing bit of exercise. After dressing, I steeled myself for the 7mi+ of hiking I had to return to the TH. I came across half a dozen backpacking parties on my way down. I would put on my mask before passing them or in some cases make a wide detour around the trail, greeting or waving to them as I went by. It was 4:30p by the time I got back, making for an outing close to 11hrs. I figured I'd have been another three hours later if I'd gone on to the last two summits, so I was glad with my choice in the end. Time for a shower and beer...


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