Mount Silliman is on the Sierra Peak Section list. It’s a moderately difficult hike that begins at the Lodge Pole Campground in Sequoia National Park. I thought it’d be a nice overnight trip that I could do and get back home without really missing any work. So I left on Friday night and stayed at a one-star hotel in Three Rivers. In hindsight, sleeping on the ground may have been more comfortable. I got up at 4:00 am and got to the trailhead just after 5:00 am. It had already started out to be a warm summer, but a late storm the day before blanketed the area with 6 inches of snow. It was just beautiful.
The route climbs through a beautiful forested area, then goes off-trail once you reach the creek. I followed the creek a few miles up to a large field of steep granite slabs. These slabs were a little tricky because of all the runoff. If you slip, you are going to slide for a long way. You wouldn’t die, but you would definitely get hurt.
The slabs eventually lead up to a beautiful, hidden alpine lake surrounded by some small peaks. I sat down for lunch and a marmot walked up behind me. Obviously, he had met hikers before and he was hoping I would feed him. I may have accidentally dropped a Triscuit or two that my new friend enjoyed.
From the lake, I gained at least another 1000 feet to reach the summit. My foot slipped on some snow near the top and I banged my knee so hard on a rock that it made my eyes water. I thought at first I had broken my kneecap. It took 5 minutes to shake off the pain.
I thought at first I had broken my kneecap. It took 5 minutes to shake off the pain.
I thought about turning back at that moment, but I figured, “Well, I’m already up here. I’m 100 feet away.” So I hobbled my way to the summit and it was as beautiful as I expected. Pain aside, it was one of those, “I am so thankful to be alive” kind of days. After 15 minutes, I made my way back to the lake. I felt something in my pant leg near where my knee was. Perplexed, I pulled up my pant leg only to find that my knee was so swollen it looked like I had a second kneecap to the left of my real kneecap.
There was nothing I could do other than get myself off the trail, so I made my way down the slabs. My knee was weak, and descending the slabs took a lot of concentration. At one point I slipped on some ice and twisted my hurt knee laterally. I thought for a second that I may have broken my leg, but after a few minutes, I was able to walk on it.
At one point I slipped on some ice and twisted my hurt knee laterally. I thought for a second that I may have broken my leg, but after a few minutes, I was able to walk on it.
I guess all that CrossFit and all those squats really did their job because what could have been a very serious injury ended up just being an irritation. It took me a few weeks to recover from the knee injury before I was back doing squats with heavy weight again. Thank God.
I have heard a lot of terrible stories of fatalities that started with non-fatal injuries like mine. I had a Garmin Inreach that I could have used to contact my wife via text or call for rescue. I also carried a sleep system, knowing that the temps would drop to freezing. Too many folks don’t anticipate an injury that might prevent them from getting off-trail and have no way to survive the night if that happens. So for what it’s worth, be safe out there and live to hike another day.