Mount Silliman: Don’t Get Killed from a Non-Fatal Injury

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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.

Hey bear! Where are you?

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.

Elevation Profile

Route Map