By: Ed Lubin
On September 12, 1998, I did Mt. Silliman, elevation 11, 188 feet, as a day climb with two friends, Jacques Bernier and Cheyl Walling, summiting from the south.
We took the trail from Lodgepole in Sequoia National Park, elevation 6720 feet, towards Cahoon Meadow, turned right up Silliman Creek, finding an easy fishen-nan's path on the South side that was washed out at the creeek junction. (there were short, sharp switchbacks at the junction, and a sign which I believe read "Cahoon Meadow".) The fisherman's path became partly over grown in places with kneehigh vegetation.
We turned right again where the creek forked near the glacier serrated toe of the West ridge of Mt Silliman. In a short distance we began an exhilarating ascent of a quite broad and steep, spectacular granite slab roughly 1300 feet high. The upper most eastern part reaches nearly to Silliman Lake, the bottom lake of a tiny chain in the cirque above.
The slab slopes at about a thirty-five degree angle. There was enough traction on it, but due to the steepness and extreme exposure, a fall could have been fatal - little would have prevented tumbling clear down to the foot of the slope.
For much of the distance, we went up shallow depressions in the slab. Some contained avoidable rivulets of water emptying from the lake outlet. The more voluminous flow that no doubt cascades down earlier in the season, could create a climbing hazard, perhaps too great of one. However, there also appeared to be relatively narrow "off-rock" approaches at both ends of the monolith, which probably could be used instead.
Our route then went left, passing near the lake shore. The final pitch was easy talus and scree. Not far from the base, the Northern part of the highest lake in the cirque came into sight. It was down slope to our right, located almost due South of the summit.
We gained the summit, lingered awhile to absorb the sublime views, then descended the easy scree filled chute just east of our up-route, and returned to the mono ith. We went down the slab about midway to where it steepened even more, then headed directly toward Silliman Meadow, where we took the fisherman's path back to the trail, and it on out.
Moving at an easy to moderate pace, the climb took about ten hours all together. Our southern approach proved to be a good alternative to the circuitous, Class 2 northern route that requires staying on trail until Silliman Pass. The peak is then so distant that the climb is sometimes done as a backpack. The undulating terrain, such as at Cahoon Gap, also increases the total round-trip gain. Another advantage of the Southern approach is increased solitude, because way more of the route is off trail.
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